0 Riccardo Chailly Live RCOA recordings

MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor "Nature." "Bach Suite" (arr. Mahler)
Petra Lang, mezzo-soprano; Prague Philharmonic Chorus; Netherlands Children's Choir; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
Decca SACD0002250236 (DDD) TT: (5.1 channel) TT: 62:13 & 56:45

SCARLATTI: Sinfonia "Agar et Ismaele esiliati." Introduttione "San Filippo Neri." Sinfonia "Il primo omicidio." Sinfonia "L'Assunzione della Beata Vergine." Sinfonia "Il trionfo della Vergine assunta in Cielo." Sinfonia "Il giardino di rose." Concertos I-6
Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone, harpsichord & cond.
DECCA SACD 470 650 5.channel TT: 75:13

Outgoing conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly, has made many excellent recordings with the Orchestra since 1988 when he officially assumed the position of Music Director. His label is Decca/London, and most of these have had reasonably good sound, but often it seemed the engineers weren't quite able to cope with the famed Concertgebouw resonance. This is one of the great concert halls of the world, perhaps a touch overly-reverberant without an audience present, which seemed to be no problem for Columbia in their long series of 78rpm recordings made from 1926-1932, or Telefunken from 1932-1942. After that Decca and Philips recorded the orchestra successfully, particularly Van Beinum performances. Philips' official first stereo recording was in May 1957, Beinum conducting Debussy's La Mer and Three Nocturnes. Decca made their first stereo recording of the ACO in February 1961 with Solti conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 4, Anatole Fistoulari a suite from Swan Lake, both remarkable sonically, as one would expect—they were recorded by legendary engineer Ken Wilkinson. However, later Decca stereo recordings varied in sonic quality. With this release of Mahler's Third, the label apparently has solved all of the problems of recording in the famed hall. Unquestionably this is one of the finest sounding recordings ever made in the Concertgebouw. Brass has a splendid "burr," strings are rich and smooth, woodwinds are vivid, percussion has impact, and the famed Concertgebouw "sound" is always present. The regular CD of this was spectacular and now with the SACD release we have the advantage of the wider dynamic range of the newer medium—and multiple tracks for spatial information. The orchestra is in front, although the off-stage posthorn in the third movement (Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast), superbly played by Fritz Damrow, is heard effectively from the rear as well as the front (it is supposed to be distant). Likewise, the choruses in the fifth movement also come from the rear as well as the front; mezzo-soprano Petra Lang is clearly positioned in front. Otherwise, the extra channels provide ambient hall sound. Some might feel there is too much bass, but I don't. There are two other recordings of this massive symphony available in surround sound on SACD, Pierre Boulez with the Vienna Philharmonic on DGG (which sounds anemic compared with Chailly—and is on two full-priced SACDs with no filler—and Michael Tilson Thomas's admirable San Francisco Orchestra issue on that group's own label, a much more placid account of the score. Everything about Chailly's interpretation seems just right, particularly the concluding Adagio. For his final Concertgebouw concert this month, Chailly chose Mahler's Symphony No. 9 and doubtless the work was recorded by Decca. It's the only Mahler symphony Chailly hasn't recorded with the Concertgebouw (excluding Deryck Cooke's version of Symphony No. 10, which is with the Berlin Radio SO); he also has yet to record Das Lied von der Erde, if you wish to call that a "symphony."

Mahler idolized Bach and this is reflected in his orchestration of six excerpts from Bach's Second and Third Suites: the Overture, Rondeau and Badinerie from Suite No. 2, and the second movement Air and two Gavottes from Suite No. 3. The suite was premiered with Mahler and the New York Philharmonic Nov. 10, 1909. This is full-bodied orchestration, in the Stokowkian vein, with a large body of strings, and an organ in the first movement of Suite No. 2. It's unfortunate separate tracks are not provided for each of the six sections. This Mahler Third is magnificent in every way, and the Mahler orchestrations of Bach are an added bonus. And this 2-CD SACD set sells for the price of one disk! Don't miss it!

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) was a prolific Italian composer who wrote primarily music for voices, including masses, cantatas,oratorios, motets and perhaps his most famous work, Stabat Mater. This well-filled disk (75:13) contains purely instrumental music: six harpsichord concertos along with six sinfonias attributed to him in the critical edition by Alessandro Borin. For these, orchestration has been reconstructed by Ottavio Dantone, soloist and conductor on this recording. The concertos may or may not be by A. Scarlatti, but the sinfonias definitely are. The CD booklet includes Dantone's scholarly notes about historic background of all of this music. This program was first performed in Venice in September 2000/2001 and apparently recorded in 2003. Sonic quality is excellent, with performers in front, the delicate harpsichord almost lost in a sea of period instruments—which perhaps is a very natural effect.

R.E.B. (June 2004)