BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5.
Frank Lopardo, tenor; Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orch/Robert Spano, cond.
TELARC SACD 60627 (5.1 channel) TT: 77:40

RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27. Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14.
Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS SA 21604 (5 channel) TT: 64:35

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
TELARC SACD 60598 (5.1 channel) TT: 61:17


With the advent of SACD surround sound it was a natural that Telarc would make a new recording of the Berlioz Requiem to replace their 1984 stereo version with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. This time the same orchestra and chorus are directed by Robert Spano, new music director of the orchestra, whose tempi (77:40, about six minutes faster than Shaw) permit the work to be presented on a single disk. Don't expect the grandeur of the best earlier recordings (Charles Munch/Boston Symphony, recorded in 1954, currently unavailable, and Colin Davis/London Symphony, recorded in 1969), but what is heard here is commendable. The new Telarc is a fine performance in every way with a splendid chorus (directed by Norman Mackenzie), and tenor Frank Lopardo as soloist instead of John Aler in the earlier Atlanta recording. The sound is excellent, with massive brass sonorities, the discrete multi-channel sound particularly impressive in the Dies Irae section. It's unfortunate this wasn't recorded in a more resonant site—the large chorus and orchestral forces demand more warmth and bass impact—which could also be said about the new Järvi/Cincinnati Stravinsky/Nielsen recording (REVIEW).

Channel Classics' issue of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 is unquestionably a major entry in the Rachmaninoff CD catalog. The Budapest Festival Orchestra, founded by Ivan Fischer in 1983, is a first-rate ensemble. A recent BBC performance of Rachmaninoff's symphony was rightfully highly praised, and now this interpretation is available to collectors, along with the familiar Vocalise. The recording was made in Budapest's Italian Institute in October 2003, produced by Hein Dekker and engineered by C. Jared Sacks—both did their tasks magnificently. Many earlier surround recordings on this Channel Classics have been overly resonant; here we have warm hall sound along with remarkable orchestral detail. A winner in every way!

For their second SACD release, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet offers this collection of thirteen works by "Guitar Heroes" of three styles: rock, jazz and fingerstyle, including music by legendary performers including Zappa, Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins and others, all in new arrangements by LAGQ, or made for them. Location of the four performers is given: Andrew York (left-front), William Kanengiser (right-front), John Dearman (rear-left) and Scott Tennant (rear-right). I find this separation of players into the four corners highly effective. A terrific SACD in performances and sound, although a few more selections would have been welcome—playing time is only slightly more than an hour.

R.E.B. (September 2004)