GROFÉ: Grand Canyon Suite. Mississippi Suite. Niagara Falls Suite.
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/William T. Stromberg, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110002 (5.1 channel) TT: 67:46

GANG-ZHANHAO: The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. BREINER: Songs and Dances from the Silk Road.
Takako Nishizaki, violinist; New Zealand Symphony Orch/James Judd, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110082 (5.1 channel) TT: 63:23

BACH-DUPRÉ: Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 29 "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir." BACH-DURUFLÉ: Chorale from Cantata BWV 147 "Jesus bleibet meine Freude." Chorale "Ertöt' uns durch dein' Güte" from Cantata BWV 22. BACH-MESSERER: Chaconne from Partita BWV 1004. MOZART: Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546. WAGNER-LISZT: Pilgrims' Chorus from Tannhäuser. BERLIOZ-BUSSER: Marche hongroise from La Damnation de Faust. RACHMANINOFF-VIERNE: Prelude, Op. 3 No.2. PROKOFIEV-GUILLOU: Toccata, Op. 11.
Olivier Latry, organist
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON SACD 00289 474 8162 (F) (5.1 channel) TT: 60:51

HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32
Roger Arnatt Chorale,  Missouri Singers; St. Louis Symphony Orch/Walter Susskind, cond.
MOBILE FIDELITY SACD UDSACD 4005 (4 channel) TT: 47:40

About four years ago Naxos issued this Grofé recording on regular CD (REVIEW) and DVD audio (REVIEW); now we have it on SACD, a format that doubtless will be more convenient for most collectors. Superb performances and wonderful surround sound distinguish this release. It's a winner!

Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1959 by two students at the Shanghai Conservatory, Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, based on an ancient legend, a love story of the fourth century in southern China. It tells the adventures of a young lady, Zhu Yingtai, who was sent to school by her parents dressed like a man, as school was then forbidden to females. She fell in love with one of her classmates, Liang Shanbo, and the two became good friends. Zhu Yingtai's father decided she should marry a rich notable. By this time, Liang has discovered the true identity of his friend and when he learns she is to be married, he dies of unhappiness. As Zhe Yingtai mourns by his grave there is a thunderstorm, the grave opens and she leaps in before it again closes. A rainbow appears after the storm and among the flowers are two butterflies, said to be the souls of the two lovers. It's a lovely, if rambling, 28-minute concerto beautifully played by Takako Nishizaki, who has made two previous recordings of the work (it's unfortunate there is only one track on the recording). Those who enjoy Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Journey (REVIEW) surely will wish to investigate the companion to the concerto, a set of six Chinese folk songs in imaginative arrangements for violin and orchestra. These are by Peter Breiner, who also made splendid arrangements of music of Granados (REVIEW). The Naxos sound is excellent in every way.

Midnight at Notre Dame suggests something that possibly could be sinister, which surely is not the case. The label states this is "a musical celebration of well-known extraordinary sonic experience." These well known pieces were transcribed for the organ by various organists, and by Liszt (Pilgrims' Chorus from Tannhäuser). Olivier Latry, organist at Notre Dame, gives fine performances. Most successful are the works by Bach and Mozart. The Berlioz orchestral march, and virtuoso piano pieces by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev aren't effective on the organ. As recorded here in night sessions "while Paris slept," in the vast space of Notre Dame Cathedral the organ has a rather bland sound—the rich reeds are understated, the overall sound picture big but overly resonant. The sound isn't nearly as spectacular as what is heard on the E. Power Biggs Bach program on Sony (REVIEW).

Vox's recording of The Planets with the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Walter Susskind was originally issued on LP in 1975. It always has been a knockout sonically, conveying the sound of a huge orchestra, beautifully balanced, rich in sonority, with vivid percussion and fine low organ pedals. It's an excellent performance as well, and this Mobile Fidelity remastering is perfection. My CD player reads this as 5 channels but actually there are only four: left and right, front and rear.The only disappointing element to this release is the mysterious female chorus in the final movement is too prominent. In Richard Freed's original LP notes which are reprinted in this Mobile Fidelity release mention is made of the six-part female chorus, but nowhere on this release are the singers identified.

R.E.B. (October 2004)