TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Daniele Gatti, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMU 807381 (5 channel) TT: 66:27

HAYDN: Cello Concerto No. 1 in C. Cello Concerto No. 2 in D. Symphony No. 22 in E Flat "The Philosopher."
Michal Kanka, cellist; Prague Chamber Orch
PRAGA SACD PRD/DSD 250209 (5.1 channel) TT: 70:13

DVORAK: String Quartet No. 11 in C, Op. 61. Cypresses, B. 152.
Prazák Quartet
PRAGA SACD PRD/DSD 250198 (5.l channel) TT: 71:18

Daniel Gatti continues to impress in this new recording of these two familiar Tchaikovsky works. Symphony No. 5 is given a dynamic reading with tempi on the fast side and much attention to detail. Brass interjections in the outer movements are incisive, and throughout the RPO plays superbly. This of course doesn't replace leading past recordings of this symphony (for me, Mengelberg, Van Kempen, Mravinsky) but it is admirable, generously coupled with a dramatic Romeo and Juliet. The recording, produced by Stephen Johns, was made May 6-7, 1998 in Watford Colosseum, and is exceptionally clear although lacking that extra bit of weight a more resonant acoustic would have provided. The surround sound puts the orchestra in front with limited ambient sound from the rear.

Both Praga SACDs are worthy additions to the catalog. Cellist Michal Kanka has many recordings currently available, primarily on Supraphon or Praga, mostly varied chamber music; this is his first major concerto recording, coupling the two "authentic" Haydn concertos separated by one of the composer's best-known earlier symphonies, No. 22, subtitled "The Philosopher." Fine performances by any standards, and playing time is generous, but the record sound is remarkably antiseptic—not a touch of string resonance is to be heard, unfortunately. Juri Gemrot was producer for this recording made in Prague's Domovina Studio in November 2003 and January 2004. Ambience is warmer on the Dvorak SACD also recorded in Domovina Studio, in May and July 2003 with producer Milan Puklicky and the same sound engineers. Cellist Kanka also is heard here as a member of the Prazák Quartet, along with violinists Václav Remes and Vlastimil Holek, and violist Josef Kluson. Dvorak's Quartet No. 11, dating from 1881, is one of his lesser-known works (the famous "American" quartet followed more than a decade later). The SACD is filled out with the twelve enchanting Cypresses which actually are arrangements for string quartet of some of the composer's earlier songs. A delightful, well-filled, SACD.

R.E.B. (January 2005)