TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35. KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto, Op. 35.
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violinist; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/London Symphony Orch(Korngold)/André Previn, cond.

MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA 475 6191 TT: 89:56

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43.
Kirov Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 475 6190 TT: 64:12

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E.
Saito Kinen Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
PHILIPS SACD 470 657 TT: 66:33

DGG's disk of two composer's Op. 35 D-major violin concertos is a knock-out in every way. Tchaikovsky's is given an incredibly passionate reading by Mutter (conducted by her new husband) quite different from the one she made with Karajan and the same orchestra more than a quarter-century ago. Perhaps some listeners might find this lushly romantic approach over the top, but I loved it—a highly individual view of this old warhorse that makes one want to listen. And, of course, Mutter's masterly control of her instrument is always apparent. This was recorded "live" September 2003 in Vienna's Musikverein, but there is no applause at the end. This is Previn's third recording of the Korngold concerto (the earlier ones were with Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham, of which I much prefer the latter), and here he and Mutter are in total unity on the score, relishing the composer's flights of fantasy and rich themes, particularly the second movement Romance. The many tunes used are just too good to be heard only in Korngold's film scores. This concerto was made in sessions in London's Abbey Road Studios in October 2003. Recorded sound on both works represents some of DGG's finest, with a wide dynamic ranger and rich orchestral textures with the soloist properly balanced.

Riccardo Chailly has now left the Royal Concertgebouw and this is his final recording as Music Director, as well as the last installment in his Mahler cycle for Decca; surprisingly his recordings of symphonies 1, 4 and 6 are no longer in the catalog; symphony 4 was recorded as recently as 1999. Doubtless all eventually appear in a complete set. Only four are available in surround sound: 2 and 8 on DVD Audio, 3 and 9 on SACD—confusing for the collector? You bet! All sound very fine no matter what the format. This Ninth is outstanding both in performance in sound. Like the recent Symphony 3, this boasts an uncommonly sonorous sound for the orchestra, incredibly rich strings, woodwinds basking in the warm acoustics of the famed hall. There are two disks, but they are sold for the price of one. An important release.

Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4 has an odd history. Although completed in 1936 and scheduled for performance by the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Fritz Stiedry, the premiere never took place and the symphony wasn't performed until 1961 when Kirll Kondrashin led it in Moscow, using a reconstructed score as the original had been lost. Symphony No. 4 is a rough, craggy, episodic work of great power, scored for a huge orchestra. Gergiev and his Kirov orchestra are in top form in this performance recorded during concerts in Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in November 2001. Andrew Cornall produced the recording which is very clear and detailed but without much sense of presence, warmth—or low bass. The surround effect is limited, the orchestra in front with minimal ambient sound from the rear.

One might wonder why Philips issued Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 with Seiji Ozawa and the Saito Kinen Orchestra. It surely is no competition for the 50-plus recordings of the symphony including versions by Eugen Jochum, Bernard Haitink, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan and Eduard van Beinum. The Japanese orchestra, fine though it is, doesn't have the sonority essential for this music, Ozawa's neglect of Bruckner up until now in his career, is easily understood. The "surround sound," recorded during concerts in September 2003 in Matsumoto Bunka Kaikan in Japan, has little presence and impact. Doubtless there will be other surround recordings of this well-known symphony; it would be better to wait.

R.E.B. (February 2005)