STRAUSS: Der Bürger als Edelmann, Op. 60. Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon. Sextett from Capriccio.
Daniel Sepec, violin;Nicole Kern, clarinet; Higinio Arrué, bassoon; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Järvi, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 060 (5 channel) TT: 65:36

MOZART: Symphony No. 20 in D, K. 133. Symphony No. 45 in D, K. 95/73n. Symphony No. 46 in C, K. 96/111b. Symphony No. 47 in D, K. 97/73m. Symphony No. 51 in D, K. 196/121.
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Sir Neville Marriner, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 113 (4 channel) TT: 62:41

BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78. Horn Trio in E Flat, Op. 40. VIEUXTEMPS: Ballade and Polonaise, Op. 38.
Arthur Grumiaux, violinist; Gyorgy Sebok, pianist; Francis Orbal, horn; Dinorah Varsi, piano (Vieuxtemps).
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 155 (4 channel) TT: 65:43

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80. Tragic Overture, Op. 81.
London Philharmonic Orch/Marin Alsop, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110077 (5 channel) TT: 72:42

Two of the Pentatone releases are in their RQR series, original four-track recordings made almost thirty years ago, now heard for the first time as originally recorded—sonically they are exemplary in every way, totally natural with a fine concert hall presence. Grumiaux was a master violinist of his era whoe many elegant recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (how lucky for collectors if these were recorded RQR!) including the Beethoven and Brahms concertos. His technical mastery and interpretive insight can be heard in the Brahms/Wieniawski works on 5186 155. The Mozart "youth symphonies" SACD is the second release in the Pentatone series; for comments on the first, check REVIEW. We all know Mozart wrote only 41official symphonies. It seems odd that the four light-hearted symphonies identified as 45, 46, 47 and 51 could be written after the composer's actual great final three and they weren't. These five "symphonies" represent Mozart's youthful output, assembled from various earlier works by the composer, mostly written around 1770. All delightful, and very well played. According to present plans, there will be be two more issues in this Pentatone series.

Paavo Järvi and the German orchestra give us an assortment of chamberesque works of Richard Strauss, far removed from the huge orchestral textures of his major symphonic poems. The composer wrote 17 incidental pieces of music for Hofmannsthal's Le bourgeois gentilhomme which the author called "a burlesque comedy." The 1918 premiere was not well received so Strauss made an orchestral suite of 9 of the sections including several baroque style dances, brief quotes from his own Don Quixote and Wagner's Das Rheingold, and a final extended (10:33) "Dinner." Duet-Concertino, composed for the unlikely duo of clarinet and bassoon, was written in 1947, one of the last works of the composer. The disk is completed with the sextet that opens Strauss's Capriccio premiered in 1942, on the subject of the question: what is more important in opera—words or music? Järvi and the chamber orchestra play all of this music superbly, and producer Stephan Schellmann and his staff have provided state-of-the-art.surround sound with performers in front, ambient sound from the rear.

Marin Alsop has a distinguished career in a wide range of repertory and has many superb recordings—mostly of American music—to her credit. Naxos has started a Brahms cycle with her, and this is the first release. These are assured performances by any standards but there's little to challenge supremacy of dozens of other powerful readings of these works. The London Philharmonic doesn't sound as if it had a full complement of strings when this recording was made, the solo oboe disappoints, and the sound, while very clear, is on the dry side. The Brahms First should be a grand, big-scale listening experience, which it is not here. As of this writing, there are only two SACD surround recordings available of this popular symphony (the other, which I haven't yeard, is on Avie with Semyon Bychkov and the Cologne West German Radio Orchestra); there is a surround recording available on DVD Audio with Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to acquire the Brahms First in surround sound, look into the Alsop—but certainly other more impressive performances will soon appear.

R.E.B. (February 2005)