"East Meets West"
MIROGLIO: Extensions 2 (Versions 1 & 2)
LOUVIER: Shima. Candrakala.
APERGHIS: Kryptogramma.
Les Percussions de Strasbourg
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 156 (4 channel) TT: 80:05

TANAYEV: Cantata No. 2, Op. 36 "At the Reading of a Psalm."
Lolita Semenina, soprano; Marianna Tarassova, alto; Mikhail Gubsky, tenor; Andrei Baturkin, bass; St. Petersburg State Academic Capella Choir; Boys Choir of the Glinka Choral College; Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 038 TT: 69:01

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 "The Year 1905."
London Symphony Orch/Mstislav Rostropovich, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LSO 0535 TT: 72:24

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 3 in C, Op. 52. Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 105.
London Symphony Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LSO 0552 TT: 53:44

East Meets West is a fascinating, beautifully recorded SACD performed by the expert Les Percussions de Strasbourg, a group founded in 1961 at the suggestion of Pierre Boulez. They specialize in the avant-garde, and on this well-filled (80:05) SACD you'll hear many provocative sounds indeed—not everybody's cup of tea, for sure. These recordings were made in May 1972 in France, produced by Michel Bernard who took full advantage of the quadraphonic recording potential—there is much separation, with instruments spread about the listening area. Compelling listening, but I found a little goes a long way. If you're interested in this repertory you'll find much of value here.

Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915) is considered to be Russia's most idealistic composer. His students at the Moscow Conservatory included Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. Cantata No. 2 is his last work, based on a poem by Alexey Stepanovich Khomyakov, "a personal meditation following the reading of the fiftieth Psalm" in which God speaks to the people. There are three movements each comprised of three sections including descriptive accounts of a storm and an earthquake, contrasting the grandeur of the universe and man's morality. Notes by Francis Maes unfairly compare this cantata with Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Taneyev's music is grand in scale, constantly rewarding and his mastery of composition is evident from several fugues particularly the triple fugue at the conclusion. This performance is magnificent with four sterling soloists, a large enthusiastic chorus, and orchestral playing of the highest order. Mikhail Pletnev, who already has a DGG recording of Taneyev's Cantata No. 1 ("St. John of Damascus"), continues to impress as a conductor. The performance was recorded live in St. Petersburg's Philharmonic Hall May 1-2, 2003, with Job Maarse as executive producer. Without question, this is one of the finest, most realistic choral/orchestral recording to be heard, particularly the realistic, natural sound of the large chorus which, even at high volume, doesn't blast. This is a handsome production with complete texts in Russian, English, German and French. Highly recommended!

The two LSO Live recordings have been highly praised for their interpretive merits, and now we have them in SACD 5.1 surround sound. This does widen the dynamic range and give more definition to the sound, but even this improved sonic treatment cannot compensate for the fact that the Barbican Hall in London, where the LSO gives most of their concerts, is an acoustic disaster—dry as a bone, unflattering to orchestral instruments, and devoid of resonant bass. It's unfortunate this is the case as the performances on these two SACDs surely are of interest interpretively: Rostropovich conducting a big-scale symphony written by his friend Dimitri Shostakovich, and Sir Colin Davis conducting music in which he specializes.However, the Russian celllist/conductor's earlier recording of this symphony (with the D. C. National Symphony) has far better sound, as do both of Davis's earlier recordings of the two Sibelius symphonies, the first dating from 1976 with the Boston Symphony, the later with the London Symphony. Interesting that the LSO Live disks are mid-price in England, full-price in the U.S.

R.E.B. (February 2005)