BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90. Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98.
WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne/Semyon Bychkov, cond.
AVIE SACD 2051 (3 disks) 5 channel) TT: 49:33 / 42:13 / 78:0

"FIDDLER TAM" - Music of Thomas Erskine
Concerto Caledonia/David McGuiness; Mhairi Lawson, soprano
LINN SCD CKD 240 (5.1 channel) TT: 76:49

BIBER: Sonata for Two Violins, Baroque Trombone and Continuo. DUTILLEUX: Choral, Cadence and Fugato for Trombone and 7 Instruments. ROPARTZ: Pièce en mi bémol mineur for trombone and piano. PADDING: First Piece for Trombone Solo. JORGENSON: Romance for Trombone and Piano, Op. 21. FULKERSON: Force Fields and Spaces for trombone and delay-system. KÜRTAG: A Kis Csáva, Op. 15b. TOMASI: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra
Jörgen Van Rijen, trombone, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and members thereof/Ed Spanjaard, cond. (Tomasi)
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 22305 (5 channel) TT: 69:51

GERSHWIN: Catfish Row (suite from Porgy and Bess). An American in Paris. Promenade. Cuban Overture. Rhapsody in Blue.
Jeffrey Siegel, pianist; Saint Louis Symphony Orch/Leonard Slatkin, cond.
MOBILE FIDELITY SACD UDSACD 4007 (4 channel) TT: 74:44

Semyon Bychkov's career surged in the mid '80s when he appeared at the last minute with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and other orchestras. His Berlin Philharmonic debut was in 1985, and for Philips he recorded Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 with that orchestra as well as with the Royal Concertgebouw and other orchestras, although all of these have been discontinued. This was quite an upscale move from his positions as conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra (1980-1985) and Buffalo Philharmonic (1985-1989). Today he is in demand as an opera conductor, and has appeared at Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival. Bychkov has been Chief Conductor of Cologne's WDR Symphony since 1997. These new recordings of the Brahms symphonies were made in 2002 (Nos. 1 and 3), 2003 (No. 4) and 2004 (No. 2), and are admirable in many ways with remarkable attention to detail, and the orchestra plays well—but as performances these hardly challenge the finest available non-SACD and the fact that three full-priced disks are involved, with two of them having short playing time (without the expected overtures and Haydn Variations), surely is a minus. The surround sound effect is adequate, with the orchestra in front, ambient sound from the rear.

Thomas Erskine (1732-1781), British composer who enjoyed the titles of Lord Pittenweem, Viscount Fenton and Sixth Earl of Kellie, was best known as "fiddler Tam because of his virtuosity on the violin. He was well-known during his time, particularly for his The Maid of the Mill (a three-movement overture included on Linn's disk), which also was performed in New York in 1769, St. Petersburg in 1772, and Jamaica in 1779. Much of his music has been lost. Apparently he would write pieces for particular performers, give them to the artists and never see them again. He lived life to the fullest and apparently drank excessively—it is said his nose was so red it would ripen cucumbers. Erskine was active in Freemasonry and one of his works associated with this is the concert aria Death is now my only Treasure, composed when Erskine knew he was dying. On this fine SACD we have a number of his orchestral and chamber works along with two works featuring solo soprano. Erskin's music is delightful and magnificently played on this disk. Sonically, too, everything is outstanding, and playing time is near-maximum (76:49). Highly recommended!

Channel Classics SACD devoted to the artistry of young trombone virtuoso Jörgen Van Rijen is the first in a series (First Chairs of the Royal Concertgebouw) featuring leading players of the famed orchestra. Rijen, born in 1975, started playing trombone when eight years old, advanced rapidly and won many major prizes. Appointed first trombone of the RCO in 1997, he often gives recitals, master classes and is on the faculty of the Rotterdam Conservatory. His remarkable tone and virtuosity are well-displayed on this well-filled SACD (69:51) which includes some oddities, particularly an excerpt from James Fulkerson's Force Fields and Spaces for trombone and delay-system, and György Kurtág's The Little Fix for piccolo, guitar and trombone. The disk ends with a resplendent live performance of Tomasi's Trombone Concerto from a Concertgebouw Concert March 2, 2001 with conductor Ed Spanjaard. The surround sound is outstanding, with a fine sense of presence throughout.The beginning of a distinguished series! I look forward to future releases!

Leonard Slatkin's St. Louis Gershwin was recorded in the mid '70s (no dates are given) and is a typical example of the superb natural sound achieved by Vox's engineering team of Joanna Nickrenz and Marc J. Aubert. These are original four-channel recordings with the orchestra in front, natural ambient sound from the two rear speakers. Everything is perfectly balanced. The Gershwin favorites are well played, although a bit more zip in American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue would have been welcome. This generously-filled SACD is a welcome addition to the catalog.

R.E.B. (May 2005)