TAKEMITSU: Arrangements from 12 Songs for Guitar (Hey Jude; Michelle; Here, There and Everywhere; Yesterday; Over the Rainbow; Londonderry Air; The Last Waltz). Hiroshima To lu Na No Shonen. Bad Boy. All in Twilight (four pieces for guitar). THEODORAKIS: Epitaphios Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 7 (A Day in May; You Have Set, my Star!; At the Window; If Only I had the Water of Life). TÁRREGA: Variations on The Carnival of Venice. DAVIES: Farewell to Stromness. SUMNER/MILLER: La Belle Dame sans regrets. Fragile.
Koari Muraji, guitar; Dominic Miller, guitar
DECCA SACD 475 6618 (F)(5 channel) TT: 68:44

CORIGLIANO: Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra (To Susan Feder). Suite from the film "The Red Violin."
Eleanora Turovsky, violinist; I Musici de Montreal; Yuli Turovsky, cond.

WALTON: Christopher Columbus (A Musical Journey). Hamlet and Ophelia (A poem for orchestra).
Julian Glover and Jamie Glover/Philip Lloyd Holtam, speakers; Caroline Carragher, soprano; Jean Rigby, mezzo-soprano; Tom Randle, tenor; Roderick Williams, baritone; craig Ogden, guitar; BBC National Chorus of Wales; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox, cond.

All three of these are rather odd issues for the SACD format. The young Japanese guitarist Koari Muraji offers a program that is mostly a "pop" concert, primarily arrangements for guitar (mostly by Toru Takemitsu) of a variety of songs including some by the Beatles, assisted in four of them by guitarist Dominic Miller. The expert performances offer gentle listening, beautifully recorded—but one hardly needs SACD for a program like this.

After the remarkable success of his Symphony No. 1 in the mid-90's, John Corigliano vowed not to write a second symphony (or an opera), and one could possibly say that he didn't write a second symphony—what is heard here is an expansion of his 1966 string quartet—but it did win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. In five movements with a total performance time of about 38 minutes, it is a sombre work that relies heavily on muted sounds, all captured with uncommon clarity by Chandos engineers. The "symphony" ends as softly and mysteriously as it began. There's no explanation of why the dedication is for Susan Feder or who she is: a Google search reveals that Feder is Vice President of G. Schirmer, Inc., a distinguished program annotator, very much involved in the contemporary music scene. Corigliano's superb score for the film The Red Violin won an Oscar in 2002; the suite from the film is well-known via Joshua Bell's best-selling Sony recording . Violinist Eleanora Turovsky, leader of I Musici de Montreal, gives an impassioned performance of this outstanding score, but the richer sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra on the Sony CD (the Montreal ensemble has only 17 players) seems more appropriate for this music.

In 1990 Chandos issued a CD of music of Sir William Walton, primarily of vocal works, but it began with an 11-minute suite arranged by Christopher Palmer from Walton's score for a 1942 play written by Louis MacNiece about the Columbus voyage. For this Walton composed about an hour of incidental music from which Palmer extracted Fiesta, a Romanza for soprano and Gloria. Now we have the opportunity to hear a "concert scenario based on the play" with music and text edited for concert performance by Carl Davis and Patrick Garland. The dramatic presentation features Julian and Jamie Glover as Christopher Columbus and Ironic Spirit. This a handsome CD production with an 88-page booklet that includes complete details of the project and complete texts. There are 32 cuing tracks. The album also includes a note from Lady Walton expressing her approval of the project and hope that future concert performances will occur. Filling out this CD we have a 13-minute arrangement Muir Mathieson made of music from Walton's 1947 score for the film Hamlet. Sonic quality is superb, as always with this label, but it's unfortunate their limited output of SACD includes these Corligliano and Walton works instead of recordings that would show the format, i.e. their Malcolm Arnold symphonies, or film music releases.

R.E.B. (June 2005).