MUSSORGSKY-STOKOWSKI: A Night on Bare Mountain. Entr'acte to Act IV of Khovanshchina. Boris Godunov Symphonic Synthesis. Pictures at an Exhibition. TCHAIKOVSKY-STOKOWSKI: Solitude, Op 73 No. 6. Humoresque, Op. 10 No. 2. STOKOWSKI: Traditional Slavic Christmas Music
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/José Serebrier, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110101 TT: 76:47

HANSON: Fanfare for the Signal Corps. Suite from Merry Mount. Bold Island Suite. Symphony No. 2, Op. 30 "Romantic."
Cincinnati Pops Orch/Erich Kunzel, cond.

TELARC SACD 60649 (5 channel) TT: 66:12

DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World." MARTINU: Symphony No. 2.
Cincinnati Symphony Orch/Paavo Järvi, cond.
TELARC SACD 60616 (5 channel) TT: 68:16

Serebrier's disk of Stokowski's Mussorgsky transcriptions has already been reviewed on this site (see REVIEW). As previously stated, these are splendid, imaginative performances, magnificently played and stunningly recorded. The SACD version is even more spectacular - a guaranteed surround sound blockbuster. It is quite extraordinary in every way - get it! It also is available on DVD Audio (5110101) which has the same modest list price as the SACD. The only debit—a minor one—is that the different sections of the Boris synthesis aren't tracked.

Telarc has two winners with Kunzel's Howard Hanson disk and Järvi's Dvorak-Martinu coupling. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the rich sounds of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra—it sounds like a large, first-class orchestra, and the chosen repertory represents Hanson at his best. Kunzel has a particular rapport with music of this major American composer and lives next to Bold Island where Hanson spent much of his time. Bold Island Suite was commissioned in 1961 by the Cleveland Orchestra and has three movements: Birds of the Sea, Summer Seascape and God in Nature. This is its first recording, long overdue as it is one of the composer's loveliest works. The suite from Merry Mount, premiered at the Met in 1934, contains several dances and the exquisite Love Duet from the opera. Fanfare for the Signal Corps is one of 18 similar works written by different composers to salute various aspects of the allies' war efforts, commissioned by Eugene Goossens who at the time was music director of the Cincinnati Symphony (a recording of all of the fanfares is REVIEWED on this site). There are many fine recordings of Hanson's popular "Romantic" symphony including versions by Charles Gerhardt (see REVIEW), and two by the composer. Kunzel's fine performance holds up very well indeed to the competition.

Paavo Järvi's "New World" is outstanding in every way, he elects to include the first-movement repeat. His tempi are always propulsive, perhaps too much so in the Largo. Coupling the Dvorak with Martinu's Symphony No. 2 is imaginative and an easy way to introduce the Czech composer's music to those who might not be familiar with it. The Cincinnati Symphony is in top form, and recorded sound on both this and the Hanson disk is splendidly natural, with a wide dynamic range and remarkable clarity. The surround sound places the orchestras in front with sufficient ambient sound from other speakers to provide an impressive listening experience.

R.E.B. (September 2005)