BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73.
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
RCOA LIVE SACD 05002 TT: 71:50

MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic."
Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.

CHESKY: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The Girl from Guatemala. Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.
Tom Chiu, violinist; Wonjung Kim, soprano; Jeffrey Khaner, flute; Area 31/Anthony Aibel, cond.
CHESKY SACD 288 TT: 56:31

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra series of live peformances continues with this outstanding disk of the second symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms recorded during concerts October 27-28, 2004, one month after Mariss Jansons officially took over Riccardo Chailly's position as Chief Conductor of the famous orchestra. Sturdy music making here, both performances marked by sumptuous string sonorities. The famed acoustics of the Concertgebouw are marvelously captured in 5 channel surround sound.

This is the third SACD of Mahler's Tragic symphony, a performance more light-weight than the two others (Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic and Thomas/San Francisco Symphony). Like Abbado, Fischer plays the Andante after the first movement, a dubious choice but one some conductors justify as this is the format of the original score. Mahler played the Andante before the Scherzo for the May 27, 1907 premiere in Essen as well as the Vienna premiere January 4, 1907. The printed score places the Andante following the Scherzo. Fischer's recording lacks the intensity of recordings by Bernstein, Solti, Haitink and Abbado, to mention only four of the best recordings of this work. Recorded sound on this new recording is spacious and well-balanced with particularly effective cowbells and chimes, although trumpets are overly prominent. Hammer blows in the finale don't amount to much—hardly the terrifying effect the composer intended.

David Chesky's new "classical" recording takes its title from the primary performing group, Area 31 led by Anthony Abel, an ensemble devoted to recording and performing new music works that "challenge the assumed confines of modern composition." It's a fascinating listening experience, in which Chesky's interest in jazz is reflected in his concertos for violin and flute, both works of remarkable inventiveness and imagination, colorfully scored and highly challenging for the soloists. Occasional flamenco hand-clapping can be heard in both concertos as well as The Girl from Guatemala (very far removed from Antonio Carlos Jobim's The Girl from Ipanema!!). The Girl from Guatemala is a big-scale, rather brief (7:33) scena for soprano, a setting of a Poem by Cuban poet Jose Marti (1853-1895), one of the leading patriotic writers of the Hispanic world. In this poem, a girl, abandoned by her boyfriend, dies of love. It has a solo part of incredible difficulty, rather reminiscent of Schoenberg's Erwartung or Pierrot Lunaire. Chesky shows no mercy in his writing for the voice, and young soprano Wonjung Kim copes admirably with the challenging part. The recorded sound is superb, wide in dynamic range, with performers in front, ambient sound from other speakers.

R.E.B. (October 2005)