DVORÁK: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. Czech Suite, Op. 39. Nocturne for Strings, Op. 40. Waltz Op. 54 No. l.
Joseph Swensen, violinist-conductor/Scottish Chamber Orchestra
LINN SACD CKD 241 TT: 63:46

HANDEL: Arias from Amadigi, Deidamia, Giulio Cesare, Lotario, Rodelinda, Scipione, Ariodante, Rinaldo, and Radamisto.
Emma Bell, soprano; Scottish Chamber Orch/Richard Egarr, cond.
LINN SACD CKD 252 TT: 51:24

'BATTALIA! - Baroque Battle Music for Trumpet Consort'
Tibicines/Igino Conforzi, cond.
ARTS SACD 47666-8 TT: 55:12

Both of these Linn SACDs are excellent in every way—except in cost—they are premium-priced. The Dvorák collection features the violin concerto in a performance with an orchestra smaller than usually heard—according to the listing in the CD booklet, there are less than 40 players in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. This does provide lean textures that permit all orchestral details to be heard in uncommon detail, particularly since the recording itself, produced by Andrew Keener in February 2004 in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, is a model of clarity. The other works on this SACD are better suited to chamber orchestra performance, with the lovely Nocturne receiving a particularly sensitive reading. Emma Bell's SACD, her second (the first was a recital of German lieder reviewed on this site), is a rather short collection of arias from operas composed in London by Handel over a period of three decades. Included are two arias from Rodelinda, the opera in which she made a spectacular last-minute debut with the Glyndebourne Opera in 1998 while still a student. Bell's voice is wide in range, beautiful throughout from top to bottom, and perfectly controlled. Emma Bell is a name that will figure prominently on today's opera scene. Complete texts and translations are provided.

"Battalia!" is a terrific SACD. It included "baroque battle music" by Fantini, Attaignant, Bendinelli, Susato, Gastoldi, Garsi and Praetorius performed by the ensemble Tibicines directed by Igino Conforzi. He also plays various trumpets and is joined by three other trumpeters, three players on ciaramella and bombarda, two playing trombones and serpentone, and one percussionist. Five singers make brief appearances, and there also is an organ. It's a delight to listen to, replete with battle fanfares and musical depiction of scenes of warfare. The final track is a five-minute "real baroque battle in surround sound" which is an audiophile's delight. It vividly captures space and presence and effectively makes use of the multi-channel idiom. The listener is in the center of the "battle" and explosive sounds of guns and cannons is captured with remarkable impact—the wide dynamic range is highly effective. The recording was made in Bologna, Italy in May 2001 with Gian Andrea Lodovidi as producer and Mateo Costa as sound engineer. They did their tasks to perfection. Comprehensive CD notes give information about the music and instruments.

R.E.B. (February 2006)