TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Capriccio Italien, Op. 45.
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Daniele Gatti, cond.

BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra. MARTINU: Memorial to Lidice. KLEIN: Partita for Strings.
Philadelphia Orch/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
ONDINE SACD ODE 1072 TT: 68:52

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan." Songs of a Wayfarer.
Christopher Maltman, baritone; Philharmonia Orch/Benjamin Zander, cond.
TELARC SACD 2SACD 60628 (2 disks) TT: 68:31 & 79:03

Daniele Gatti continues his Tchaikovsky recordings for Harmonia Mundi with this issue of Symphony No. 4 and Capriccio Italien (his previous SACD of the composer's Symphony No. 5 and Romeo and Juliet was reviewed on this site several months ago (REVIEW).Gatti's powerful readings, replete with nervous energy, are diminished by the sound quality of this disk. Both works were recorded in Walthamstow Assembly Hall in London, a superb recording venue where the Gerhardt/Wilkinson team and many other engineers achieved remarkable results. Hyperion's disk was made December 13-14, 2004, produced by Robina G. Young with recording engineer Brad Michel. Their sonic picture is bright and reasonably well-balanced, but they have in some way eliminated most of the hall's resonance, with decidedly bass-shy results. If you expect rich, sonorous strings to be heard in these Tchaikovsky favorites, you won't find them in this dry acoustic. Timpani sound like oil cans, and the bass drum, which figures prominently in these scores, is virtually unheard.

Sound quality also disappoints on Ondine's luxuriously packaged Philadelphia Orchestra recording, the first commercial recording in nearly a decade by this magnificent American ensemble. It was great news that the Finnish label signed the Philadelphia Orchestra for a series of recordings, but it's unfortunate that this superb orchestra still doesn't have a suitable recording venue, which has been the case for more than four decades. These performances were recorded May 2005 during concerts in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, a site now recognized as having problematic acoustics. The concert hall opened in 2001 and already there is talk about "correcting" the sound . There is little presence or resonance heard on these recordings, and little low bass. The famed Philadelphia strings have an inappropriate stringency. Unfortunate, as these are superb performances of three works, all by composers who directly or indirectly were affected by fascism and the Holocaust.

After the sonic deficiencies of the two previous SACDs, Telarc's issue is balm for the ears. Benjamin Zander continues his Mahler cycle with Symphony No. 1, appropriately coupled with Songs of a Wayfarer which is closely associated with it. R. D. reviewed the regular CD issue of this (REVIEW), and now we have it on SACD. I thoroughly enjoyed Zander's performance, and there's no question that it is magnificently recorded by Telarc. As usual with the label, the orchestra is front with ambient sound from the rear. Sonically this sets a very high standard for SACD recordings of the work (Leonard Bernstein's NYP recording is SACD but not in surround sound). As usual in this series, Telarc offers a second disk at no additional cost containing Zander's informative discussion of the music.

R.E.B. (February 2006)