STRAVINSKY: Petrushka (1947 version). RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
RCO LIVE SACD RCO 5004 TT: 69:21

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11, Op. 103 "The Year 1905."
Russian National Orch/Mikhael Pletnev, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 076 TT: 62:07

PROKOFIEV: Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78. Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60.
Claudine Carlson, mezzo-soprano; Arnold Voketaitus, bass; St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Orch/Leonard Slatkin, cond.

The latest in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra series of live SACD recordings is a worthy addition to the catalog. This mighty Petrushka was recorded during three concerts, October 29 and 31, 2004 and, surprisingly, another performance from February 4, 2005. Symphonic Dances, long a favorite of Jansons (he recorded it in 1992 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic), is taken from three performances in December 2004.In spite of this multi-performance feature, edits are not audible. The gong at the conclusion of the final movement of the Rachmaninoff is surprisingly understated, and covered by applause. The RCOA is in spectacular form, with appropriate credit given to flutist Emily Beynon, trumpeter Fritz Damrow, and pianist Jeroen Bal, for their important solos in the Stravinsky—although Bal's instrument has been rather distantly recorded. Everett Porter is listed as producer, recording engineer and editor. He did a splendid job in capturing the rich sound of the Concertgebouw, although audiophiles might wish for a bit more impact in low percussion.

Pentatone apparently is planning a Shostakovich symphony cycle with Mikhail Pletnev conducting. This issue of the blockbuster Symphony No. 11 is a live performance recorded in Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels February 14, 2005. My favorite recording of this symphony remains the remarkable Stokowski/Houston Symphony Amerian premiere performance recorded by Capitol in April 1958 immediately after the Ameican premiere, a disc which, fortunately, is still available (see REVIEW). A live Stokowski performance later that year in Russia with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (the composer was in the audience), was available briefly on Russian Disc (CD 15 100), about four minutes faster than the Houston recording. Pletnev clocks in about the same as Stokowski I (62:07 compared to Stoki's 62:38). The Russian National Orchestra is in top form, with its brass department in resplendent form. Producers Job Maarse, Rick Walker and Sergei Markov have done a fine job in capturing the orchestra in rather close-up sound in a hall that has bright rather than resonant acoustics. Although recorded "live," obviously there are edits from rehearsals; there is no applause at the end.

There's no lack of rich bass in Mobile Fidelity's transfer of the two Prokofiev film scores, which here join the label's previous issue of Slatkin's music for Ivan the Terrible (see REVIEW). These recordings of Ivan, Nevsky and Kijé have been reissued several times before, but never have sounded as good as they do here in multi-channel format (four tracks as originally recorded) with their wide dynamic range, thanks to SACD processing. Mobile Fidelity doesn't provide original recording dates but all of these date back to the late '70s. The unidentified engineers (Nickrenz-Aubort, doubtless), do their usual magnificent work, and performances are excellent, with Kijé of particular importance as it includes the Romance and Troika in their original film version featuring a bass soloist (here Arnod Voketaitis). Richard Freed's comprehensive original liner notes are included.

R.E.B. (March 2005)