KODÁLY: Missa Brevis. Psalm 121. Psalm 114. Jésus és a kufárok. Székely Keserves (piano and choral versions). The Musicmakers, an Ode, Norvég Leán.
Flemish Radio Choir/Johan Duijck, cond.
GLOSSA SACD GCDSA 922202 TT: 64:57.

STRAVINSKY: Firebird Ballet (1910 version). Song of the Nightingale.
Flemish Radio Orch/Yoel Levi, cond.
GLOSSA SACD GCDSA 922201 TT: 71:02

ALLENDE-BLIN: Echelons for Organ. My Blue Piano. Transformations II. Coral de Caracola.
Gerd Zacher, organist
CYBELE SACD 060.401 TT: 61:34

Glossa's SACD of choral works of Zoltán Kodaly is excellent in every way. It features as the major work Missa Brevis, along with a number of the composer's other sacred works. The recording was made in October 2004 in Jezuïetenkerk in Heverlee, Belgium, by producer/engineer Manuel Mohino, and he did a fine job in capturing acoustics of the church while retaining clarity. The 25-members of the Flemish Radio Choir are first-rate under their conductor John Duijck who also plays the piano version of Székely Keserves. Extensive program notes are provided in English, French, Dutch, German and Spanish but, surprisingly, no texts.

Unfortunately, Glossa's SACD of what they call Stravinsky's "birds" (Firebird/Song of the Nightingale) is a major disappointment. The personnel list for the Flemish Radio Orchestra lists almost 100 players, although the picture of the group doesn't look nearly as large. They don't sound big at all on this recording which offers dismal sonics. Manuel Mohino produced this in Studio 4, Flagey, Brussels, July 11-15, 2005. The pickup is very distant and unresonant. Dynamic range is wide, but there is virtually no presence or richness to the sound. The mastering to SACD is awry—this is the lowest level SACD I've ever encountered—and turning up the level doesn't help the pallid sound picture. I cannot imagine what conductor Yoel Levi, who has made so many sonically spectacular recordings for Telarc with the Atlanta SO, thought when listening to playbacks of this unfortunate disk.

Another SACD to skip is Cybele's devoted to organ music of Juan Allende-Blin. He was born in 1928 into a Spanish-French family in 1928. Allende-Blin's works are primarily for organ, but he has also written chamber music—perhaps his most important contribution to the music scene is his extensive research and "completion" of Debussy's opera The Fall of the House of Usher, based on Edgar Alan Poe's short story. Actually only the Prelude and first two scenes were resurrectble, and Allende-Blin's efforts can be heard on a long-discontinued EMI CD (7479212). How different from Debussy indeed is Allende-Blin's music! On this SACD we have more than 61 minutes of the eeriest, most discordant organ music you are likely to hear. Extensive program notes by the organist, Gerd Zacher, explain the music and give you an idea of what to expect, including "a well-prepared pause of 24 seconds" in Arrétages, the second section of Échelons. Recorded sound is excellent, but this SACD is one I will not listen to again.

R.E.B. (MAY 2006)