CHOPIN: Preludes, Op. 28. Prelude No. 25 in C# minor, Op. 45. Prelude No. 26 in A flat, Op. posth. SCHUMANN: Papillons, Op. 2.
Claudio Arrau, pianist
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 165 TT: 62:50

PROKOFIEV: Pedro y el Lobo. BEINTUS: Las huellas del lobo (Wolf Tracks).
Antonio Banderas, narrator; Sophia Loren, narrator; Russian National Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 014 TT: 68:32

POULENC: Gloria. HONEGGER: Symphony No. 3 "Liturgique."
Luba Orgonásová, soprano; Netherlands Radio Choir/Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
RCO LIVE SACD 06003 TT: 51:52

These Claudio Arrau's recordings were made in the Concertgebouw in March 1973 (Chopin) and May 1974. Although in his '70s at the time, the Chilean pianist was still in command technically although he does not play Op. 28 as showpieces; even the tempestuous final prelude is rather subdued. Arrau specialized in Schumann, whose complete piano music he recorded, also editing the composer's works for publication. This recording of Papillons is a fine supplement to the Chopin, and the four-channel sound produced by Volker Strauss and Wilhelm Hellweg (Schumann) richly captured the warmth of the venue. Rather interesting that Philips has just issued the same recording of Op. 28, coupled with the four impromptus which were recorded in Switzerland August 18-21, 1980. The Philips issue is not SACD or four-track, but sounds just fine and is mid-price.

Pentatone's Prokofiev/Beintus disk is a revised version of PTC 5186 011, covered on this site in October 2003 (see REVIEW). This is the same orchestral recording with Antonio Banderas substituting for Bill Clinton, narrating the familiar story (and Wolf Tracks), in Spanish. As on the previous issue, we have Sophia Loren's delightful English version of Peter and the Wolf, but Mikhail Gorbachev's brief comments are omitted—no loss. Like the previous issue, this is a project conceived by the Russian National Orchestra and conductor Kent Negano to raise funds for environmental, educational and health organizations, with all three narrators donating their royalties to a charity. Program notes on this release, strangely, are only in Spanish.

It's always a pleasure to have a new release in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Live series. Here we have Poulenc's Gloria recorded during concerts in September 2004, and Honegger's Symphony No. 3 from December 2005. Performance quality is what one would expect, although Poulenc's score is rather swallowed up in the venue's resonant acoustics. A major disappointment is that playing time for this full-price SACD is only 51:52. Surely there should have been more.

R.E.B. (April 2007)