WAGNER: Siegfried
Gary Rideout (Siegfried); Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde); Richard Greager (Mime); John Bröcheler (Wanderer); John Wegner (Alberich); David Hibbard (Fafner); Liane Keegan (Erda); Shu-Cheen Yu (Woodbird); Adelaide Symphony Orch/Asher Fisch, cond.
MELBA SACD MR 301095-98 (3 disks) TT: 79:47 / 73:40 / 50:24

SAINT-SAËNS: Africa-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra. Parysatis-Airs de ballet. La jota aragonese. Samson and Delilah-Grand Fantasy. Tarantelle. Sarabande et Rigaudon. Danse macabre (version with tenor). Marche militaire française from Suite algérienne. The Muse and the Poet. Valse-Finale from Ascanio.
Gwendolyn Mok, piano; Anthony Roden, tenor; London Philharmonic Orch/Geoffrey Simon, cond.

SAINT-SAËNS: Overture to La Princesse Jaune. Requiem. Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ."
Tinuke Olafimihan, soprano; Catherine Wyn-Rogers, contralto; Anthony Roden, tenor; Simon Kirkbride, bass; Hertfordshire, Harlow and East London Choruses; James O'Donnell, organ; London Philharmonic Orch/Geoffrey Simon, cond.

SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. Concert-Allegro with Introduction, Op. 134. Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op. 92.
Lausanne Chamber Orch/Christian Zacharias, pianist-conductor
MDG SACD MDG 940 1033-6 TT: 61:49

Opera companies are reluctant to schedule Siegfried because, in addition to all of the staging problems, it's near impossible today to find a heldentenor and a dramatic soprano who can cope with the incredibly demanding third act finale. This Siegfried is part of State Opera of South Australia's production of the Ring cycle, following their successful previous issues of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. As with those, the orchestra (Adelaide Symphony) and conductor Asher Fisch are superb, as is the recorded sound, which has an impressive (although rather bass-heavy) opera house impact. Unfortunately tenor Gary Rideout, who copes relatively well with the less-demanding first two acts, simply does not have the vocal resources for the third, nor is Lisa Gasteen's Brüunhilde a performance one would wish to hear often. This is a luxurious package with a 162-page booklet and complete libretto in German with English translation.

CALA continues to reissue some of their finest recordings in SACD format, sounding better than ever, which is very good indeed. Here we have two intriguing Saint-Saëns disks. The first is a collection of shorter works including the original tenor version of Danse macabre, Luigini's arrangement of music from Samson and Delilah, and the Africa Fantasy for piano and orchestra. The second features a block-buster recording of Symphony No. 3 in which is heard the "grand organ" of Westminster Cathedral played by James O'Donnell, who also can be heard (along with four soloists and three choruses) in the other featured work, the lesser-known Requiem written in eight days in 1877 at the request of a friend, Albert Libon, who wished to have it performed after his death. The disc opens with another Saint-Saëns treasure, the overture to the comic-opera The Yellow Princess. Conductor Geoffrey Simon obviously loves this composer, and it shows in these performances. Both SACDs are highly recommended.

In August 2003 on this site we covered the MDG surround DVD audio release of Christian Zacharias' Schumann concerted works (see REVIEW). Check comments, please, on the DVD audio setup, which is explained in some detail in the commentary. Now MDG has issued the same recordings on SACD, and they sound better this way. Pianist Christian Zacharias already is known as a specialist in Mozart (he recorded all of the sonatas for EMI) and has begun a series of concerto recordings conducted from the keyboard for MDG (although not on SACD). This SACD of Schumann's concerted works is available as a regular CD and DVD audio as well, a rather odd choice for multiple-audio format as the music itself isn't repertory conducive to audio display. Zacharias' approach to the well-known concerto is brisk to the extreme, justified in CD notes that quote Bruno Walter's analysis of the work that advocates a direct approach to the score. Right from the beginning the listener will know this is not going to be your "regular" performance of this work. The two other works are given a more standard interpretation. Audio quality is excellent.

R.E.B. (June 2007)