MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E Flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
Christine Brewer, Soile Isokowski, Juliane Banse, sopranos; Birgit Remmert, Jane Henschel, mezzo-sopranos; Jon Villars, tenor; David Wilson-Johnson, baritone; John Relyea, bass; City of Birmingham Chorus; London Symphony Chorus; City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus; Toronto Children's Chorus; City of Birmingham Symphony Orch/Sir Simon Rattle, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO 31475 9 (F) TT: 90 min.

MOZART: Serenade in G, KV 525 "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." Divertimento in D, KV 136. Divertimento in B flat, KV 137. Divertimento in F, KV 138.
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orch/Wojciech Rajska, cond.
TACET SACD S 136 TT: 64:24

BRAHMS: Sonata in E minor, Op. 38. Sonata in D, Op. 78. Sonata in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1
Pieter Wispelwey, cellist; Dejan Lazic, pianist

When I first heard of a surround sound Mahler Eighth with Simon Rattle conducting I had high hopes— which were shattered. This is not the incredible live performance Rattle gave at the BBC Proms in 2003 with the National Youth Orchestra, but his EMI recording made in June 2004, which was reviewed on this site in May 2005. For more details, please check out that review. This new issue is an Extended Audio Disc with audio content, and can be played only on DVD players or computers. During the performance, text is on-screen over a black background. The interview with Sir Simon lasts about ten minutes and includes the thought-provoking statement, "the more I get to know this piece, the more I believe in it." The interview also includes video clips from recording sessions. I suspect the 5.l surround sound was artificially produced; this is not the sonic blockbuster it should have been. And the extra brass choirs, which would have been impressive coming from the back, instead are in front. Let us hope this issue will not make it impractical for Rattle's magnificent BBC performance (which has magnificent sonics) to be issued on DVD in its original surround sound. This has been shown a number of times on HD TV and it is a knock-out.

The enterprising label Tacet calls this Mozart disk "The Tube Only Night Music," because it was recorded with tube technology which some listeners feel produces a warmer sonic picture than all-digital. And, indeed, the sound on this recording is pure as gold—although I would not say it is "warmer" than other state-of-the-art recordings. These delightful Mozart works are played to perfection by the virtuoso Polish Chamber Orchestra under Wojciech Rajski's dynamic direction (don't miss their Tacet recordings of Beethoven's first, second, seventh and eighth symphonies reviewed on this site). A wonderful SACD!

The manifold talents of cellist Pieter Wispelwey and pianist Dejan Lazic can be heard via many recordings on Channel Classics including a number of SACDs. Their previously-issued 2-disk set of Beethoven's works for cello and piano has been widely acclaimed, and now we have these outstanding performances of works of Brahms for cello and piano, only one of which—Sonata, Op. 38—was written for the combination by the composer, although he did make this arrangement for cello and piano of his Violin Sonata, Op. 78. Wispelwey made his own transcription of the Sonata, Op. 120 No. 1, originally written for clarinet and later arranged by the composer for viola. Glorious sonics on this issue, with cello and piano larger than life. This is Wispelwey's second recording of the Sonata, Op. 78 for Channel Classics; the first was with pianist Paolo Giacometti (see REVIEW).

R.E.B. (July 2007)