BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op. 56a
Pittsburgh Symphony Orch/Marek Janowski, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 307 TT: 61:31

BRAHMS: Serenade No. 1 in D, Op. 11. Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16.
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Kurt Masur, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 188TT: 75:45

LISZT: Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année: italie
Thomas Hitzlberger, pianist
CYBELE SACD 150.302 TT: 71:40

Pentatone here has two major SACD releases, one brand new, the other one of the Philips remastered quadro recordings made in 1981. The Brahms symphony and Haydn variations were recorded during concerts in Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall in March 2007, although obviously some remakes and editing were done as there is (fortunately) no applause. Marek Janowski is one of the most exciting conductors of our time and has held many major positions; currently he is "Endowed Guest Conductor" of the Pittsburgh Symphony where he conducts often. This dynamic performance of Symphony No. 1 is among the best, and another plus is quality of recorded sound. Job Maarse produced the recording and has captured uncommon richness of detail as well as impact. Audiophiles will not be disappointed. Nor will they be by the Pentatone issue of the two Brahms serenades with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra recorded in four track surround in 1981 and produced by Bernd Runge, who also can be praised for his technical expertise on Masur's splendid Leipzig complete set of Beethoven symphonies recorded 1972-1974 (see REVIEW).

This attractive Liszt recital is of particular interest as it is played on a Steingraeber piano made in 1873 that Liszt himself played during his final years, the same instrument Thomas Hitzlberger used for his recording of Liszt and Liszt Wagner transcriptions on the Ambronay label. This piano has a distinctive sound that tends towards brittleness, but always is pleasing to hear. Thomas Hitzelberger offers tasteful, introspective readings of the seven works that comprise the second group of works collectively known as Years of Pilgrimage, this second set conveying his experiences and travels through Italy. Cybele's sonic picture focuses the piano towards the right side creating a very natural sound image. A fine release!

R.E.B. (September 2007)