SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93. GLANERT: Theatrum bestiarium (A Theatrical Bestiary) Songs and Dances for Large Orchestra.
WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Koln/Semyon Bychkov, cond.
AVIE SACD AV 2137 TT: 75:06

SPOHR: Symphony No. 3 in E minor, Op. 78. Symphony No. 10 in E flat. Overture in F.
NDR Radiophilharmonie/Howard Griffiths, cond.
cpo SACD 777 177 TT: 62:32

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
Minnesota Orch/Osmo Vänska, cond.
BIS SACD 1716 TT: 68:22

Semyon Bychkov and his superb WDR Orchestra already have fine SACD issues of Shostakovich's Symphonies 4 and 11 (see review of No. 4). Now we have a superb performance of the mighty Symphony No. 10—plus a stunning premiere recording of music of German composer Detlev Glanert, Theatrum bestiarium. Glanert, born in 1960, studied with Henze, and is best known for his work in opera. Very little of his music has been recorded, but he is highly regarded on the contemporary music scene. Glanert calls his Theatrum bestiarium, which is dedicated to Shostakovich, "a bizarrely-funny situation....a dark and wild series of songs and which the dissection of the 'People as Animals' is present as in a morgue..." The composer has been planning this for about a decade ago, and some of the musical ideas are also used in his opera Caligula. Theatrum bestiarium is mostly ominous in nature, and in three parts with many wild outbursts from the orchestra that are appropriate for the title. The orchestra is large with an important part for the organ. This music had its premiere at the BBC Proms in July 2005 with John Storgards conducting, and was presented in Amsterdam several months ago with Markus Stenz on the podium; I've heard air-checks of both, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performance is magnificent, and it's a pleasure to hear the organ in Royal Albert Hall. However, this recording conducted by Bychkov is equally impressive. Check out this fine SACD.

Very far removed from Shostakovich and Glanert is the music of Louis Spohr (1784-1859) prolific German composer whose works include ten symphonies, sixteen violin concertos, four clarinet concertos, several operas, chamber music, and much vocal music. The enterprising label cpo has begun a project of recording the new critical editions of the composer's works edited by Bert Hagels; this is the first in a series devoted to the symphonies. As always, Spohr's music is melodic and inventive, and beautifully played by the NDR Orchestra with conductor Howard Griffiths. Symphony No. 10 and the Overture are very late works of the composer, and have no opus number. Sonic quality is excellent.

BIS continues their Beethoven symphony cycle by Osmo Vänska and the Minnesota Orchestra with these outstanding performance of the first and sixth symphonies. Are they preferable to the plethora of other recordings of this music? Not really, but they are very fine. Engineering is super-clear as always with BIS, but woodwinds are surprisingly distant. If you want your Beethoven symphonies in SACD,check out the complete set recorded in the early '70s by Kurt Masur in Leipzig (REVIEW), and the cycles not yet completed by Wojciech Rajski with the Polish Chamber Orchestra (REVIEW), the new series with Paavo Järvi conducting on RCA (REVIEW)—and don't overlook the magnificent Claudio Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic DVD set (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (January 2008)