DEBUSSY: La Mer. DUTILLEUX: L'Arbre des songes. RAVEL: La valse.
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
RCO LIVE SACD 08001 TT: 64:27

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan."
London Symphony Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LS00663 TT: 52:42

BERLIOZ: Benvenuto Cellini
Gregory Kunde (Cellini); Laura Claycomb (Teresa); Darren Jeffery (Balducci); Peter Coleman-Wright (Fieramosca); Andrew Kennedy (Francesco); Isabelle Cals (Ascanio); Jacques Imbrailo (Pompeo); John Relyea (Pope Clement VII); Andrew Foster-Williams (Bernardino); Alasdair Elliott (Cabaretier); London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
LSO LIVE SACD LS 00623 (2 disks) TT: 148:16

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra provide a fantastic sonic feast for audiophiles with this release in their RCO Live series. La mer and La valse were recorded February 1, 2 and 4, 2007; the Dutilleux June 7-8, 2006. Credited as producer and engineer is Everett Porter, who did a magnificent job in capturing the glorious sound of the Concertgebouw. We hear a mass of rich strings, brilliant brass, a bass-drum that will challenge your woofers, percussion that sizzles, and a sea of woodwinds—the latter, perhaps, slightly overmiked. Dynamic range is wide, the climax of La valse a knock-out (oddly, producers have provided three separate tracks for this music). Jansons is meticulous in his attention to detail in all three works, and the orchestra follows his highly individual interpretations with unanimity. The violin concerto by Dutilleux was commissioned in 1985 by Isaac Stern who gave the premiere and recorded it that year with Lorin Maazel conducting. Called L'Arbre des songes ("Tree of Dreams") it is an exotic seven-section work (four continuous sections separated by three "interludes," in which the violin (superbly played by Sitkovetsky) is treated as part of the orchestra (although miked rather prominently in this recording). The delicate scoring includes chimes, antique cymbals, vibraphone, piano, celesta, harp, and cymbalom. A superb release!

Sonic quality of the two London Symphony issues in their LSO Live series cannot match the richness and warmth of Jansons and the RCOA. The Berlioz is from June 2007, the Mahler from January 2008, both recorded in the usual concert venue for the LSO, London's Barbican, always a challenge for recording engineers. Gergiev's Mahler 6 was recorded in November 2007 (see REVIEW); this Mahler 1 is more successful both as a performance and sonically, although it still lacks concert-hall warmth. Surely preferable is the Jansons/RCOA live recording (see REVIEW). This is the second time Sir Colin Davis has recorded Benvenuto Cellini; his highly regarded 1969 Philips recording with Royal Opera House forces is still in the catalog. This live recording is of interest—a master Berlioz conductor's latest views on the composer's "opéra-comique." The cast is superb, particularly Laura Claycomb's Teresa (her other recordings include the same role in Roger Norrington's recording of the same opera). The chorus is outstanding and makes much of the '"Roman Carnival" episode towards the end of act one. Sound quality is well-balanced and wide range, although the dry acoustic is always apparent. A complete libretto is provided in English and French. The set sells for the price of two mid-price disks.

R.E.B. (June 2008)