WAGNER-VLIEGER: The Ring, an orchestral adventure. Siegfried Idyll.
Royal Scottish National Orch/Neeme Järvi, cond.

DVORAK: Symphony No. 6 in D, Op. 60. The Water Goblin, Op. 107.
Netherlands Philharmonic Orch/Yakov Kreizberg, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 302 TT: 69:21

RIISAGER: Benzin, Op. 17 (Ballet). Archaeopteryx, Op. 51. Til Apollon, Lysets Gud.
Danish National Symphony Orch/Owain Arwel Hughes, cond.
DA CAPO SACD 6.220527 TT: 70:23

About a decade ago this site mentioned an RCA disk of Henk de Vlieger's arrangement of music from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde played by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (of which the arranger was principal percussionist)(see REVIEW). That CD, mercifully, has been discontinued, but now we have Vlieger's arrangement of the Ring cycle arranging many orchestral highlights into what he calls an "adventure," a four-movement "symphony." All he had to do was find a way to connect the familiar excerpts, and he did so expertly. It surely is pleasant enough to listen to, and beautifully played by the Scottish orchestra. Siegfried Idyll is a restful filler (and strangely on this disk is divided into three tracks). This is Chandos sound at its best, with a very wide dynamic range. I'm surprised engineers didn't use SACD to give us appropriate horn calls from rear speakers. A fine SACD! If Wagner minus voices appeals to you, investigate Lorin Maazel conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in his own arrangement of the Ring on Telarc, more generous in content, and now at budget price.

Yakov Kreizberg also ready has recorded for Pentatone Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 (REVIEW) and Symphony No. 8 coupled with the symphonic poems Wood Dove and Noon Witch) (see REVIEW). The latest installment in his Dvorák series offers Symphony No. 6 and The Water Goblin, recorded in Yakult Hall in Amsterdam in December 2006 (symphony) and June 2006 (Goblin). High performance standards of the previous releases are sustained, and the sound, although too close-up for my taste, is excellent.

The name of Danish composer Knudage Riisager (1897-1974) will be new to most listeners. Da Capo has a good start in correcting this unfortunate omission—they already have released a disk containing two symphonic works (Quarrtsiluni/Manerenen), another of piano music, and on Danacord one can find 9 brief orchestral works recorded more than a half-centurhy ago by conductor Thomas Jensen. . Riisager studied law and then went to Paris where he worked with Roussel. Under the influence of the latter, he became a master of orchestration and apparently had a great sense of humor. Riisager specialized in ballet and had a seemingly endless supply of delightful tunes many of which can be heard on this splendid Da Capo release of his complete 43-minute ballet Benzin written in 1928. Riisager called it "a joke," and it sounds like one—but audiences didn't get the point, and it had only three performances. This recording is the first ever, and a total delight. The plot is odd—Benzin means "petrol." A young farmer is in love with the innkeeper's daughter. A motorcyclist arrives looking for petrol, the farmer goes to get it only to find on his return that his girlfriend and the motorcyclist seem attracted to each other. All ends peacefully—not much of a story, but for it Riisager has composed a series of delightful dances and interludes with scoring that includes eleven percussion instruments, soprano saxophone and banjo. The composer imaginatively uses cymbals to represent motorcycle engine roar, a tuba for the mooing of a cow, and a cello glissando to represent the snoring petrol station attendant. Two very different shorter works complete this disk. Archaeopteryx (16:47) was inspired by the oldest known bird, with a stark score that often features solo bassoon. In contrast to the gloomy atmosphere of Archaeopterytx is Til Apollon, Lysets Gud, composed in 1972, the composer's last completed work. Prefacing the score Riisager has written, "To Apollo/Hymn to Phoebus Apollo, god of light, and messenger of the sun....." In this music we hear bright clusters of of sound, "shining planes that cross one another in a multidimensional space." Here is a fine SACD—intriguing, unusual repertory, beautifully performed and engineered. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (June 2008)