RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34.
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orch/Edo de Waart, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 153 TT: 70:35

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique." Dumka, Op. 59
Philadelphia Orch/Christoph Eschenbach, pianist-conductor
ONDINE SACD ODE 11131-5 TT: 59:38

VIVALDI: Four Concertos from Op. 8 (The Four Seasons). Concerto in G minor Op. 12 No. 1. Concerto in E flat, RV 257.
Daniel Gaede, violin; Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orch/.Wojciech Rajski, cond.
TACET SACD 163 TT: 60:02

Fortunately for collectors, Pentatone continues to find four-channel original recordings in the Philips vaults, and now we can hear them as originally recorded. One of the gems in the series (and there are many!) is this recording of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnole, both made in De Doelen, Rotterdam in April 1976. At the same time, the other two Rachmaninoff symphonies were recorded; all three have been available for some time now on a mid-price Philips Duo set. Even if you have that issue, you should investigate this multi-channel release. The audio difference is remarkable—the listener finds himself inside the concert hall, and the lush orchestral textures are splendidly conveyed. One never would think this recording was made more than three decades ago. The Korsakov showpiece is equally effective. Look into this one!

Christoph Eschenbach's latest Ondine issue with the Philadelphia Orchestra is their third Tchaikovsky disk. The first two: Symphony No. 4 (REVIEW) and Symphony No. 5 (REVIEW) were disappointing. This one, recorded in October 2006 in the problematic Verizon Hall, is equally far down on my list of preferred recordings of the work. Eschenbach's tempi are on the slow side, which can be effective, but the cataclysmic development section of the first movement doesn't amount to much. The audio picture is pallid—the massed rich Philadelphia strings simply are not to be heard. As with the two other Tchaikovsky releases, this one is filled out with piano music, in this case a rather subdued performance of Dumka, a work spectacularly played by Vladimir Horowitz in his 1942 recording—none of that excitement will be heard in this Eschenbach performance. Even with inclusion of Dumka, playing time on this full-priced SACD is less than an hour.

A most delightful SACD is Tacet's new Four Seasons with Daniel Gaede a first-rate violin soloist and Wojciech Rajski leading the superb Polish chamber ensemble. Rajski's recordings of four Beethoven symphonies have been mentioned on this site: symphonies 1 and 2 (REVIEW) and symphonies 7 and 8 (REVIEW). All of these are dynamic readings recorded with Tacet's concept of surround sound—high directionality and remarkable presence. On this Vivaldi recording sound is very directional. Solo violin is in the center, first violins left front, second violin right front, viola left rear, double bass, cello and harpsichord right rear. The listener is right in the middle, and it is an exhilarating experience. Two other Vivaldi concertos are welcome additions to this SACD. Collectors should investigate Tacet's approach to surround sound—I find it totally valid and an exciting listening experience.

R.E.B. (July 2008)