MOZART: Serenade in D, K. 250 "Haffner." March in D, K. 249.
Netherlands Chamber Orch/Gordan Nikolic, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 097 TT: 57:25

LISZT: 12 Transcendental Etudes
Claudio Arrau, pianist
PENTATONE SACD 5186 171 TT: 66:25

HANDEL: Water Music. Music for the Royal Fireworks.
L'Arte dell'Arco/Federico Guyglielmo, cond.
cpo SACD 777 312 TT: 66:05

Here are three fascinating additions to the SACD catalog. Pentatone's Mozart disk features Gordon Nikolic as conductor and violin soloist in Mozart's Haffner serenade, which is preceded by a brief March: it's odd more music wasn't included on this disk: as playing time is less than one hour. As in previous Pentatone recordings, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra is in top form, and this recording, made in Waalse Kirk in Amsterdam, has more natural resonance than previous recordings by this ensemble. Claudio Arrau (1903-1988) recorded the 12 Liszt Transcendental Etudes in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in March of 1974, one of the earliest Philips four-channel recordings. Arrau was 71 at the time, not the demonic virtuoso he was in his earlier years, but still able to provide many pianistic fireworks. These are grand performances of these staples of the repertory, and on SACD they sound better than ever, although the aural picture is hardly "surround."

This coupling of Handel's Water Music and Royal Fireworks is the first recording by L'Arte dell'Arco, a new Italian chamber ensemble performing on period instruments. There are only 28 players of which there are three each of natural horns and natural trumpets. They play very well indeed, and in this performance of Water Music it is presented in the order suggested by Christopher Hogwood who has researched performance history of this music. The recording was made in Auditorium di Chiuppano in Italy October 12-14, 2004. Engineer Marco Lincetto has captured all of the sounds of this intimate group, along with a few rather odd, low-level extraneous sounds. If you like your Handel on a small scale, you will enjoy these performances. I prefer the full-bodied sound of Boston Baroque directed by Martin Pearlman on Telarc, or the Pierre Boulez/New York Philharmonic Sony version.

R.E.B. (August 2008)