RESPIGHI: The Fountains of Rome. The Pines of Rome. Roman Festivals
São Paulo Symphony Orch/John Neschling, cond.
BIS SACD 1720 TT: 63:41

PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19. Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63. Violin Sonata in D, Op. 115.
Arbella Steinbacher, violin; Russian National Orch/Vasily Petrenko, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186395 TT: 64:27|

"ENCORES" - Music of Karlsson, Hamilton Green, Silvmark, Peterson-Berger, Loguin, Engström, Alfvén, Holdar, Johnson, Eriksson, and traditional
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble
BIS SACD 1452 TT: 59:17

The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra is a superb ensemble by any standards, and displays their virtuosity in the three Respighi symphonic poems. This is strong competition for the two recent Exton Respighi disks with Ashkenazy and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: Pines/Fountains/Roman Festivals (REVIEW), Belkis/Church Windows (REVIEW). These are sonic blockbusters, but so is this new BIS issue. And the performances are excellent, imaginative and powerful, with big sound and roaring brass. BIS engineers have captured appropriate distant brass in Pines and Festivals. If you love Respighi's colorful scores, you should own this new one—and the Ashkenazy as well, along with the historic Toscanini recordings although they of course cannot match the aural fireworks heard on the newer releases.

About two years ago Pentatone released their second SACD with the sensational young German violinist Arabella Steinbacher, a coupling of Bartók's two concertos (REVIEW).Since that time she has recorded many other concertos and now we have this superb Prokofiev disk combining the two Prokofiev concertos along with the sonata for solo violin, Op. 115. Her totally secure intonation is apparent in this demanding music so much of which is written in the instrument's highest register. And she has the advantage of a perfect accompaniment from the Russian orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, dynamic young conductor who specializes in Shostakovich and is now recording all of the latter's symphonies for Naxos. Excellent sound, not particularly "surround," but very detailed. A fine release!

The Swedish percussion called Kroumata (derived from the Greek word for percussion instruments) has been around since 1978. They have given countless concerts with programs that include many works they have commissioned, and their many recordings are best-sellers. This Encores disk is just that, a wide variety of light pieces, many quite amusing, two featuring baritone Hakan Hagegard. Arrangements are brilliant and imaginative utilizing a wide variety of instruments. However, it is surprising that this is issued on SACD. These recordings were made in May 2004 in Stockholm. Although audio is quite clear, the pickup is distant, and there is no effective use of surround sound—what a missed golden opportunity! How intriguing it would have been to be surrounded by these unique instruments!

R.E.B. (October 2012)