MAHLER: Das lied von der Erde
Burkhard Fritz, tenor; Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano; Netherlands Philharmonic Orch/Marc Albrecht, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186502 TT: 63:03

GRAINGER: King Solomon's Espousals. Danny Deever. Marching Song of Democracy. The Wraith of Odin. The Hunter In His Career. Sir Eglamore. The Lady of Wamphray. The Bride's Tragedy. Tribute to Foster. Thanksgiving Song.
Sydney Chamber Choir; Melbourne Symphony Cborus and Orch/Sir Andrew Davis, cond.

BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46. Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor, Op. 26. Romance in F, Op. 85.
Guy Braunstein, violin; Bamberg Symphony Orch/Ion Marin, cond.
TUDOR SACD 7188 TT: 64:53

Currently ArkivMusic currently lists dozens of recordings of Mahler's Das lied von der Erde. This new Pentatone issue surely is among the top current versions. Marc Albrecht has been music director of the Netherlands Philharmonic since 2011, after the tragic early death of Yakov Kreizberg. This site mentioned Albrecht's remarkable Dukas/Ravel/Koechlin disk (REVIEW), his Schumann/Dvorak/Berg disks (REVIEW) and his superb Elektra with the Netherlands Opera (REVIEW). This new recording shows his Mahler credentials in a major way. He is sensitive to the ever-changing moods of this masterpiece, and the orchestra plays magnificently. And he has superior soloists indeed. Alice Coote is outstanding, her warm controlled sound and wide range are perfect for this music, and the tenor, Burkhard Fritz, copes easily with the demanding tenor part. Fritz is relatively new to the operatic world but has been widely acclaimed for his performances during the last decade at the Vienna State Opera, the Munich Opera, and the Berlin State Opera. Obviously he soon will be a prized heldentenor. Add to this Pentatone's superb engineering, and you have an extraordinary disk.

Australian Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a remarkable, colorful composer/pianist whose fame rests mostly on his settings of Danny Boy, Country Gardens and Lincolnshire Posy. To me, his most imaginative work is the bizarre large-scale The Warriors available on SACD in versions by John Eliot Gardiner (REVIEW) and Geoffrey Simon (REVIEW). Grainger met Grieg in 1906 and championed the latter's piano concerto; there is a live recording from the Hollywood Bowl in 1945 with Stokowski conducting (in 1950, Stokowski made an RCA recording of a number of Grainger's works with the composer at the piano). There also is a unique performance of the concerto from a piano role with the orchestral part added on the 2L label. Grainger played the concerto often. At one time in XXX when he was playing it with the Baltimore Symphony conducted by XXXX there was a happy bat flying about during the performance, which amused the audience at the Lyric Theater but didn't bother Grainger. His life was complicated emotionally; he was very close to his mothe Rose.. Often they traveled and lived together until she committed suicide. Grainger's troubled relationships are outlined on Wikipedia including his experiments in sadomasochism. In April 1922, Rose committed suicide by leaping from the 14th floor of a New York building, leaving a rather tragic suicide note for her son, "from his demented mother." On to much happier things, this new Chandos SACD offers a wide collection of Grainger's music for chorus and orchestra in splendid performances by the Sydney Chamber Choir and the Melbourne Symphony Chorus and Orchestra under the dynamic direction of Sir Andrew Davis. Some stirring music here, beautifully orchestrated (I like the gongs and percussion!), enthusiastically sung. There's nothing here to match the imagination of The Warriors, but all is well worth a listen. Fortunately, complete texts are provided—even though the singers' enunciation is good, it sometimes is difficult to understand. Add to this the usual rich Chandos sound, and you have a true winner. Highly recommended!

Tudor's news SACD combines Max Bruch's two famous works, staples of the repertory, along with the lesser known Romance, Op. 85. This is a distinguished release in every way. Guy Braunstein has been concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic since 2000, and this year is giving up that position to concentrate on a solo career. Needless to say, he has technique that is extraordinary, and his tone is lovely. These are exquisite performances, and a plus is the Op. 85, originally written for viola heard here in the soloist's own arrangement for violin and orchestra. The Bamberg Symphony is in fine form under Ion Marin's sensitive leadership. Excellent rich sound is another plus. Don't miss this one.

R.E.B. (May 2013)