STRAISS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40. BRAHMS: Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53.
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano; Gentlemen of the Ambrosin Singers; Cleveland Orchestra 9SStrauss). New Philharmonia Orchestra / Lorin Maazel, cond,

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan." Syumphony No. 4 in G major. BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1` in C minor, Op. 68.
London Symphony Orchestra (Symphony 1). Chicago Symphony Orchestra . Judith Blegen, soprano. James Levine, cond.
DUTTON EPOCH SACD 2CDLX 8233 (2 disks) TT: 2:35:39

STRAVINSKY: Petrushka. Pulcindlla. Scherzo Fantastique. Symphonies of Wind Instruments.
New York Philharmonic / Pierre Boulez, cond.

Lorin Maazel (1930 - 2014) was one of the most distinguished conductors of his time, respected by all. He had an international career and held some major positions; he was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra 1972 - 1982. Throughout his career he recorded profusely for various labels, and many of his recordings were of music by Richard Strauss. During his Cleveland years he recorded Ein Heldenleben January 10, 1977. It is a superb performance of this masterpiece, with an exciting battle sequence and noble depiction of heroism. Daniel Majeske is violin soloist. The orchestra is in top form and the engineers have captured the rich sound and sonority of the famous orchestra with uncommon clarity. The multi-channel sound is extraordinarily effective, not particularly directional but placing the listener right in the hall. The filler is a recording made November 1976 in London's All Saints Church, Tooting. Yvonne Minton is the splendid mezzo in this Brahms masterpiece, with rich support from "gentlemen" of the Ambrosian Singers and the New Phiulharmonia Orchestra. For the original 2-LP release, this was coupld with the Brahms Requiem.

James Levine at one point in his career was considered to be an ideal interpreter of Mahler. He even recorded all of the symphonies for RCA with the Philadelphia Orchestra, unmemorable in performance not helped by very poor audio. All of these wee recently reissued at budget price, unenthusiastically mentioned on this site (REVIEW). Levine fared miuch better in these earlier recordings. No. 1 was made with the London Symphony in Walthamstow Town Hall August 24-26. 1974. Charles Gerhardt was the producer, Robert Auger the engineer. Audio is excellent if not particularly "surround." Symphony No. 4 was recorded in Chicago's Medinah Temple July 22 - 23, 1974. Producer was Thomas Z. Shepard, engineer Paul Goodman. Filling out this 2-disk set we have Brahms Symphony No. 1, also recorded in Medinah Temple July 23, 1975 again with the Goodman/Shepherd team plus an additional producer, J. David Saks. Medinah Temple is not an ideal venue for recording, but the engineering staff has produced a multi-channel souind that surely works beautifully, wih great separation between he four channels and an impressive overall effect. This is an intriguing set, and the two disks sell for the price of one.

Pierre Boulez often conducted music of Stravinsky and on this fine new release we have his recordings of the original 1911 version of Petrushka, a suite from Pulcinella, Scherzo fantastique and the Wind Instruments Symphonies. The New York Philharmonic is in virtuoso form. Petrushka was recorded in Avery Fischer Hall May 11, 1971. Other works r were recorded in Manhattan Center October 25, November 29, and December 1, 1975. Producer was Andrew Kazdin and several engineers were involved: Edward Graham, Milton Cherin, Larry Keyes, and Raymond Moore. All achieved splendid results, full rich, detailed sound, if not particulaly "surround." It is surprising that Boulez underplays the snare drum rolls between the different sections of Petrushka. Most listeners, including me, would prefer more emphasis on them. This is a welcome addition to the SACD catalog. Perhaps Epoch will issue Leonard Bernstein's LSO quad recording of The Rite of Spring. Let us hope!

R.E.B. (December 2017)