SCHMITT: Symphony No, 2, Op. 137. Orchestral Suites 1 and 2 from Anthony and Cleopatra, Op 69.
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo, cond.

MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 2 in B Fla, Op,52 "Lobgesang"
Anna Lucia Richter, Esther Dierkes, sopranos. Robin Tritschler, tenor. NDR Choir. Rundfunkchor. NDR Radiophilhamonie / Andrew Manze, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186639 TT: 63:43

ROSSINI: The Barber of Seville
Luigi Alva (Count Almaviva). Enzo Dara (Bartolo). Teresa Berganza (Rosina). Hermann Prey (Figaro). Paolo Montarsolo (Basilio). Renato Cesari (Fiorello). Stefana Malagu (Berta). Ambrosian Opera Chorus. London Symphony Orchestra / Claudio Abbado, cond.
DGG 0028947999rr (2 /SACDs / 1 DVD / 1 Bluy Ray disk)

Chandos already has issued a fine recording of music of French composer Florent Schmitt (1870 - `958). It contained major works: Psaume 47, Op. 38, The Legend of Salome, Op. 50, and Le palsie hanté, Op. 49 all played by the magnificent Sao Paulo Orchestra directed by Yan Pascal Tortelier (Chandos 5090). Now we have this intriguing disk of two of the composer's major late works, the Symphony No. 2, Op. 137, and a a six-movement suite from Anthony and Cleopatra, performed by the BBC Symphony conducted by Sakari Oramo. Schmitt (not to be confused with his contemporary Austrian Franz Schmidt (1874 0 1939), composed in a Gallic style and his music is richly sensuous, beaurifully orchesrated. Schmitt, who usually chose exotic subjects for his music, composed Anthony and Cleopatra in 1920 for an "extravaganza" by exotic Russian-born dancer Ida Rubinstein. Naturally it includes several dances to give Rubinsein an opporunity to flaun her wales. The three-movement symphony dates from the composer's final years. It is consistently melodic and colorfully orchestrated, hardly a masterpiece, but worthy of a hearing. Both works are played with virtuosity and tonal beauty by the fine BBC orchestra directed by Oramo. A fine release; let us hope more of Schmitt's neglected music will be forthcoming!

Mendelssohn was a recognized master of the symphony when he wrote his Symphony No. 2, Op. 52 written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of invention of the printing process. He called it "Lobegesang" (Song of Praise), It is scored for twp sopranos and tenor soloists, chorus and orchestra. There are 13 sections and the premiere took place in Leipzig June 25, 1840. Some have generously compared it with Beethoven's Ninth, mistakenly so, as it surely does not have the power and emotion of the latter. However, it is Mendelssohn, well orchestrated as one would expect, rather an oddity in the Mendelssohn catalog. There are numerous recordings of it by major conductors including two Leipzig Gewandhaus performances one led by Kurt Masur, the other more recent, with Riccardo Chailly (REVIEW). This new version surely is a strong contender, and the Pentatone engineers have done heir ask admirably, although little significant use is made of rear channels Compete texts and translations are provided.

This DGG limited edition release offers two performances of The Barber of Seville. One is a studio recording made in London's Watford Town Hall September 1971, the other a video filmed in Salzburg August/September 1972, with the same cast and the LaScala Chorus and Orchestra. The conductor is a very young Claudio Abbado, who leads spirited performances. And he cats is just about perfect, particularly Hermann Prey's Figaro and Teresa Berganza's Rosina. This is a deluxe set containing two regular SACDs that contain the studio recording, and a DVD of the Salzburg live performance:, also a Blu Ray disk that contains the 1971 studio recording.. Of particular interest here is that both versions were recorded in multi-track audio; this is the first time the 1971 recoding has ben issued in that format, and multi-channel audio is highly effective. The Salzburg 1972 performance was issued on DVD some years ago; now we have it again as part of this package.

R.E.B. (August 2018)