WAGNER: Overture to Die Meistersinger. Overture to The Flying Dutchman. Overture to Tannhäuser. Prelude to Act I of Tristan und Isolde. Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. Siegfried Idyll
Dresden State Orch/Silvio Varviso, cond. London Chamber Orch/Richad Schumacher, cond. (Siegfried Idyll)
PENTATONE PTC 5186 123 (F) (ADD) TT: 64:40 (5 channel) (HYBRID

SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No . 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ Symphony." MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL: Pictures at an Exhibition.
Daniel Chorzempa, organist; Rotterdam Philharmonic Orch/Edo de Waart, cond.
PENTATONE PTC 5186 116 (F) (ADD) TT: 68:30 (5 channel) (HYBRID)

Swiss-born conductor Silvio Varviso studied conducting with Clemens Krauss. Although Varviso has held a number of positions with orchestras he is best-known for his work in opera. He made his Met debut in 1961 conducting Lucia di Lammermoor (which also the debut of Joan Sutherland). Varviso has also conducted at the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden and in Paris as well as Bayreuth where he appeared often. These new issue of Wagnerian excerpts range from a rather dull Meistersinger prelude to a blazing Lohengrin Act III prelude. Richard Schumacher, who directed the chamber ensemble Masterplayers since 1954, and is a respected master teacher as well as a musician, leads a beautiful performance of the gentle Siegfried Idyll. Varviso's performances were recorded in Lucaskirsche, Dresden in June 1975, the same site used by EMI 1970-1976 for their Richard Strauss recordings with Rudolf Kempe conducting the same orchestra. It's unfortunate the Kempe series wasn't recorded with the clarity and richness heard on Pentatone's new release. It could be said there is a lack of low bass, but highs sizzle and there is an admirable hall ambience. There is an obtrusive unidentified sound just before the opening of the Lohengrin excerpt—surely this should have been edited out.

Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 is a sonic showpiece of the most vivid kind and there have been many fine recordings of it, particularly the Boston Symphony 1959 version with Charles Munch. Edo de Waart's Rotterdam recording doesn't reach those interpretive heights but it is mightily impressive in its own way. It was recorded in the Dutch orchestra's concert hall, De Doelen, in November 1976, and uses a Flentrop organ which produces rich reed sound along with impressive if not earth-shaking bass. Pictures was recorded in December 1974 in the same hall. The original quadraphonic recordings of both very naturally capture orchestral sound and for the audio-fixated there are some rather massive bass drum whacks. Saint-Saëns included two pianos in his symphony, not as soloists but part of over-all orchestral textures; unfortunately as recorded here they are virtually inaudible.

There is much aural pleasure to be derived from both of these CDs. Again keep in mind that these Pentatone RQR (Remastered Quadro Recordings) releases are from the original four-channel master tapes and there are only four channels—in spite of the fact that your CD player might (as mine does) indicate there are five.

R.E.B. (September 2003)