GRIEG: In Autumn (Concert Overture, Op. ll). Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16. Symphony in C minor.
Noriko Ogawa, pianist; Bergen Philharmonic Orch/Ole Kristian Ruud, cond.
BIS SACD 1191 (F) (DDD) TT: 79:09 (5 channel)

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Nikolaus Harnoncourt discussing and performing fragments of finale of Symphony No. 9
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.
RCA/BMG 54332 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT: 71:40 & 58:54 (5.1 channel)

The Grieg collection complements the other BIS Grieg disc of symphonic works of the composer (see REVIEW), combining his best known work with two relatively obscure pieces. The concert overture In Autumn written in 1865 was called by Niels Gade "a goddamn piece of junk." In spite of this, it was a favorite of Sir Thomas Beecham who recorded it with the Royal Philharmonic in 1959. Grieg's only symphony, composed two years before the overture, had sporadic performances when first written, but the composer decided, after hearing Johan Svendsen's first symphony, his symphony had little merit and wrote on the score, "Never to be performed." In the usual four movements, the symphony surely is pleasant if unmemorable, in contrast to Grieg's piano concerto written about a year after the symphony, which is one of the most famous concertos for the instrument. Noriko Ogawa gives a fine, if somewhat cautious performance on this new recording; you won't find the pianistic fireworks of the recent EMI release featuring Leif Ove Andsnes or Leon Fleisher's fabled 1960 version, but this is among the better recordings of the score. BIS' sound is outstanding in its clarity, richness and impact, with the extra channels providing acoustic presence.

Nicholas Harnoncourt's controversial Bruckner cycle continues with the Symphony No. 9; he already has Teldec recordings of symphonies 3 and 4 with the Royal Concertgebouw, number 7 with the Vienna Philharmonic and number 8 with the Berlin Philharmonic. Surprisingly, this latest installment is on RCA Red Seal, the label's first multi-channel recording, made during live performances in the large concert hall at the Salzburg Festival in August 2002. Teldex Studio Berlin did the recording with producer Friedermann Engelbrecht and engineer Michael Brammann. This is a two CD set which sell for the price of one.

The second CD is called "Like A Stone From the Moon," a "workshop concert with Nicholas Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic" which also was presented at the 2002 Salzburg Festival. It's a "documentation of the fragment" explained by Harnoncourt who states Bruckner actually did complete the finale of his last symphony but some of it was lost for various reasons—and he urges everyone to look in their attics and basements to see if they have any of the missing parts! The conductor and the VPO play the four fragments that exist, a total of about nineteen minutes of music. The total presentation is about a half-hour, but it is given twice, first in German, then in English. Harnoncourt's is not one of the greatest recordings of Bruckner's last symphony, but this RCA issue gives us the opportunity to hear the Vienna Philharmonic in superb surround sound, quite a different sound than is heard on the new DG release of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW), which in turn is different from DG's surround recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 (REVIEW). Some might prefer the analytical sonic picture of the Mahler 2 recording, but this new RCA set has a richer over-all sound; both are quite magnificent in their own ways


R.E.B. (November 2003) (NEXT SURROUND REVIEW)