WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder. STRAUSS: Four Last Songs. Music by Mozart, Cilea, Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, Boito, Catalani, Mascagni, and Gounod. Orchestras conducted by Ervin Luckas, András Kórodi, and Adám Medveczky
HUNGARITON (two disks) TT: 70:01 / 73:18

A program of "beautiful and atmospheric" music for Chinese harp and other traditional Chinese instruments
Xiao Ying, chinese harp; others
ARC MUSIC CD LC 0511 TT: 65:36

ARUTIUNIAN: Complete piano works
Hayk Meliklyan. piano

Hungarian soprano Sylvia Sass (b. 1951) has enjoyed a long career. Her many fans adore her, but she never reached the level of the true prima donna. Her voice is big and powerful, but sometimes edgy and slightly off-pitch. Her home base was the Hungarian opera and she made a number of recordings with them including a disk of Puccini and Verdi arias, and Verdi's Ernani. Sir Georg Solti (a fellow Hungarian) chose her for his recordings of Mozart's Don Giovanni and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, and she also recorded Verdi's Stiffielo (with José Carreras). In 1977 she sang three performances of Tosca at the Met but never was invited back. Sass is at her best in these Hungarian recordings made 1975 - 1986. Her singing of Wesendonck Lieder and Four Last Songs does not challenge most other versions; she is more effective in the Italian arias. This set is an anniversary tribute to the Hungarian Diva including lengthy interviews with her. Excellent audio, no texts.

The Chinese harp ("Guzheng"") has been around for well over two thousand years. Is is rather like a zither, with many strings which are plucked. You won't hear the rich, warm sounds of the standard harp from this ancient instrument. It has an astringent, steely sound but can produce intriguing sounds. On this disk we have a master of the instrument, Xiao Ying, playing thirteen rather brief selections, mostly traditional. The colorful titles include Spring On Snowy Mountains, Thoughts, Moon Over Western River, Harvest Drumming ,Lotus, and Shifting Curtains. I rather imagine that most of the titles and music are interchangeable. In a few, other Chinese ancient instruments are heard (fiddles, flute, and sheng, a mouth-blown bamboo "organ."). Here is your opportunity to hear a truly ancient instrument in appropriate repertory. The recordings were made on an unspecified date in Northhamptonshire, Great Britain. Excellenent sound, and CD notes include details of eachwork.

Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian (1920 - 2012), was a contemporary of Aram Khachaturian. Although he was respected, his music never gained wide attention except for his brilliant trumpet concerto composed in1950 for Timofei Dokshitser. Aruntinan wrote much music including operas and concertos for other instruments, but today most of it is forgotten. This CD contains all of his works for solo piano beginning with Armenian Dance composed in 1924 when he was only 17. The major work is his Polyphonic Sonata dating from 1946. Most of these pieces are quite brief, many based on Armenian folk tunes. This is pleasant and rather innocuous, and young Armenian pianist Hayk Melikyan who does what can be done with this music. Excellent audio. Melikuam already has to his credit a disk of complete piano music of another Armenian composer Arno Babadjaniar. Collectors are fortunate to have unusual repertory so well presented.

R.E.B. (March 2017)