DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Nocturnes. La mer. Berceuse héroïque.
Women of the May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orch/Paavo Järvi, cond.
TELARC SACD 60617 (5 channel) TT: 64:15

BARTÓK: The Miraculous Mandarin (complete ballet). Dance Suite . Hungarian Pictures
Bournemouth Chorus and Symphony Orch/Marin Alsop, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110088 ( 5.1 channel) TT: 62:12

HAYDN: The Creation
Sunhae Im, soprano; Jan Kobow, tenor; Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass; Christine Wehler, alto; VokalEnsemble Köln; Capella Augustina/Andreas Sperling, cond.
NAXOS SACD 6.110073/74 (5.1 channel) TT: 55:09 & 49:13

"BOLIVIAN BAROQUE" - Baroque music from the missions of Chiquitos and Moxos Indians
Florilegium/Bolivian soloists/Ashley Solomon, director
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 22105 (5 channel) TT: 72:28 plus DVD 45:00 (stereo)

Here are four outstanding SACD issues. Paavo Järvi seems more attuned to Debussy's impressionism than he is to Ravel's. Järvi's Cincinnati Pavane for a Dead Princess, La Valse, Mother Goose, Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 and an all-too-fast Boléro were recently issued on Telarc (see REVIEW). This performance of Faun is appropriately langorous, La Mer captures the atmosphere of the subject splendidly, and the Nocturnes are splendid, with the wordless womens' chorus effectively mysterious—but, unfortunately, not heard from the rear, which have been very imaginative—and great listening. The haunting Berceuse héroique is an unjustly neglected miniature masterpiece which I first heard on the magnificent May 1957 recording by Eduard van Beinum and the Concertgebouw, one of the first Philips stereo recordings of the Dutch orchestra and conductor—and Järvi's recording stands the comparison well. The Debussy and Ravel works were all recorded during sessions in Cincinnati's Music Hall January 25-26 and February 22-23, 2004, produced by Robert Woods, engineered by Michael Bishop. Typical Telarc sonics, with a wide dynamic range.

Marin Alsop shows she is far better in Bartók than in Brahms. Her recent Brahms Symphony 1 and 2 overtures (see REVIEW), was nothing special, but this Bartók collection is superb in every way. Alsop leads the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, of which she has been Principal Conductor since 2002, in rousing performances of these three Bartók works, particularly the barbaric Miraculous Mandarin, premiered in 1926 but banned on moral grounds and never again performed during the composer's lifetime. Alsop doesn't miss a bit of the score's sensuality and the orchestra is in top form, particularly the brass. Recorded in July 2004 at the Lighthouse Concert Hall in Poole, England, with producer Andrew Walton and sound engineer Mike Clements, the surround sound is effective—although the orchestra is totally in front. And if you enjoy snarling brass you'll surely find it here.

Haydn's choral masterpiece The Creation makes its surround sound debut in this fine production recorded by Deutschlandfunk, Sendesaal, Köln, in July 2003, a co-production with DeutschlandRadio, as was Naxos' recent issue of Bach's Mass in B minor (REVIEW) which also featured two of the soloists heard here: soprano Sunhae Im and bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann. Period instruments are used with the 40-member Capella Augustina which consists of players from other well-known groups, directed by Andreas Spering. Right from the beginning, Haydn's rather subdued vision of chaos, one is aware of the natural sonic perspectives and perfect balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra. The Bach issue included the complete text (which didn't take much space in the booklet); Naxos explains that in order to keep costs down they have not included texts for the Haydn but these can be downloaded from the naxos site:

Bolivian Baroque is a constant delight if this type of music appeals to you, a lengthy collection of brief songs, small chorus and chamber music mostly written by anonymous composers of the 17th and 18th centuries in the Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia. The performances feature the chamber group Florilegium which includes violins, cello, baroque flute, theorbo, harpsichord and organ as well several vocal soloists. In addition, four Bolivian singers are heard, and the performances were recorded in Bolivia's Catedral de Concepción in April 2004. In this luxurious package a 45-minute DVD is included at no extra charge showing the performers, church, and Bolivians. Complete texts and translations are included. The sound of the resonant church has been clearly captured in 5 channels.

R.E.B. (April 2005)