Graham Williams Reviews

Reference SAINT-SAËNS on SACD

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SAINT-SAËNS: SYMPHONY NO.3, ‘ORGAN’, ETC., Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern/Reference Recordings RR-135 SACD  The relationship between the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and Reference Recordings has, over the past few years, yielded some outstanding recordings. Not surprisingly in view of the label’s audiophile credentials much, but not all, of the repertoire the orchestra has committed to disc has been of ‘demonstration’ worthy material. Reference Recordings is one of the few companies to use HDCD encoding, a system that is compatible with CD, so many will be delighted that this release which appeared last year in the CD/HDCD format now comes as a spectacular hybrid 5.1 multi-channel SACD. The two hors’d’oeuvres that precede the Symphony are well chosen. Continue reading

Reich from LSO Live

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REICH: SEXTET; CLAPPING MUSIC; MUSIC FOR PIECES OF WOOD, LSO Percussion Ensemble, Neil Percy/LSO Live SACD LSO5073  This timely release of three works by one of the pioneers of minimalism Steve Reich appears a few months before the composer celebrates his 80th birthday on 3rd October 2016. The three performances recorded here were given by members of the London Symphony Orchestra Percussion Ensemble led by Neil Percy – a consummate virtuoso – who for almost 20 years has been the LSO’s Principal Percussionist. ‘Clapping Music’ composed in 1972 is exactly what it says on the tin. Reich conceived the piece from a desire to compose music “that would need no instrument beyond the human body”. Beginning with a single rhythmic cell of 12 beats modelled on traditional African bell rhythms it uses Reich’s familiar phasing technique to explore the basic rhythmic pattern with mesmerising effect. Neil Percy and his LSO Co-Principal Sam Walton, deliver a faultless account of what must surely be a most challenging piece for performers. A year later in 1973 Reich composed his ‘Music for Pieces of Wood’ in which five performers play five sets of wood blocks (claves) tuned A, B, C#, D# and the D# an octave above. Though, unlike ‘Clapping Music’, the element of pitch is present, it is the interplay of the complex rhythmic patterns that captivates the listener. Neil Percy and Sam Walton are joined by Simon Crawford-Phillips, David Jackson and Antoine Bedewi to yield a performance of amazing precision and control of dynamics. The final and longest piece on this SACD is the ‘Sextet’ of 1985 for which Philip Moore joins the ensemble. While the first two works represent Reich in what might be considered to be his purest style, the ‘Sextet’ brings a wider range of instrumental sonorities into play in what is a more ambitious and colourful composition. Continue reading

Chandos Atterberg cycle completed; Pentatone, Linn, LSO Live

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ATTERBERG: ORCHESTRAL MUSIC, VOL. 5: Symphony No. 7, Op. 45 Sinfonia romantic, Symphony No. 9, Op. 54 Sinfonia visionaria*, Anna Larsson ǀ soprano*, Olle Persson ǀ baritone*, Gothenburg Symphony Chorus* Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi/Chandos SACD CHSA 5166  The publisher Virago once did sterling work in reissuing the novels of unjustifiably neglected women writers, but a point arrived when there was a sense that all the best novelists had been once again made available and that some on reissued writers on whom the dust of history had settled perhaps deserved their obscurity. All of this this is a preamble to talking about Chandos’s ongoing commitment to recording (in their customary top-notch sound) some composers who l have been relatively neglected. And thankfully, there is no sign yet of any barrel-scraping – clearly there is still a great deal of excavation work of remarkable music to be done. The composer Atterberg cannot be said to have been neglected, with other companies recording his very winning symphonies, but not in the splendid SACD sound that Chandos have accorded their series (with one puzzling exception, issued in stereo only rather than surround sound– why? ). This last volume is one of the most dynamic and committed of the series, finessing an enterprise that has proved to be one of the company’s great initiatives; for this listener, it has had the effect of making me hope that someday Chandos will finally complete its Vaughan Williams cycle  of the symphonies, left incomplete at the death of the conductor Richard Hickox. The final volume in the Atterberg series with Neeme Järvi and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra features two late rarely performed symphonies. The seventh, from 1942, is recorded here in its final, three-movement form, fourteen years after the Dollar Symphony. Originally in four movements, the work only acquired its final shape in 1969, when Atterberg decided to remove the last movement from the original score. The disc writes a satisfying finis to a wonderful series.

BARTOK CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA, DANCE SUITE, MUSIC FOR STRINGS, PERCUSSION AND CELESTA, ETC., London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti/Decca Eloquence 480 6872  This welcome two-CD set is a reminder of just how definitive an interpreter of Bartok his fellow Hungarian Georg Solti was, and most of the performances here are non-pareil — although the once-demonstration-class sound is showing its age. That is particularly true of a much sought-after performance, that of the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. This particular reading has been something of a holy grail for Bartok aficionados for years, and is making its first appearance on disc here (other, less dynamic readings by Solti have been in circulation). It is still as pointed and vivacious as one could wish for, although the sound, once ear-tingling, now sounds somewhat muffled. Still, a useful set.

HANDEL: APOLLO E DAFNE, Soloists, Ensemble Marsyas, Peter Whelan/LINN CKD 543  There was a time when admirers of Handel’s operas and oratorios had to be content with some very inauthentic performances of the rarer works – simply because there was not the range of recordings available that there is today. Some of these sets which we once happily listened to in lieu of any alternatives else were conducted at stately tempi with little or no continuo — and certainly no crisp pointing of rhythms. This very welcome set of the composer’s Apollo e Dafne is proof of just how far we’ve come since then, and it’s hard to imagine a more committed and sympathetic reading of the work than the one presented here by Whelan and his forces. This is one of the most ambitious of the composer’s cantatas, and this new disc may create some friends for the piece.

MENDELSSOHN SYMPHONIES 1 AND 4, ‘ITALIAN’, London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner LSO live LSO 0769  While the perfectly serviceable alternative recordings by Edward Gardener on Chandos have rightly received plaudits, most pundits have given the laurels to this rival set from LSO Live from another (differently spelt) Gardiner, sharper and (surprisingly) better recorded. This latest issue is one of the most enjoyable so far, with a particularly brisk and lively ‘Italian’ symphony.

MARTINŮ: ARIANE LYRIC OPERA IN ONE ACT, H 370 (1958), DOUBLE CONCERTO FOR TWO STRING ORCHESTRAS, PIANO AND TIMPANI, H 271 (1938) Essener Philharmoniker, Tomas Netopil/Supraphon SU4205-2  Another gap in the Martinů story is re-plugged with this very welcome issue which brings an intriguing vocal piece by the composer to light – and it turns out to be a particularly lyrical short essay in operatic form, though no masterpiece. To make the disc even more attractive, there is a strong and persuasive performance of one of the composer’s calling card pieces, the Double Concerto, which might not quite match the classic Mackerras account in sombre intensity, but is slightly better recorded and a worthy successor to the earlier disc, The composer wrote: “I am writing a new small opera, a one‐acter, as I would also like to have a rest from the grand-scale opera, The Greek Passion, which has taken its toll.” Martinů composed Ariane within a mere month, in the summer of 1958. The Greek myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, King of Crete, who helps Theseus slay the Minotaur, has been set to music by a number of renowned composers. Martinů was captivated by Georges Neveux’s drama Le Voyage de Thésée, on which he based his own libretto. Theseus is portrayed as a split personality, struggling with himself and overwhelmed by love for a woman. Tomáš Netopil and his Essener Philharmoniker have made a new recording of the opera some 30 years after the one created by Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic which very effectively plugs a gap in the repertoire.

MOZART: PIANO CONCERTOS, KV 414 + KV 453 Alfred Brendel (Piano), Academy of St Martins in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner/PentaTone PTC 5186236  When Phillips quadraphonic discs were originally issued in the 1970s, I, like many listeners, only had the facility to hear them in stereo, and frankly, most of them seemed a little opaque and underpowered. But how splendid most of them now sound in the new leases of life given to them in the SACD medium by PentaTone – such as this Mozart disc, a perfectly judged performance from the great Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel. Brendel, one of the most important exponents of the German-Viennese Classical and Romantic traditions, possessed an intellectual rigor and poetic spirit. As one of the founding fathers of the German-Viennese classical tradition, Mozart’s contribution to music history speaks for itself, and, one of his greatest achievements in composition is the piano concerto. While improvising and experimenting from the keyboard, he masterly combined instrumental and operatic styles. This interaction between instrumental and operatic elements can particularly be heard in the last movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, which on this album is coupled with his Piano Concerto No. 12.

MOSZOWSKI: FROM FOREIGN LANDS: REDISCOVERED ORCHESTRAL WORKS, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West/Reference Recordings RR 138 CD  With its evocative tile, ‘From Foreign Lands’, this is an unusual issue from the always reliable Reference Recordings brings out of obscurity a variety of short orchestral works by a neglected composer. Moszowksi is known (if at all) for his piano works. All of the pieces here are given an amiable advocacy, and although one cannot honestly say that there are any undiscovered masterpieces to be found, the music is tuneful and orchestrated with professional skill.

GINASTERA: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Arturo Tamayo/Capriccio C5271  This collection of rigorously ordered pieces by Ginastera is perhaps not the best introduction to the composer; these works represent a him in his more strictly ordered vein, rather than in colourful mode. Nevertheless, for aficionados of the composer, this will make a functional adjunct to other more approachable discs.

PROKOFIEV: SYMPHONY NUMBER 6, WALTZ SUITE, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra Marin Alsop/Naxos8.573519  This remarkably invigorating performance of the Prokofiev Sixth Symphony is every bit as striking and appealing as earlier discs in this much-acclaimed series. But there is a caveat. Earlier issues in this series of enjoyed astonishing Blu-ray audio surround sound, and this latest issue is in acceptable but hardly spectacular two-channel stereo. Those who have been buying earlier discs in the series will note this fact with some disappointment.

DURUFLÉ: REQUIEM, FOUR MOTETS. MESSE CUM JUBILO, Choir of Kings College, Stephen Cleobury/Kings CollegeKG50016  Always popular with choral societies, Duruflé’s ingratiating Requiem is here granted a very sympathetic performance, with Stephen Cleobury balancing his choral forces with great acumen.

MAURICE JARRE: IS PARIS BURNING? City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Nic Raine/Tadlow Music 2 CDs TADLOW023  Once again, the reliable team of producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra do sterling work in dusting off some unfairly neglected orchestral film scores from the days before far less ambitious and complex music took over – and with nary a hectoring rap theme song in sight. Maurice Jarre was one of the great film music professionals, initially making his mark with such French classics as Les Yeux Sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face before having his greatest success with the epic films of David Lean. This is Jarre in militaristic mode, cheekily borrowing motifs from Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, but coming up with something possessing its own individual character. A particular plus here is another wartime film score by Jarre, The Night the Generals. As ever, Raine and his highly professional forces do a great service to this music.

 

Shakespeare Songs from Bostridge and Pappano on Warner Classics

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Froam Warner ClassicsGrammy® Award winners Ian Bostridge and Sir Antonio Pappano have been working together on the stage and in the recording studio for over 20 years. Together they have produced award-winning recordings and played sold out concert halls all over the world to huge critical acclaim. Now they embark on a project marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare with a new album out in September. Shakespeare Songs celebrates the four centuries of music and performance that his plays and sonnets have inspired. Shakespeare’s peerless feeling for the music of the English language has inspired countless composers, from those who set the Bard’s verse during his lifetime to musicians as diverse as Britten, Finzi, Korngold and Stravinsky. Ian Bostridge and Sir Antonio Pappano, together with four outstanding chamber musicians, delve into the rich Shakespeare legacy for this brand new recording, marking the playwright’s quarter-centenary with a delectable programme of works written for Jacobean productions, Restoration revivals and the modern concert hall. As guests Ian has invited his friends the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, and for Stravinsky’s Three Songs flautist Adam Walker, violist Lawrence Power and clarinetist Michael Collins.

Tempting New Discs from Dutton, Challenge, BIS & Co.

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SULLIVAN: INCIDENTAL MUSIC TO MACBETH & THE TEMPEST, etc., Mary Bevan, FFlur Wyn, sopranos, Simon Callow, speaker, BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews/Dutton Epoch SACD 2CDLXX7331  The highly enterprising Dutton label has long been putting lovers of English music into its debt with a series of acclaimed recordings of neglected music both by little-known composers and giants of the field (the company’s recent disc of Vaughan Williams’ Fat Knight – a piece realised by the conductor Martyn Yates — was an absolute delight, and provided listeners with what was virtually a new piece by VW). This latest disc of incidental music by Arthur Sullivan serves the function of reminding listeners (if it were necessary) that there is far more to Sullivan the witty delights of the Savoy operas. We have heard some of this music before, but never in this impeccably rendered form. The composer’s level of invention here is non-pareil, even if this incidental music to Shakespeare is unlikely to be heard in any contemporary performances of The Bard. The vocal contributions by the sopranos Mary Bevan and FFlur Wyn are subtle and winning, but the real added value of the disc is provided by Simon Callow. His assumption of a speaking role is a reminder of the fact that actor has one of the most aesthetic speaking voices in the UK, and even those who balk at oration on classical discs will find themselves won over. With every new issue of this ilk, one wonders how long Dutton can continue its welcome exhumation process — we can only hope: indefinitely. And there is a final persuasive reason for purchasing this disc. The SACD recording is quite admirable in its fidelity to the sound canvas, with every detail of the piquant orchestration rendered with total fidelity.

OVERTURES BY GLUCK, MOZART, BEETHOVEN, CHERUBINI, WEBER AND MENDELSSOHN, Bamberg Symphoniker, Karl-Heiz Steffens/Tudor 7195 SACD  How commercial is this collection? Most dedicated classical music enthusiasts will have at least a few of these pieces – even in the SACD medium – but this is a particularly useful disc in collecting a programme that makes for very satisfying unified experience. From the Gluck overture to Iphigenie in Aulis (which opens the programme) to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream overture, which brings it to a close, the level of musicianship is impeccable – and it goes without saying that (as with every surround sound disc from Tudor), the recording blossoms in a persuasive simulacra of a concert hall ambience.

CHALLENGE CLASSICS SACDS: RICHARD STRAUSS: ARABELLA/Albrecht (CC 72686); BRAHMS: SERENADE NO.1, HAYDN VARIATIONS/De Vriend (CC 72692); BEETHOVEN: PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 2/Minaar, de Vriend (CC72712); PROKOFIEV: SYMPHONIES 6 & 7/Gaffigan (CC 7214)  The Challenge Classics label has long been a supporter of the surround sound medium, issuing a series of discs which married recordings of great warmth and finesse to performances that merited such impeccable rendering. And it might be argued that the label is currently experiencing something of a Golden Age, as the admirably high quality of the discs listed above suggest. Strauss’s Arabella is given a reading of affection and lyricism that is perfectly suited to this late flowering of the composer’s genius. Jacquelyn Wagner is both mellifluous and moving in the title role. There are perhaps two caveats: the live recording picks up quite a bit of stage noise and (in the final analysis) this is not quite a reading to challenge such classic recordings of the past as that featuring Lisa Della Casa. But as the first performance of the opera in the SACD medium, it is undoubtedly a worthy contender, and the packaging (with a libretto folded into a booklet format with the disc) is the perfect solution to this problem. James Gaffigan’s reading of two of Prokofiev’s later symphonies has an attention to detail that is combined with performances, of great panache. It’s an issue which will appeal to any committed Prokofievian, and it’s interesting to note that the composer’s symphonies, once relatively sparse in their representation on disc, are becoming more and more common, even in the surround sound medium. The two Beethoven and Brahms discs conducted by Jan Willem de Vriend both show meticulous attention to the scores and a welcome refusal to add any conductorly flourishes to enhance the music; de Vriend allows the composers to be their own advocates without any gildingof the lily. The results are impressive. It’s interesting to note that the disc (which couples the first Orchestral Serenade with the Variations on a Theme by Haydn) is another entry on SACD of the former piece, while the Second Serenade has yet to make an appearance (Robin Ticciati’s admirable reading of the First Serenade similarly eschews the second. Isn’t it about time for a matching reading of the second Sereande, either from De Vriend or Ticciati?) But – back to the business at hand. One can only hope that the Challenge Classics label continues to share this commitment to surround sound – performances as good as those on these discs demand the best possible sound resolution.

DEBUSSY & TAKEMITSU FOR STRINGS, Scottish Ensemble Linn CKD 512  I don’t know about you (there are those who are distinctly sniffy about such things), but I am always on the lookout for new orchestrations of pieces written for other combinations, usually written originally for a small number of strings. Much depends, of course, on the skill of the orchestrator. The pieces arranged by Jonathan Morton (who conducts the Scottish ensemble) are done with such musicality and sensitivity here that only the most unbending of listeners will be able to resist their charm. The Debussy String Quartet in G minor may have more rigour and intensity in its original setting, but the sheer bloom of the new clothing it is given here by Morton provides a fresh dimension. I’m not greatly taken with the Takemitsu pieces, but there will be those who are more on the composer’s wavelength. The Debussy items alone, however, are worth the price of admission. The Scottish Ensemble’s reputation for excellent string arrangements (established with important commissions from the late Rudolph Barshai) continues here. The variety of string techniques and the wide palette of instrumental colours Debussy employed are all enhanced by the larger string ensemble, particularly in the sumptuously beautiful slow movement. In addition, the attractively lyrical Girl with the Flaxen Hair has been orchestrated for string ensemble and two harps by Colin Matthews.

SCRIABIN: SYMPHONIES 1 & 2, Soloists, London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev/ LSO live 0770 SACD  Not everyone will warm to these performances of lesser-known Scriabin symphonies (and the first has a more persuasive reading on the PentaTone label), but there is no denying Valery Gergiev’s commitment to the music, and if you have the matching coupling of Scriabin symphonies 3 and 4, you need not hesitate.

RESPIGHI: SINFONIA DRAMMATICA; BELFAGOR, OUVERTURE PER ORCHESTRA, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, John Neschling/ BIS 2210 SACD  To some degree, Respighi’s imposing Sinfonia Drammatica has been a poor relation among the composer’s major works, no doubt because it does not quite possess the typically Respighian sound, with that striking alternation of raw power and rich orchestration which is the hallmark of the composer’s work; this is a piece which is more in the Straussian idiom. But with a little work on the listener’s part, it can be immensely rewarding in the right hands. The latter condition is very much the case here with John Neschling once again demonstrating his sympathy for this composer. After recording the Roman trilogy with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Neschling has continued to explore Ottorino Respighi’s lavish orchestral scores with the Belgian Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège. On the team’s third disc the turn has come for Respighi’s Sinfonia drammatica – a score of epic proportions (over 58 minutes in the present performance) for a correspondingly large-scale orchestra. Both these factors may explain in part why it is rarely performed and recorded, but the work also has a dark-hued, intense character which will surprise those only familiar with Respighi’s more extrovert scores. Closing the disc is the better-known Belfagor Overture, a work from 1924 in which Respighi rescued material from an opera.

BUTTERWORTH ORCHESTRAL & VOCAL WORKS (arr. Russman), Soloists, Kriss Russman/BIS 2195 SACD  Don’t be put off by the rather old-fashioned sleeve illustration with which BIS have adorned this unusual release with (something Arcadian would have been far more apropos); this is a very pleasing one-disc compilation of the important pieces by the composer with the added virtue of some orchestrated songs which sound splendid in their richer guise. When George Butterworth left England to fight in the First World War, he had already begun to compose the ‘Orchestral Fantasia’. It is unknown whether he ever finished the work and, due to the composer never returning home, any complete score was lost. Composer and conductor Kriss Russman has taken up where the manuscript breaks off, developing Butterworth’s ideas and completing the work. Butterworth’s ‘Orchestral Works’ on the BIS label also feature world première recordings of newly-orchestrated versions of celebrated works, such as Songs from A Shropshire Lad and Suite for String Quartette

DOHNÁNYI: ORCHESTRAL WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 5* / Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 / Suite from The Veil of Pierrette, Op. 18 / Suite, Op. 19 / Variations on a Nursery Theme, Op. 25*/ Ruralia hungarica, Op. 32b / Symphonic Minutes, Op. 36 / Symphony No. 2, Op. 40. Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 42*/ Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 43†/ Harp Concertino, Op. 45‡ / American Rhapsody, Op. 47, James Ehnes (violin)† / Howard Shelley (piano)* / Clifford Lantaff (harp)‡. BBC Philharmonic / Matthias Bamert CHAN 10906(5)  Classical music enthusiasts are known to take the occasional composer for granted, and do not stray beyond the one or two popular works by musicians less celebrated than the Rachmaninovs of this world. And it is a mistake, in the case of composers such as Ernst von Dohnányi, principally known for his Nursery Variations. This compact and comprehensive box set shows there is much more to him than what people think they know. Chandos’ series of recordings of his orchestral works, performed by the BBC Philharmonic under Matthias Bamert, with an impressive roster of soloists, significantly increased his public profile, and is now regarded as benchmarks for the repertoire.

LEHÀR: GIUDITTA, CHRISTIANE LIBOR, LAURA SCHERWITZL, NIKOLAI SCHUKOFF, RALF SIMON, CHOR des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Ulf Schirmer CPO777 749-2  A certain snobbishness has worked against the reputation of Franz Lehàr, but despite the unchallenging nature of his operetta libretti, his music is full of charm and melody (and it will come as no surprise to listeners that the Broadway composer Richard Rogers was a great admirer — both men are melodists to their fingertips. Lehar’s best work is in his operettas The Merry Widow and Land of Smiles, but many would make a case for Giuditta. Lehàr’s operetta is ably performed by Christiane Libor, Laura Scherwitzl, Nikolai Schukoff, Ralf Simon, the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester under the baton Ulf Schirmer. A wealth of beautiful melodies preside, above all Octavio’s aria ‘Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert’ and the title heroine’s aria ‘Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß.

KHACHATURIAN, RAUTAVAARA FLUTE CONCERTOS, Sharon Bezaly, flute, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Enrique Diemacke/BIS-1849 SACD  When the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal asked the composer Khachaturian for a new concerto, the latter suggested that he simply transcribe the composer’s violin concerto. And as an exercise in transcription, the piece is a delight, adding another concerto to the limited repertoire of the instrument. For this writer, the piece is far preferable in its original violin incarnation, but admirers of the flute will be pleased, particularly given that the accompanying piece, a concerto by Rautavaara is a relatively beguiling modern work. Both works are played with great technique by Sharon Bezaly.

SCUMANN: COMPLTE SYMPHONIC WORKS VOL. V1, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Heiz Holliger/Audite 97705  This has been a truly exemplary series from Audite, enshrining Schumann’s oeuvre in performances of great authority. The ace in the hole is here is the little-known ‘Zwickau’ Symphony. The listener might almost – almost! — be convinced by this performance that it belongs in the Schumann canon.

SAINT-SAËNS: SYMPHONY NO.3, ‘ORGAN’, ETC., Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern/Reference Recordings RR-135 SACD  Prepare for a striking experience. Many recordings of Saint-Saens’s Third Symphony have done considerable justice to the diaphragm-shaking organ chords in the final movement, but few have had the sheer impact of this recording by Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony (previously reviewed on Classical CD Choice by Graham Williams), one of the Reference Recordings discs originally issued as a CD, but now repurposed in glorious SACD sound (the company’s back catalogue, in fact, is crammed with stereo-only discs that one would love to see given this surround sound sprucing up). Stern and his Kansas City forces find the poetry in Saint-Saëns’ magnificent score as well as its majesty, and deliver a particularly limpid Poco Adagio, finessing all the delicate orchestration that is to be found in the movement. The generous fill-ups are the Introduction and Rondo Capriccio and the little heard La Muse et la Poète. Perhaps a warning note should be sounded: this is a disc with such a wide dynamic range that it will sound better in larger living rooms than more compact ones; as the acoustic is at times notably resonant, the bass response is more suited to top-of-the range-equipment in a room that gives the sound picture the space it demands. If your equipment (and living room) is up to this job, you are in for a remarkable listen.