Music in the Round #28 Recordings in the Round

Sidebar: Recordings in the Round

HAYDN: Die Schöpfung Miah Persson, soprano; Topi Lehtipu, tenor; David Wilson-Johnson, baritone; Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg & Salzburger Bach Chor, Ivor Bolton Oehms Classics OEH609 (2 SACDs)

Haydn's joyously spectacular oratorio The Creation has been one of my favorite pieces since I was in college, when Vladimir Ussachevsky introduced me to the remarkably forward-thinking opening depiction of Chaos. What tone painting—and what follows is melodious and uplifting. I own four other recordings, but this one joins the top of the list for its consistently spot-on pacing and dynamics, more than capable singing, and the remarkable clarity of every element of the sound. The very conservative use of the surround channels is more than enough to give the music breathing space.

STRAUSS: Josephs-Legende Iv†n Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra Channel Classics CCS SA 24507 (SACD)

When Iván Fischer mentioned to me in September 2006 that he was planning to record Richard Strauss's rarely performed ballet score, I wasn't terribly excited—my only experience of it had been via an ancient and soggy 1950s LP. This is different—the music is Strauss at his most luscious, most extravagant, most lyrical—and most episodic. Undoubtedly, seeing the ballet would make it hold together better, but Strauss offers an overabundance of post-Romantic hedonism, and Fischer's Budapesters play it to the hilt. The sound accommodates both exquisite detail and over-the-top effects. Pour the cognac, hit Play, and let your imagination roam.

RAY CHARLES & THE COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA: Ray Sings, Basie Swings Ray Charles vocals; The Count Basie Orchestra, Bill Hughs, dir. Concord/Telarc SACD-63679 (SACD)

Irresistible. Telarc's Michael Bishop has magically transformed into multichannel what was already a remarkable creation: Concord's fusion of Ray Charles' classic vocals from a mid-1970s concert performance with newly recorded accompaniment from the current Count Basie Orchestra and the reconstituted Raelettes. Ray's voice, in the multichannel mix, is more forward, present, and real than ever, while the band meshes perfectly with him. Mebbe it's a bit more "surroundy" than I would have liked, but it's a gem from beginning to end, and with no apologies necessary for the vintage of the source. Buy it!

DVORÁK: Symphony 8, The Wild Dove, The Noon Witch Yakov Kreizberg, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Pentatone PTC 5186 065 (SACD)

On the surface, Dvorák should be easy to perform, but so many note-perfect performances fail to capture the phrasing and spirit that make his music so charming and invigorating. These performances are justly paced, with perfectly judged dynamic contrasts. The result is that Kreizberg's Symphony 8 joins Bruno Walter's LP with the Chicago Symphony, from 1961, as one of my two favorite non-Czech recordings. The two tone poems, too, are atmospheric and dramatic. Pentatone has again captured the Netherlands Philharmonic in a warm, enveloping acoustic that sacrifices nothing in the way of clarity and imaging. Just delightful.

J.S. BACH: Brandenburg Concertos 1–4, BWV 1046–1049 Arts Music 47715-8 (SACD) Brandenburg Concertos 5–6, BWV 1050–1051; Triple Concerto, BWV 1044 Arts Music 47716-8 (SACD) Both: Diego Fasolis, I Barocchisti

This is not your grandfather's Bach of weighty ensemble sound, slow tempos, and exaggerated ritards. Nor is it your father's Bach of poorly played original instruments and unremittingly rapid tempos. Playing with flair and virtuosity, I Barrochisti offer intelligent and musical performances of these works that can be thought of as the wise children of both historical movements. The tempos are brisk but inflected, and Arts Music's recording clearly reveals Bach's varied and colorful instrumental combinations. The modestly sized ensemble is stably staged up front, but enhanced by a moderately reverberant and realistic ambience.—Kalman Rubinson