What's happening in Pittsburgh? Some awfully fine orchestral playing, judging by the sounds of the Pittsburgh Symphony's latest disc, Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. This is the symphonic pairing on which conductors from Christian Thielemann to Gustavo Dudamel have made their names, but this beautifully recorded SACD on the Reference label is not to be outclassed. Music director Manfred Honeck draws powerhouse performances, especially of No. 5, forging an interpretation that has swift classical-era tempos but treats the famous opening motto with a gravity steeped in romantic-era performance practice. Coherence could be questionable without Honeck's conviction - a quality that also makes each of the famous second-movement variations of No. 7 alternately serene and tumultuous worlds unto themselves. The playing in these thoroughly examined interpretations is top-notch.
- David Patrick Stearns
Coming in from the cold. An easily missed chamber music disc here, if only because the cast of characters is so unlikely. The piano quintets of Spanish composers Enrique Granados and Joaquin Turina, written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, receive an infrequent but charismatic recording by pianist Javier Perianes and the Cuarteto Quiroga on the Harmonia Mundi label that leaves you wondering where this music has been all your life. The jumping-off point feels French in its sensibility, but the melodies, warmth, and all-around extroversion are Spanish. You may even hear guitarlike effects here and there. Also, there's no wrong reason to discover Perianes, one of the most distinctive pianistic voices of his generation. - D.P.S.