HAYDN Symphony No. 21 in A major; Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major; Symphony No. 96 in D major (``Miracle''). Janos Starker, cello. Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, conductor. (Delos digital CD, D/CD 3062, 68:51 minutes.) - This attractive release is made particularly special by Janos Starker's effortless, ebullient account of the cello concerto. It instantly rises to the rank of top contender on the best-recorded-performance list. Schwarz is the alert, attentive partner, and the orchestra plays well for him. The two symphonies receive solid, pleasing performances, but it is the concerto that makes this generously timed CD a must-have. TCHAIKOVSKY ``Swan Lake'' and ``The Sleeping Beauty,'' suites from the ballets. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor. (Telarc, digital CD, CD-80151, 65:31 minutes.) - This generously programmed release gives more selections than one usually gets from the standard suites, and a rousingly entertaining recording it is, too. The Royal Philharmonic sounds in fine form; Mackerras knows how to milk this music as dance and as theater, and the Telarc engineers have couched it all in sumptuous sound.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherazade; ``Tsar Sultan'' suite; ``The Flight of the Bumble-Bee.'' Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy, conductor. (London, digital CD, 417 301-2, 66:54 minutes.) - This CD offers a dazzlingly well-recorded and well-played performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's hackneyed yet cherishable ``Scheherazade'' and an unusually gripping performance of the ``Tsar Sultan'' suite, with the ``Flight of the Bumble-Bee'' thrown in as a charming encore. Ashkenazy can sound surprisingly ill at ease in front of the microphones, but here the performances crackle. ``Scheherazade'' sounds fresh and inspiring, because he so carefully avoids overinflating the musical rhetoric and sees to it that image, sound, and forward motion blend meaningfully. PROKOFIEV ``Romeo and Juliet'' - Suites 1 and 2. Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor. (Delos digital CD 3050, 68 minutes.) - A handsome release, boasting remarkably fresh, natural sound and seasoned, earnest performances of all the selections. It is testament to standards at Delos, as well as to Schwarz's achievement as music director of the Seattle Symphony.
RAVEL ``Bol'ero''; ``Rapsodie Espagnole''; ``Ma M`ere L'Oye''; ``Pavane pour une Infante d'efunte.'' London Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, conductor. (Deutsche Grammophon digital CD 415 972-2, 65 minutes.) - Abbado surprises most pleasantly on this release. The London Symphony has not always responded to his brand of musicmaking, and his current analytical, chilly approach to so much music would seem the antithesis of Ravel. But the orchestra plays beautifully here (and is superbly recorded), and Abbado lets his emotions show through just enough to bring all this Ravel vividly to life.