ARTUR0 TOSCANINI - American Classics (Volume I)
ARTURO TOSCANINI - American Classics (Volume II)
Arturo Toscanini seldom performed American music, but on †two occasions he did just that. Pristine has issued two complete concerts, one from November 1, 1942, the other from February 7, 1943. Both are complete NBC broadcasts and include some of the radio commentary. Both broadcasts were from Studio 8H, and producer Andrew Rose has done a superb job is remastering these ancient recordings.
Volume I begins with three oddities, three rather inconsequential works: Loeffler's Memories of My Childhood, Creston's Choric Dance No. 2, and Morton Gould's Lincoln Legend. All are virtually forgotten today, except that Leonard Slatkin did record the Gould for the Naxos American Classics series. The gem here is Rhapsody in Blue which features a very young Earl Wild and Benny Goodman at the beginning of their careers. This is a remarkable performance by a pianist always identified with the music, and Toscanini keeps the tricky rhythms under perfect control.
The second concert is of even more interest offering the definitive performance of Griofé's Grand Canyon Suite. The composer was in the studio and the devoted audience applauded at the end of each of the five movements. My friend Charles Gerhardt worked with Toscanini/RCA briefly in the '50s and told me the Maestro was a big chagrined to find that his RCA recording of Grand Canyon sold much better than his Beethoven symphonies! The Gilbert overture is a jolly inconsequential piece. Kent Keenan's Night Soliloquy is a lovely work for flute and orchestra, and Charles Tomlinson Grriffes' White Peacock is one of his most famous works (Stokowski recorded it in 1947 with the New York Philharmonic). Both of these Toscanini disks are welcome additions to the catalog. And skip the recent Sony Toscanini "The Essential Collection," which is poorly produced and remastered.
Pristine now offers rare early recordings of music of Igor Stravinsky. These indeed are rarities, opening with excerpts from The Firebird conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham only 6 years after the premiere. It is remarkable how clear this recordings sounds, with strange balances, considering its age. Petrushka is recorded complete in 1923/1924. In 1958 Goossens would make his famous stereo recording with the London Symphony originally issued on Everest.
Stokowski's April 1927 recording of music from Le sacre printemps was the first made of the music which was premiered in1913. Apparently this was done as a test, never intended for release, and perhaps that is why they didn't redo the horn blutp right at the beginning. We have only the first 9:38 of the score in a wild performance. In 1929 both the composer and Pierre Monteux would record the work complete, but with inferior orchestras that barely could play the notes. Both of these are fascinating and available on YouTube. Shortly after that, Stokowski made a compete recording in Philadelphia. Mark Obert-Thorn's transfer of the1 927 Stokowski is amazing in its clarity. Great job! We also have Oscar Fried's 1925 Berlin recording of Firebird suite, and 9 short piano pieces of Stravinsky played by the composer recorded 1925. The disk ends with Stravinsky and his son Soilima playing Mozart's Fugue in C minor, K. 426 recorded in 1938. Oddities all, and welcome additions to the catalog. Check the PristineWEBSITE for other historic Stravinsky recordings.
All three of these releases are essential for collectors.
R.E.B. (April 2017)