WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
Birgit Nilsson (Isolde). Raymon Vinay (Tristan). Walter Cassel (Kurwenal). Irene Dalis (Brangäene). Jerome Hines (King Marke). Calvin Marsh (Melot). Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 135 (3 CDs in two boxes) TT: 3 hours 22:30

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. BARTÓK: Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra. VIOTTI: Violin Concerto No. 22 in A minor.
Gary Graffman, piano. Isaac Stern, violin. Boston Symphony Orch/Pierre Monteux, cond.

SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. Kinderseznen, Op. 15. Abegg-Variations, Op. 1. Bunte Blätter, Op. 99. Waldszenen, Op. 15.
Clara Haskill, piano. Suisse Romande Orch/Ernest Ansermet, cond.
ANDROMEDA 9058 TT: 78:43
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Herva Nelli (Aïda). Richard Tuckerr (Radames). Eva Gustavson (Amneris). Giuseppe Vasldengo (Amonasro). Norman Scott (Ramfis). Dennis Horbour (Il Re). Robert Shaw Chorale. NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
URANIA WS121.184 (2 disks) TT: 76:03 & 59:47
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January 9, 1960 was a very special day at the Met, the first appearance of famed Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson, who would continue to perform at the Met more than 200 times primarilyh in Wagner, Strauss and Puccini. The second performance took place December 23, and the third, December 28 is the famous one in which the tenor was indisposed, so the role of Tristan was sung by a different tenor in each act: Ramon Vinay), Karl Liebl . and Albert DaCosta. The fourth performance, January 9, 1960 was broadcadt and can be heard on Pristine's new set.It is a magnificent performance in every way, and producer Andrew Rose has done what can be done to enhance the original sound. Even he could noit alter balances; the hunting horns in Act Two are indeed distant, barely audible, but this is a minor quibble. Nilsson is radiant, Vinay and the remainder of the cast are first-rate. Announcements by Milton Cross are included adding to the sense of occasion. Don't overlook the recent reissue of another Nilsson Isolde, from Bayreuth in 1962, also with Böhm, mentioned on this site (REVIEW).This hass the plus of the rich acoustics of the vernue. Both of these are essential for Nilsson fans.

Pristine continues their fine series of live performances of the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood conducted with this disk featuring two leading soloists of the time. Gary Graffman is sterling soloist in Rachmaninoff''s Concerto No. 2 from a concert August 19, 1961. Graffman's Columbia recording with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic was made about the same time and has been in the catalog ever since. Isaac Stern is heard in the Bartók and Viotti works. He has recorded both, but his Viotti recording was made some years earlier with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The concerto is the best-known of 29 such works, neglected by most violinists. The Stern performances are from a concert July 23, 1961. Both soloists are in top form, and the stereo broadcasts, as XR remastered by producer Andrew Rose, are rich and satisfying. An engaging release!

Romanian pianist Clara Haskill (1895 - 1960) specialized in music of Robert Schumann and made numerous recordings. This newly-mastered disk offers performances recorded in Victoria Hall,k Genera, 1956 (Concerto), Bensacon, 1956 (Kinderszenen), Ludigsburg, 1953 (Abegg Variations), Ludigsburg, 1953/Amsterdam 1952 (Bünte Blätter), and London 1847 (Waldszenen). Here is a generously filled disk (78:43) of some of her live Schumann performances all of which have been issued previously, remastered in best possible sound. If you don't already have them, here is a convenient way to acquire these sensitive interpretations.

Soprano Herva Nelli (1909 - 1994), born in Italy and came to Pittsburgh while very young. She showed great promise as a soprano and her career really took off when she successfully auditioned for Arturo Toscanini, who often featured her in performances and some recordings. She also appeared at the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan. When her sinfging career ended, she became a professional chef. Highly respected throughout her career, she never reached legendary status.You can see some of her performances on YouTube. This Aïda shows her in top form; she is fearless on that treatcherous climactic C in O patria mia. However, during Ritoria Vincitor she produces some very odd "squeaky! sounds; hard to believe Toscanini would have approved. It is quite comical, startling as well. These occiur at 3:31 and 3:40 into the aria. The remainder of the cast is first-rate, with Richard Tucker an admirable Radames. And of course Toscanini is electrifying on the podium. This is an NBC broadcast from June 1949, and Urania's remastering has made it very listenable. No CD notes, no libretto, but an opportunity to hear the Maestro leding an opera that was dear to him.

R.E.B. (September 2016)