WAGNER: Die Walküre
HARL McDONALD: Symphony No. 1 (1932) "The Santa Fe Trail." 1932).
Two Hebraic Poems (1935). San Juan Capistrano - Two Evening Pictures
Rhumba (Scherzo) from Symphony No. 2, "The Rhumba" (1934).
Dance of the Workers (from Festivl of the Workers) (1932). The
Legend of the Arkanas Traveler (1949). From Chiildhood - Suite for
Harp and Orchestra (1940).
PABELO CASALS - THE LATE CONCERTO RECORDINGS
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op. 38 "Spring." BRAHMS: Symphony
No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98.
t EMI intended to make a complete recording of Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting Wagner's Ring, and began the project with Die Walküre. This wastaped in Vienna's Musikverdveressal Sept. 28 - Oct. 6, 1954 two years after the label recorded the conductor's Tristan and Isolde, considered to be definitive, available now in Pristine's superb remastering (REVIEW). The conductor died about two months after recording Walküre, so we are deprived of a studio recording of Rheingold, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. How fortunate we are to have two complete Ring cycles condcted by Frtwängler in live performances from l950 La Scala and and a 1953 Ring from the Italian Radio, thanks to Pristine Classical. The cast for this Vienna studio recording is sterling in every way. We hear Leonie Rysanek in one of her first Sieglindes, Ferdinand Frantz as a majestic Wotan, and an assured Martha Mödl as Brünnhilde, not always at her best but still commendable. The guiding hand of course is the conductor, and right from the beginning we can tell this will be a thrilling performance with the Vienna Philharmonic in top form. The EMI mono recording, originally produced by the reliable Lawrance Collingwood, is well-balanced. The XR remastering has added a very pleasing ambient stereo effect. This is a major release in the Wagner catalog. No libretto is provided, not a problem for collectors, and there are ample cuing tracks.
American composer Harl McDonald (1899-1955) had a distinguished career. Born in Colorado,at an early age he showed interest in both performance and conducting, and began composing music usually relating to the American West. From 1939-1955 he was manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and also was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and eventually became its director. McDonald also was involved in acoustic research for the Rockefeller Foundation. He was respected by both Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, both of whom recorded some of his music, heard on this new CD. There are few recordings of his music, so we have an opportunity to hear these works. All are pleasant enough in their own way, but there is little here that is memorable. The suite for harp is a welcome addition to that instrument's limited concerto repertory. You may be sure the performances herepresent McDonald's music at its best—one of the world's greatest orchestras under its two leading conductors of the time.And the composer's appearance on the porium for the recording of the harp suite perhaps was influenced by the fact that he was their manager. As usual, Mark Obert-Thorn's transfers are exemplary. Another nod to the composer's short-lived acceptance on the musical scene was that Koussevizky also made a recording. This is a fine issue that helps fill a gap in the catalog of a minor American composer.
Another intriguing Pristine issue offer Pablo Casals' last two concerto recodings, the Schumann from May 28, 1953 with the Prades Festival Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, and the Dvorák, a live performance in the Spring of 1960, with the same orchestra directed by Alexander Schneider. Casals was 84 at the time and as one would expect, technically he cannot match his earlier recordings of these works, particularly the Dvorák, which he recorded in 1937 with the Czech Philharmonic directed by George Szell. Yet, the venerable cellist plays with passion, and surely his admirers will wish to own these remarkable restorations by Mark Obert-Thorn who also wrote the informative CD notes of the history of these recordings, particularly the Dvorák. This apparently was recorded by Everest Records. Thorn was able to find two copies of the original stereo release, and that is what we hear on this disk. Cello lovers, rejoice!
Another Pristine disk offers two of the earliest recordings of Charles Munch after he was appointed music director of the Boston Symphony in 1949, Schumann's Symphony No. 1 recorded April 25, 1951, and the Symphony No. 4 of Brahms from April 10-11, 1950. Munch apparently didn't particularly enjoy recording and later in his career became quite impatient. It is said he almost walked out of the Decca Respighi sessions with the New Philharmonia in 1966, and Charles Gerhardt told me Munch was a bit difficult when recording the Bizet symphony and Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini for Reader's Digest in 1963—until he heard the playback of the audio test for the opening of Francesca; when he heard the rich burst of sound, he perked up and said, "well, let's make a record." Gerhardt also told me a few players in the Royal Philharmonic were a bit concerned about Munch's lack of rehearsal, and he said to them, with a smile, "you're really going to have to watch me, aren't you!" The result was a scintillating recording of the Bizet, and an impassioned one of Francesca. Now we have this new Pristine CD of symphonies of Schumann and Brahms recorded in Sym phony Hall, a splendid venue for audio. It is surprising that producers Richard Mohr and Lewis Layton achieved such a boomy overly reverberant orchestral sound fortunately not heard in later recodings. .Mark Obert-Thorn has accomplished everything possible to correct this, including pitch problems. Munch collectors will be interested in this reissue, which presents the first CD appearance of both works, but probably most will prefer the conductor's later stereo recordings of both works.
The Rose Pauly CD was issued some years ago but not mentioned on this site.The Hungarian singer (1894-1975) had a phenomenal career from the start and was recognized in major opera centers as a prime interpreter of Strauss and Wagner, Puccini (Tosca, Turadot, Girl of the Golden West), as well as mezzo roles including Carmen, She sang in many operas by Kreneck, Hindemith, Rathaus, Wellesz and the Vienna premiere of Wozzeck. Pauly was the Empress in the premiere of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Unfortunately, Pauly made few recordings and we are fortunate to have this important issue of the famed soprano in some of her greatest roles. She was famous for her Salome and Elektra, and sang the latter role for the first time in the U.S. in a 1937 abridged version with Artur Rodzinsky and the New York Philharmonic, once available on Eklipse, mentioned in our survey of all recordings of Elektra (REVIEW). The Elektra excerpts on Preiser's CD are taken from this concert . I have never heard another soprano who is as emotionally involved in this dramatc roleand has the vocal stamina to sustain those long phrases. Again, there are some technical problems, but it is worth dealing with them just to hear this unique performance. We also have the final scene from Salome in a live 1938 Carnegie Hall performance with Barbirolli and the New York Philharmonic, a stunning interpretation marred occasionally by poor editing, and the final chords are missing.. Opera lovers should not miss these stunning performances by one of the great Strauss sopranos of the century.
The Pristine Audio recordings are available from PRISTINE CLASSICAL
R.E.B. (February 2014)