SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63. Five Songs. En Saga, Op.
9. Finlandia, Op. 26 No. 7.
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. Violin Concerto in D
minor, Op. 47.
NATHAN MILSTEIN IN CONCERT
September 27, 1957 Jean Sibelus died at the age of 91. December 8, 1957 a Sibelius Memorial Concert was given in New York's Carnegie Hall with members of the New York Philharmonic led by Finnish conductor Martti Simila with tenor Jussi Bjöerling as soloist. The concert opens with the Star-Spangled Banner and an anonymous Finnish military march, Porilaisten marssi. Martti Simila, a close friend of the composer, was chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic (1945 - 1951) and led the Lahti Symphony (1951 - 1957). He died at the age of 59 a month after this concert .He impresses in these inspired performances of his countryman's music. Bjöerling is magnificent in the five songs. He sings them in Swedish, and each is a gem. Let us hope Pristine will investigate some of the famed tenor's other early recordings, particularly those of Nordic music. The twin-disk set is filled out with 14 songs recorded by Kirsten Flagstad in London's Kingsway Hall in February 1958. She was 60 at the time, but in glorious vocal state, and the stereo sound is wonderful. The London Symphony is led by Flagstad's countryman, Oivin Fjeldstad, who later would become Music Director of the Oslo Philharmonic. This is a major issue in every way.
Another adnirable addition to the Sibelius CD library is this outstanding performance of Symphony No. 2 conducted by Jascha Horenstein with the French National Radio Orchestra. This is a live broadcast from Champs Elysées, Paris, November 19, 1956. It is a carefully modulated, grand reading of incredible power. Horenstein coaxes rich playing from the French orchestra. The violin concerto is a Vox recording made iun v/Vienna 1955. Gitlis (b. 1922) is highly respected but made relatively few recordings. His virtuoso playing of the Sibelius concerto is among the best, and his handling of the tricky rhythms of the finale is among the best I've heard., aided by Horenstein's sensitive direction. The violin seems rather distant during the soft opening of the concerto, but later is well-balanced. Andrew Rose has done a remarkable job in creating a satisfying concert hall effect. Another important issue!
Russian-born Nathan Milstein (1904 - 1992) can be heard in performances made during the peak of his career. The Lalo was recorded commercially for Columbia in Philadelphia's Academy of Music November 19, 1944 and March 15, 1945 (obviously a re-take) with Eugene Ormandy on the podium. The Dvorak concerto is a New York Philharmonic broadcast October 26, 1947 from Carnegie Hall, with Leopold Stokowski conducting (the violinist's only recording with that conductor). The Mendelssohn is from one of Toscanini's last broadcasts as music director of the New York Philharmonic March 29, 1936, also from Carnegie Hall, Milstein's only recorded collaboration with the Maestro. Apparently the first movement was not available. These are intriguing performances by another of the great violinists. Mark Obert-Thorn's transfers could not be bettered.
R.E.B. (January 2018)