SONDHEIM: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
DUTTON EPOCH SACD CDLK 4626 TT: 61:00
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PROKOFIEV: Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78.. Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60.
Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano. The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Roger Scott, bass. Philadelphia Orchestra / Eugene Ormandy, cond.
EDUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7362 TT:
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op 15. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19
Artur Rubinstein, piano. London Philharmonic Orchestra / Daniel Barenboim, cond.
DUTTON EPOCH SACD CDLX 7358 TT: 70:00
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The Philadelphia Orchestra had a long relationship with Victor beginning with acoustic recordings conducted by Leopold Stokowski in 1917. They continued to record for RCA until 1944 when they switched to Columbia, where they recorded profusely until 1968. There always was a problem of a venue for their recording as their home Academy of Music was notoriously dry and a challenge for engineers. Columbia solved this by using other venues with considerable success. When the Orchestra returned to RCA in 1968, again engineers coped unsuccessfully with audio problems, and many of the RCA recordings were but a pallid representation of this great orchestra. An exception is this splendid SACD of Prokofiev made in Philadelphia's Scottish Rite Cathedral October 1973 and February 1875 (Kijé). Paul Goodman and Jay David Sacks were in charge, and they did a splendid job; this is perhaps the finest sounding RCA recording of the Orchestra when heard in the original four-track version as it is here. Rear channels are used most effectively and the result is a grand orchestral/choral aural picture that is most appealing. The Prokofiev, originally a film score, here is sung in English. Ormandy and the Philadehians made the premiere recording in 1945. The Lientenant Kijé Suite also is authoritative, and equally well recorded. A splendid reissue!

Epoch continues their reissues of Artur Rubinstein's final recordings of the Beethoven piano concertos with this disk of the first two, accompanied by the London Philharmonic directed by Daniel Barenboim. Last December this site mentioned their issue of Concertos 4 and 5 (REVIEW). Artistic interest is high here, but the multi-track audio is disappointing. The piano is overly prominent, and little use is made of rear speakers.If you wish to hear Rubinstein in multi-track, get the Dutton Epoch issue of Rachmaninoff/Saint-Saëns and de Falla issued some months ago (REVIEW). For those recordings engineers provided a more natural balance and used rear channels well.

One of Stephen Sondheim's most successful ventures was his collaboration with Harold Prince A Little Light Night Music, with book by Hugh Wheeler. This is a an innocent fairy tale story of romantic love inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film. Smiles of a Summer Night. Premiered on Broadway in 1973, with its modest demands it is often performed by small theater groups. The charming score includes such hits as Send in the Clowns. This original cast recording includes some familiar names: Hermione Gingold and Clynis Johns; Harold Hastings is the spirited conductor. Engineers have taken full advantage of multi-tracks, with soloists and orchestra spread throughout all channels .A delightful issue!

R.E.B. (October 2018)