Toscanini conducts Sibelius / D'Indy: Symphony on a French Mountain Air / Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer / Paul Paray / Antal Dorati

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. Pohjola's Daughter, Opo. 49. The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22 No. 2. Finlandia, Op. 26.
NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 8 in D minor. RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G. D'INDY: Symphony on a French Mountain Air, Op. 25.
Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer, piano/Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.

LISZT: Les Preludes. WAGNER: Overture to The Flying Dutchman. Prelude to Act I and Good Friday Music from Parsifal. Forest Murmurs from Siegfried. Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde.
Detroit Symphony Orch/Paul Paray, cond.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. ALBENIZ-ARBOS: Evocación. El Corpuys en Sevilla. Triana. El Puerto. El Albaicin from Iberia. DE FALLA: Interlude and Dance from La Vida Breve.
Minneapolis Symphony Orch/Antal Doráti, cond.

One usually doesn't associate Arturo Toscanini with music of Sibelius, but his direct approach and attention to detail offer powerful readings. These performances are from NBC studios, Swan of Tuonela and Finlandia broadcast February 18, 1939, Symphony No. 2 and Pohjola's Daughter (Toscanini's only US performance of the work) December 7, 1940. You won't hear rich sonorities because of the venue, but the sound is well-balanced and Andrew Rose's XR remastering works wonders with the many problems of original recordings—these have never sounded better and will amaze those who know previous issues.

Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams usually is not associated with Charles Munch, but he turns out to be a remarkable interpreter of his music. This fascinating Pristine Audio CD offers a treasure, a live performance of Symphony No. 8 from a concert in Boston's Tanglewood Berkshire Festival August 2, 1958. This is the first time this performance has appeared on CD, unique in that it features neither a British conductor nor a British orchestra—perhaps a moot point. This is a fresh insightful performance of music that had its premiere May 2, 1956 with Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra. Leopold Stokowski recorded the Scherzo with a pickup orchestra for Capitol in 1956, and his live 1964 Proms performance with the BBC Symphony is available on CD. In 1958, a studio recording was made for EMI with Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic. This exciting Munch/BSO performance is presented in rich, resonant stereo sound. Broadcast announcements are included for the Vaughan Williams—and he is identified as " Ralph," not "Rafe."

I have long treasured the Ravel/D'Indy recordings featuring pianist Nicole Henriot-Schwweitzer. The French pianist (1925-2001) in 1958 married Albert Schweitzer's nephew; hence her hyphenated name. She had a distinguished career and was a favorite musical collaborator of Munch. These recordings were made in a single day, March 28, 1958. These new transfers were made from audiophile Classic Records 45 rpm single-sided vinyl disks. They sound terrific here, open and spacious, and performances could hardly be bettered. D'Indy's Symphony is unjustly neglected—it should appear more often in concerts—what an enchanting work it is! RCA's issue of this performance on their discontinued Papillion series (available on Arkivmusic) is a dim listening experience compared with Pristine's efforts. The Henriot-Schweitzer/Munch team also made a spectacular recording for RCA of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2; let us hope Pristine Audio will turn their attention to it.

Paul Paray was music director of the Detroit Symphony from 1951 to 1962. During his tenure, he made about 70 recordings for Mercury, many of which are still in the catalog—and have been reviewed on this site. Pristine Audio already has issued many of the Paray recordings in their distinctive XR remastering and this is the final issue in their series. It is important as it contains recordings not issued on Mercury. Mono recordings were made 1954-1955; the single stereo recording—The Parsifal Act I Prelude—was taped in March 1956. Pristine Audio's remastering has provided a welcome "ambient stereo" effect to the mono recordings. Don't expect rich orchestral sound from any of these, but they are important additions to the Paray catalog. With the exception of Flying Dutchman, these are the conductor's only recordings of this repertory.

Hungarian Antal Doráti (1906-1988) was a major figure on America's musical scene after he became an American citizen in 1947. He literally founded the Dallas Symphony in 1945, brought the Minneapolis Symphony to national fame, primarily from his Mercury recordings, when he was its music director (1949-1960), and he rescued Washington's National Symphony from bankruptcy when he was their leader, 1970-1977. And after that, he led the Detroit Symphony 1977-1981. Dorati has always specialized in music of Tchaikovsky and has many near-definitive recordings, particularly the four orchestral suites that he recorded with the New Philharmonia Orchestra for Philips in 1966. He was a favorite in Amsterdam; his 1956 Symphony No. 4 is among the finest, as are his 1975 Nutcracker and 1979 Sleeping Beauty.(there were plans to record Swan Lake with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, but unfortunately this never took place). Pristine Audio's new CD features Dorati with the Minneapolis Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, a mono recording made in April 1952, and the works by Albéniz and De Falla listed above, stereo recordings made in 1957. The Minneapolis Symphony is in top form throughout in these dynamic performances, and the mono sound has been enhanced by "ambient stereo." The other works are true stereo, quite spectacular sonically with extended range, clarity and impact. Doráti, unfortunately, rushes all of this music often with exciting results. These are important additions to the Dorati catalog.


R.E.B. (January 2013)