TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Francesca
Op. 32. Borodin: Prince Igor Ballet
MOZART: Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551 "Jupiter." Der
Schauspieldirektor Overture, K. 486. BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92.
BACH: Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537 (arr. Elgar). BEETHOVEN:
Gratulations Menuett, WoO 3. The Creatures of Prometheus Overture. Symphony
No. 9 in d minor, Op. 125 (Choral).
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in b minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique." Romeo
and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Marche Slave. GLINKA: Russlan
and Ludmilla Overture
Russian-born English conductor Albert Coates (1882-1953) was music director of the London Symphony from 1919 to 1922, and famous for his work in opera, particularly Wagner. He had a particular affinity with Russian music (he briefly studied with Rimsky-Korsakov) and his recordings of Russian music are of particular interest. For some years, many recordings by Coates were available on CD but, unfortunately, many are no longer available. Among these are two major issues on Koch International: a 2-disc set featuring two works of Strauss: Don Juan, and Death and Transfiguration, Respighi's Fountains of Rome, Ravel's La valse, excerpts from Holst's The Planets and other works of Liszt, Weber, Bach, and Wagner (Koch 3-7704). The second set consists of Russian music, primarily excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov operas as well as music of Glinka, Borodin, Liadov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and two excerpts from Stravinsky's Firebird (Koch 3-7700). The defunct Claremont label had a CD of shorter Russian works featuring excerpts from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov sung in English (Claremont GSE 78-50-61). The Beulah label, unfortunately no longer around, had a superb CD ( LPD6) of the conductor's 1945 Decca recordings made in Kingsway Hall of the Pathétique and Romeo and Juliet, two of the best-sounding Coates issues. Fortunately, a Tchaikovsky disk featuring Symphony No. 3, Marche slave, Hamlet Overture, Romeo and Juliet and the Scherzo from Manfred is still available as an import on Biddulph. The best way for today's collectors to become familiar with the work of Albert Coates is EMI's 2-CD set in their Great Conductors of the 20th Century series mentioned on this site (REVIEW). All of these the recordings mentioned above are electric recordings made beginning in 1925.
Pristine Audio gives us the opportunity to hear Coates' earlier recordings, all acoustic. In these there is a constant presence of the conductor's dynamic approach to music, and his highly individual concept of music. The orchestra in all is actually the London Symphony. Ward Marston's transfers do all that can be done with these relic recordings, but in all, as must be the case in acoustic recordings, sound is thin and sometimes not ideally balanced—that's just the way it is. The performances usually are rushed and often not note perfect and haphazard in execution. This Beethoven Ninth is sung in English. And we also have the composer's Gratulations Menuet, which actually is the first of his 12 contradances. Francesca da Rimini is truncated a bit, but presented with appropriate fire. What is identified as "ballet" from Prince Igor is actually the Polovtsian Dances performed with chorus. Collectors will welcome this opportunity to hear early recordings by this important conductor, even though they do not show him at his best. For that, sample his many Wagner recordings. All of these new issues are available from PRISTINE AUDIO
R.E.B. (August 2011)