TCHAIKOVSKY:  Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64.  Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 PathÈtique.  DVORAK:  Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World" (all rec. October 1954)
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Artur Rodzinski, cond.
WESTMINSTER 471 272 (2 CDs) (M) (ADD) TT:  71:57 & 58:58

KODALY:  Dances from GalantaDances of MarosszekHary Janos Suite.
IPPOLITOV-IVANOV:  Caucasian Sketches, Op. 10 (all rec. May/June 1955)
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Artur Rodzinski, cond.
WESTMINSTER 471 267 (M) (ADD) TT:  74:54

After being brought to the United States in 1925 by Leopold Stokowski to guest conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra., Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958) became one of the most important figures on the American orchestral scene. From 1929 to 1933 he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic, moving on to the Cleveland Orchestra where he remained until 1943.  Many of his Cleveland recordings are cherished by collectors.  At Toscanini's request, in 1937 Rodzinski trained the newly-founded NBC Symphony for the Maestro.  Rodzinski wasn't very easy to get along with; his tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, which began in 1943, lasted only four years after which he went to Chicago where he lasted less than a year because of his inability to compromise.  In 1948 he settled in Italy where he conducted the first performance of Prokofiev's War and Peace outside Russia as well as many other operatic performances for the Italian Radio.  In 1958 he returned to Chicago to conduct Tristan und Isolde at the Lyric Opera during which time he became ill and died later that year. While leading the Chicago Symphony, Rodzinski made a number of superb recordings, all in 1947:  Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, Preludes to Acts I and III of Tristan as well as the Liebestod - and a rather unlikely choice of repertory - a suite from Khachaturian's Gayaneh  including the famous "Sabre Dance" which was much in vogue at the time.

In 1996 EMI Classics issued in their Artist Profile series a twin-CD set of Rodzinski conducting the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras in recordings made 1957-58.  Featured were shorter pieces of de Falla, Granados, AlbÈniz, Glinka and Mussorgsky, the featured works were Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and three works of Richard Strauss:  Dance Suite after Couperin, "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Salome and Death and Transfiguration.  All of these were recorded in splendid early stereo and are worthy additions to the catalog - the set (68742) has been deleted; it is very much worth looking for in cutout bins.

Now Universal is releasing many of the recordings made 1954-55, just before the stereo era.  Originally issued on Westminster, these are recognized as a major continuation of Rodzinski's recording career.  The Kodály/Ippolitov-Ivanov CD is particularly brilliant; I know of no other recordings of the Kodály works superior to these - except in recorded sound which, although well-balanced, is somewhat dry.  The 2-CD set of Tchaikovsky Fifth and Sixth symphonies plus Dvorak's From the New World (all accommodated by spreading the PathÈtique over two CDs) is welcome.  I've always admired Rodzinski's Sixth, previously identified as played by the "Philharmonic Symphony of London," now called the RPO.  It is a strangely perverse performance that I find highly powerful, particularly the Allegro vivo development section of the first movement which ends with searing brass punctuation couched in a huge mass of rich strings.  No other conductor does it quite like this.  Symphony No. 5 is not as distinctive (with a surprising small cut in the finale); the Dvorak of interest perhaps to accompany Rodzinski's set of Slavonic Dances also issued on Westminster.  Again we have well-balanced mono sound. All are worthy additions to the catalog.

R.E.B.   (July 2002)