WAGNER: Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin. Dich, teure halla from Tannhäuser. Act I, Scene 3 from Die Walküre. Prelude to Act I of Tristan and Isolde. Dawn Duet, Siegfried's Rhine Journey, Siegfried's Death and Funeral March and Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung.
Lauritz Melchior, tenor; Helen Traubel, soprano; NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO paco 105 (2 disks) TT: 2 hr. 9:43

WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
Wolfgang Windgassen (Tristan). Birgit Nilsson (Isolde). Josef Greindl (King Marke). Eberhard Waechter (Kurwenal). Kerstin Meyer (Brangäene). Gerhard Stolze ( Ein Hirt). Hans=Hanno Daum (Steurmann). Bayreuth Festival Chrus and Orch/ Karl Böhm, cond.
MYTO --328 (3 disks) TT: 78:06 + 76:25 + 78:13

KHACHATURIAN: Excerpts from Gayne (Philharmonia O/composer). Excerpts from Spartacus (Moscow Radio Symphony Orch/Alexander Gauk, cond.) Masquerade Suite, Op. 45a. Suite from The Widow from Valencia. )(Moscow State Symphony Orch/Veronica Dudarova, cond.). Suite for the film Othello (USSR State Symphony Orch/ Grigory Gamburg, cond. /Moscow Radio Symphony Orch/Gennady Katz, cond. Greeting Overture, Op. 91. Music for The Battle of Stalingrad, Op. 74a. (Moscow Radio Symphony Orch/composer). Triumphal Poem, Op. 75 (USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orch/Emin Khachaturian). Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 56 "The Bell Symphony." (USSR State Symphony Orch/composer). Concerto-Rhapsody in B flat for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 96. Leonard Kogan, violin; Moscow Philharmonic Orch/Kiril Kondrashin, cond. Concerto-Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 90. (Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; USSR State Symphony Orch/Evgeny Svetlanov, cond. SHAKHUDI: Rhapsory-Dialogue for Piano and Orchestra on the Intonation Theme by Aram Khachaturian (Vasgen Vartanian, piano; Russian State Symphony Orch/ Sergei Skripka, cond
.MELODIYA ME AQA 1154 (5 disks) TT: 57:50 / 65:26 / 55:13 / 55:05 / 58:31

How fortunate New York concert audiences were many decades ago when top Wagnerian singers of the century were readily available. Surely Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony offered a Wagnerian feast in the warm acoustics of Carnegie Hall Feb. 22, 1941. Danish heldentnor Lauritz Melchior and the remarkable American soprano Helen Traubel were soloists. Truabel had a distinguished career at the Met until a decade later when, because of her nightclub career, Rudolph Bing stupidly cancelled her Met appearances. Traubel is in radiant voice here, as is Lauritz Melchior. His performance is astounding. every way. The Walküre offers Scene 3 so we have the opportunity to hear Melchior's power and stamina in Siegmund's cries of Walse! Walse! Melchior had incredible vocal ability, and this episode of Walküre gave him an opportunity to show what he could do. In the 1935 EMI recording of Act I (with Lotte Lehmann, Emanuel List, the Vienna Philharmonic, Bruno Walter conducting), the Walse's take 8 seconds and 7 seconds. With Toscanini, they are 6 seconds and 5 seconds. In the remarkable live Met performance from February 1940, they are an incredible 13 and 12 seconds—thrilling indeed to hear. It is said that conductor Erich Leinsdorf, doubtless realizing the excitement of this phenomenal vocal display, agreed with Melchior to let him hold those notes as long as he wishes, and he would give a slight signal to Leinsdorf when he was ready to end. Vocal chemistry between Melchior and Traubel is amazing—this is memorable Wagner. And the soprano is equally impressive in the Götterdämmerung finale. Pristine has found a new source for the performance, with audio that belies the fact that this recording is a broadcast more than seven decades ago. All of Ben Grauer's announcements from the broadcast are also included, separately tracked. Absolutely essential for opera lovers!

Birgit Nilsson, the definitive Isolde (as well as Brünnhilde and Elektra) for more than two decades has left a supers recorded legacy, both on commercial and live recordings. We are fortunate to have a number of her famous performances on disk inclding the famous Decca 1960 recording of Tristan conducted by Solti in which she was matched with Wolfgand Windgassen, one of the finest helentenors of the era. This new CD offers a Bayreuth performance from 1962 and again we have Windgassen still in top form—plus the magisterial conducting of Karl Böhm. Also available is a Bayreuth performance from 1971 with Wolfgang Sawallisch on the podium. Surely admirers of the great Swedish soprano will wish to have this live recording of her incandescent interpretation. Mono audio is well balanced and captures the rich sound of Festspielhaus. No libretto but complete track listings and timings are provided, and the performance fits snugly onto three packed disks with time for applause at the conclusion.

The 5 CD Khachaturin setis called Anniversary Edition, although it isn't clear just what the anniversary is. The Armenian-Russian composer was born in 1903 and died in 1978. Khachaturian first came to the attention of Western audiences with his piano concerto written in 1946 which was championed by American pianist William Kapell, who gave the American premiere with Serge Koussevizky and the Boston Symphony, recording the work for RCA the same year. Two years later, Sabre Dance, a movement from Khachaturian's Gayne ballet, became an incredible hit in the U.S. as a jukebox favorite, and recordings by the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic. Sabre Dance was number one on the Billboard list of best-selling classical recordings. This set includes most of the composer's best-known works in sometimes primitive Russian recordings, all of which have at least adequate some, some in stereo. It does not include the composer's recording of his Symphony No. 2 (with the Vienna Philharmonic) but it does include his EMI recording of excerpts from Gayne and Spartacus. A rather intriguing bonus is inclusion of Tolibkhon Shakhidi's Rhapsody-Dialogue based on music of Khachaturian, composed only last year. A contemporary of Khachaturian (b. 1948), he has achieved considerable fame in Russia with his music being performed by a number of leading conductors including Valery Gergiev, who recorded a Melodiya disk of orchestral works. The Rhapsody-Dialogue is a beautiful work with exotic textures and percussion. It deserves to be heard more, and this is its first recording. Check out this set—it is the kind of thing collectors love.

R.E.B. (June 2014)