RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: "Procession of the Nobles" from Mlada. Scheherazade, Op. 35. SCRIABIN: Le Poème de l'extase, Op. 54.
London Symphony Orch; USSR State Symphony Orch (Scriabin)/Evgeny Svetlanov, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBC 4121 (F) (ADD) TT: 74:12

STRAUSS: Four Last Songs
Sena Jurinac, soprano; BBC Symphony Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond.
MAHLER: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Ich atmet' einen linden Duft. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Um Mitterhacht. STRAUSS: Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op. 21 No. 2. Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27 No. 1. Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1. BRAHMS: Wiegenlied, Op. 49 No. 4. Ständchen, Op. 106 No. 1.
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano; Philharmonia Orch/André Cluytens (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen); Geoffrey Parsons, pianist
BBC LEGENDS BBC 4107 (F) (ADD) TT: 66:47

Collectors of recordings of Strauss's Four Last Songs surely will wish to investigate this live performance by Yugoslavian soprano Sena Jurinac recorded during a concert in Royal Albert Hall September, 1961, with Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Jurinac was a great favorite in Vienna and other European opera centers, known for her Puccini and Mozart. Considering her fame in the operatic world, she recorded relatively little; there is a REVIEW on this site of a 2-CD set of live performances which deserves attention. On this BBC issue we hear her vibrant performance of Four Last Songs, full-throated, secure and sensitive. Perhaps Sargent is responsible for rather hasty tempi. For those who find Schwarzkopf too cloying in this music, Jurinac is the answer. The remainder of the CD contains live performances by mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, the Mahler from a concert in Royal Festival Hall December 2, 1957, the remainder from a recital in Wigmore Hall, London, more than two decades later, July 15, 1978, music of Mahler, Brahms and Strauss that Ludwig also recorded commercially. In October 1958, just about a year after the BBC performance, Ludwig recorded Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen for EMI with the same orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, recently reissued on EMI, REVIEWED on this site. Boult, who some years earlier had recorded the same music with Blanche Thebom, usually isn't associated with Mahler, but he is a more sensitive conductor than André Cluytens, who was a last-minute replacement for the indisposed Otto Klemperer. Sound quality throughout is excellent, perhaps with both singers a bit too prominent. No texts, but you can get them on the internet: www.igmartists.com

The Svetanov live performances are a mixed bag. The two Rimsky-Korsakov works are from a concert in Royal Festival Hall February 21, 1978. The Russian conductor was new to the orchestra at that time. In 1969 he had recorded Scheherazade with the USSR Symphony Orchestra for Melodiya (10 00180), which I rated very highly in my overview of more than three dozen recordings of the work published in Stereophile March 1993. Svetlanov also recorded this music for EMI with the London Symphony after this live performance, a recording I've never heard, which has been reissued in an EMI 2-CD set (69361). Melodiya, with its imaginative interpretation and very Russian sound, also deserves reissue. The LSO adapts quite well to Svetlanov's imaginative interpretive ideas, but their playing is rather scrappy at times. The dry acoustics of Royl Festival Hall do not flatter the orchestra's sound. The other work on this CD, Scriabin's massive Poem of Ecstasy, recorded live in Royal Albert Hall August 22, 1968, is far more successful. This is a specialty of Svetlanov. There are at least two recordings with his USSR Orchestra, one recorded in February 1977 briefly available on the short-lived BMG/Melodiya series (66980), the other a 1990 live recording issued on Russian Disk (CD11 056). As these are not currently available, this BBC recording is valuable, particularly as the BBC engineering is highly successful in capturing the rich Russian brass and woodwinds—plus the sound of the Royal Albert Hall organ.

R.E.B. (August 2003)