BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.
Clifford Curzon, piano/Concertgebouw Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond. (Brahms); London Symphony Orch/Anatole Fistoulari, cond. (Grieg)

WAGNER: Excerpts from Die Meisterrsinger
Friedrich Schorr (Sachs); Elfriede Marherr-Wagner (Eva); Robert Hutt (Walther); Leo Schützendorf (Beckmesser); Emanuel List (Pogner); Karl Jöken (David); Lydia Kindermann (Magdalena); Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orch/Leo Blech, cond.

ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36. Symphony No. 2 in E flat, Op. 63.oyal Albert Hall Orch/Sir Edward Elgar, cond.

ELGAR: Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82. RUBBRA: Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 31. SAMMONS: Bourée. DVORAK: Indian Lament. JUON: Arva. HORN: Cherry Ripe
Albert Sammons, violin/William Murdoch, piano;Gerld Moore, piano (Rubbra)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
La Scala Orch, (Symphony); Philharmonia Orch/Guido Cantelli, cond.

In his book Putting the Record Straight John Culshaw tells of an incident when Decca was making this recording of the Brahms in May 1953 in Amsterdam. Everything went smoothly until the opening of the finale when Curzon, who had played this difficult work countless times previously, couldn't get the opening eight bars technically perfect. They tried many times and Culshaw told the engineer to keep the tape running until Curzon got it right. And finally he did, to the relief of all concerned. But when they listened to the playback, the engineer goofed and accidentally erased the perfect take! So they had to redo it once more, and this time Curzon got it right the first time. This concerto obviously was a favorite of Curzon He first recorded it in 1946 with Britain's National Symphony with Enrique Jorda as the unlikely conductor, and again in 1962 with George Szell and the London Symphony. All of these have been issued on CD. The Grieg was recorded twice by Curzon, first in 1951 with the LSO conducted by Anatole Fistoulari, heard on this Pristine issue, and in 1959 with the same orchestra directed by Oivin Fjeldstad. Curzon was in top form for both performances. The Brahms concerto always boasted fine mono sonics; the Grieg was of lesser quality, and Andrew Rose has produced a miracle in its restoration.

With the advent of electric recording, major companies began to record complete operas in live performances, and with remarkable success. This important issue contains performances by bass-baritone Friedrich Schorr, perhaps the great interpreter of the role of Hans Sachs. With a superb supporting cast, we hear the remarkable Schorr at his best. Mark Obert-Thorn has done his usual perfect restoration of recordings that were amazing for their era—voices were uncommonly natural and well balanced with the orchestra. Two previously unissued sides are also included on this well-filled disk (78:50) but because of limitations of CD playing time, the second had to be faded out about 30 seconds before its conclusion—but Pristine has kindly made the entire track available as a download. This is a major operatic issue!

Over a long period of time Sir Edward Elgar recorded much of his music, often in multiple versions to take advantage of advancing technology. EMI has already issued most of these, and Music & Arts has just released a 4 well-filled CD set of performances recorded 1914-1925, that includes the two works on the Pristine Audio CD. It also includes the violin concerto with Marie Hall recorded in 1916 and the cello concerto with Beatrice Harrison recorded 1919/1920; for a complete listing visit the Music & Arts WEBSITE. Enigma Variations was recorded Feb. 24 and Nov. 16, 1920, and April 11, 1921, and Symphony No. 2 required four days in March 1924, and April 16 the following year. There is no explanation why these widely-separated dates were necessary. For those interested in Elgar's first interpretive thoughts on these works, here they are within the limitations of the acoustic recording process. No question that Andrew Rose has worked miracles with the label's XR reprocessing technique. I haven't heard the M&A set—if you'd like to sample many other early Elgar recordings, that would probably be the way to go.

Violinist Albert Sammons (1886-1957) was best known in the United Kingdom, a favorite of major conductors including Sir Thomas Beecham. Delius wrote his violin concerto for Sammons, and he made the first recording of Elgar's violin concerto in 1929, three years before Yehudi Menuhin made his famous recording with the composer conducting. PA's new disk offers Elgar's Violin Sonata in E minor recorded Feb. 2, 1935, and Rubbra's Violin Sonata No. 2 recorded April 16, 1946, along with a group of short pieces often associated with the violinist. This is a welcome addition to the limited discography of this superb British violinist.

November 24, 1956 the musical world was saddened by the death of Guido Cantelli in a plane crash outside Orly airport in Paris, Cantelli was only 48, at the start of what would have been an incredible career, in demand everywhere. Toscanini had championed him and hoped he would take over the NBC Symphony—but it was not to be. Toscanini was not told of Cantelli's death as it was felt this tragic news would have hastened the Maestro's death (he died two months later at the age of 89). Cantelli made few commercial recordings, but there are a number of broadcast performance s particularly with the NBC Symphony, many of which have been issued on Testament. This new issue offers music of Tchaikovsky, Romeo and Juliet recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra October 13, 1951, and Symphony No. 5 with the La Scala Orchestra September 23-26, 1951. Both were made in Abbey Road Studio—there is no explanation of why the La Scala orchestra was in London at the time. Cantelli's Tchaikovsky is powerful and brisk; surely this is one of the fastest recordings ever of the concluding pages of Romeo and Juliet. The CD includes a quotes from Grammophone Magazine of their reviews of original issues well more than a half-century ago. Mark Obert-Thorn's transfers could not be bettered. This is a superb historic reissue!

All of these recordings are available from the PRISTINE AUDIO WEBSITE

R.E.B. (January 2012)