DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Mélisande
Jacques Jansen (Pelléas), Irene Joachim (Mélisande), Henri Etcheverry (Golaud), Germaine Cernay (Genevieve), Paul Cabanel (Arkel), Leila Ben Sedira (Yniold), Emile Rousseau (Le berger), Armand Narçon (Le médecin); Chorus Yvonne Gouverne; Orch/Roger Desormiere, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 063 (2 disks) TT: 2 hr. 34 min.

GLINKA: Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Le Coq d'Or Suite. Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden. STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite. LIADOV: Kikimora. DEBUSSY: Golliwog's Cakewalk. RAVEL: Ma Mère l'Oye
Symphony Orch/Albert Coates, cond.

CARTER: The Minotaur Ballet Suite. RIEGGER: New Dance. MacDOWELL: Suite No. 2, Op. 48 "Indian."
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orch/Howard Hanson, cond.

PISTON: Symphony No. 3. COWELL: Symphony No. 4. LOEFFLER: Poem for Orchestra "La Bonne Chanson."
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orch/Howard Hanson, cond.

This famous recording of Pelléas et Mélisande was made in Paris over a period of several months in 1941. Surprisingly, this is not the first complete recording of the opera; Piero Coppola conducted it for a Paris recording in 1927. The 78 rpm disks of the 1941 recording were transferred to LP by EMI, and a mint copy of these was used for this superb remastering by Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio. The result is a remarkably clear and clean audio picture, and those interested in this opera surely will wish to have this definitive transfer of it. The EMI LP issue, long out of print, took 3 disks but also included excerpts from the opera in other historic performances including a 1904 recording of a brief excerpt sung by Mary Garden, who sang in the premiere, with the composer at the piano.

Continuing their Albert Coates series, Pristine Audio offers this collection of Russian works, all acoustic recordings made 1921-1924 with the London Symphony at the time for these sessions identified simply as "symphony orchestra." There occasionally is imprecise orchestral playing, but these dynamic performances are of interest, Coates' individuality always apparent. Firebird suite ends with the Infernal Dance. Ward Marston's transfers are impeccable.

In 1951 Mercury made its first classical recording, Rafael Kubelik conducting the Chicago Symphony in Pictures at an Exhibition. Producer Bob Fine elected to follow in the footsteps of Telefunken using a single microphone suspended rather high above the front of the orchestra, and the results astounded record collectors. To this day, that mono recording and many others made during the same period, still have remarkable presence and dynamic range. These recordings included works by Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Hindemith and Dvorák (whose New World symphony at the time was identified as "Symphony No. 5). The process was called "Living Presence," and later advanced into stereo using three well-placed microphones. Mercury also made many recordings with the Minneapolis Symphony conducted by Antal Dorati, and many of these are currently available. The single microphone technique works beautifully if the venue is appropriate as it was with the Chicago recordings—the warmth and resonance of Orchestra Hall were ever apparent. When Mercury began to record in Rochester they used the Eastman Theater which has a rather dry acoustic, reflected in these recordings. Audio is very clear, and in his CD notes producer Andrew Rose tells of remastering difficulties. These were taken from Philips electronic stereo pressings and took considerable adjusting to eliminate shortcomings of the ill-advised process, as well as correcting wow and pitch problems. Hanson always championed American music, and here we have some of his most important recordings brought back to life thanks to PA.To my knowledge, these important early recordings of American masterpieces are not otherwise available.

All of these are available from PRISTINE AUDIO

R.E.B. (September 2011)