SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 4 in C minor "Tragic." Symphony No. 5 in B flat. SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 in E flat "Rhenish." Symphony No. 4 in D minor.
Royal Philharmonic Orch (Schubert); Vienna State Opera Orch (Schumann)/Dean Dixon, cond.
REDISCOVERY RD 098/099 (2 CDs) (M) TT: 58:01 & 59:20

SIBELIUS: The Origin of Fire (Sulo Saaritis, baritone; Cincinnati Symphony Orch/Thor Johnson, cond.). DEBUSSY: La Mer (Colonne Concerts Orch/Pierre Dervaux, cond.). RESIGHI: Feste Romana (St. Cecilia Academy Orch/Fernando Previtali, cond.). ANTHEIL: Ballet Méchanique (Los Angeles Contemporary Music Ens/Robert Craft, cond.).

Rediscovery continues to unearth recordings intriguing for the serious collector—even though sometimes performances might not be of particular merit. The Dean Dixon recordings go back to the pre-stereo early '50's days, when engineers had to achieve balanced sound with but one channel, successfully achieved here. Dixon is better known for his recordings of contemporary music, but here we have him in genial performances of Schubert and Schumann symphonies, very well played by the respective orchestras. Dixon was born January 10, 1915 in New York, educated at Juilliard and Columbia University, and although he enjoyed considerable success in the United States (he was the first African-American conductor of the New York Philharmonic), his career flourished in Europe. He held positions with the Groteberg Symphony, the Hess Radio Symphony and Sydney Symphony orchestras. His repertory was wide-ranging focusing on music of neglected American composers whose music he recorded for the American Recording Society and other labels. Dixon died in 1976. ReDiscovery, with their usual thoroughness, has made their transfers from mint Westminster LPs, correcting the pitch on works that were pressed off-speed.

RD 103 is a collection of performances all remastered from original half-track stereo tapes. The Sibelius was recorded in 1953 in superb early stereo, with a fine sense of space, directionality and hall sound. Let us hope the same artists' recording of the composer's Pohjola's Daughter, made at the same time, eventually will appear on ReDiscovery. Pierre Dervaux's La Mer was recorded on the Command label on 35 mm tape in Salle Wagram in Paris, in fine, if not outstanding sound for the time, but the orchestra is inferior. Feste Roman was recorded by Westminster in the early days of stereo; they already had a monopohonic recording with Sir Adrian Boult and the "Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra" issued on their esteemed Lab series, but wanted to have a stereo version, provided by Fernando Previtali with members of the under-rehearsed and under-sized St. Cecilia Academy Orchestra. Not a contender in any way in the Feste Romana sweepstakes, for sure. However, of enormous interest is Antheil's Ballet Mécanique, an impressive early-stereo recording made for Urania and issued on stereo tape by Omega, a performance that used actual sounds of airplanes for this fascinating score.

Serious collectors surely should investigate this enterprising label. Their website is:

There are many unusual items to be found on ReDiscovery, including Paperback Classics, a super-budget series shipped in a cardboard envelope with no cover art or notes. These are available only for a limited time. You might wish to get the unique recording of The Mikado, made in conjunction with a 1960 Bell Telephone Hour telecast produced by Martyn Green with a cast including Stanley Holloway as Pooh-Bah and Groucho Marx as Ko-ko. A rariety indeed!

R.E.B. (September 2005)