TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Symphony No.
5 in E mnor, Op. 64. Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique"
VERDI: La traviata
SERGIU CELEBICACHE BERLIN RECORDINGS 1945-1957
We are indebted to Pristine Audio for these terrific reissues of legendary historic performances, all heard in the label's remarkable XR remastering. Yevgeny Mravinsky's famous recordings of Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies were made when the conductor and orchestra were in London, Symphony No. 4 September 13/14, 1960 in London's Wembley Hall , the other two November 7-10 the same year but in Vienna's Musikverein. DGG's engineering was not ideal, but thanks to Andrew Rose's XR remastering we now hear these magnificent performances in rich, well-balanced, wide-range sound. Forget the many previous reissues—these are the ones to have. These are among the best sounding recordings by the famed Russian orchestra and conductor.
Verdi's La traviata is from two NBC broadcasts in December 1948. This performance also is remarkable, he first of the Maestro's live opera broadcasts. Toscanini does not dawdle—this is an impulsive, but sensitive, reading. Licia Albanese had a long respected career, and it must have been challenging to be featured under the Maestro's demands (it is rumored that Rosa Ponselle never appeared with him as she didn't want the pressure—how unfortunate she isn't in this broadcast!). Albanese is respectable, although the coloratura of the first act is a bit beyond her. Jan Peerce is a dependable Alfredo, and a very young Robert Merrill makes beautiful sounds as Germont. Chorus and orchestra are on their toes, and this is a fascinating performance essential for all Verdians. The XR remastering produces highly respectable results considering what Andrew Rose had to work with.
Another historic recording is this Pagliacci, recorded by EMI in June 1954 in La Scala. This was one of the earliest collaborations of Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, and we also have the impassioned sound of a very young Giuseppe di Stefano. Pristine Audio's remastering provides a welcome warmth and ambience. No libretto, not a problem for collectors, and 24 tracks are provided.
Legendary Romanian conductor Sergiu Celebidache (1912-1996) was a dynamic force on the conducting scene early in his career. He led the Berlin Philharmonic from 1945 to 1952, and was famous for his dynamic readings. He did not like to make recordings, claiming that listeners could not have a "transcendental experience" outside the concert hall—thus this collection of live and broadcast performances is particularly valuable. In Berlin, Celebicache programmed a wide choice of repertory including music not associated with him, as evidenced by the list above that includes Copland, Chavez, Barber, MacDowell and Piston. Orchestras are the Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, and Berlin Deutsces Symphonie-Orchester. After Berlin, he appeared often with radio orchestras of Stockholm, Stuttgart and Paris, and became music director of the Munich Philharmonic in 1979. His interpretations became slower as he aged, and his attention to minute detail must have exasperated many musicians. There are a number of videos of his performances with that orchestra, many reviewed on this site including a number of rehearsals. Audio on the new Audite set is clear enough to convey the performances, and the set has a booklet with detailed information about each recording. And it is super-budget priced!
R.E.B. (December 2013)