TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake Ballet
Philadelplhia Orch/Wolfgang Sawallisch, cond.
EMI 85541 (2 CDs) (B) (DDD) TT: 79:13 & 79:37
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HAYDN: Symphony No. 99 in E Flat. Symphony No. 100 in G "Military." Symphony No. 101 in D "Clock." Symphony No. 102 in B flat. Symphony No. 103 in E Flat "Drum Roll." Symphony No. 104 in D "London."
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
EMI 85513 (2 CDS) (B) (DDD) TT: 77:08 & 78:23
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 44. Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat, Op. 75. Concert Fantasy, Op. 56.
Peter Donohoe, pianist; Bournemouth Symphony Orch/Rudolf Barshai, cond.
EMI 85540 (2 CDs) (B) (DDD) TT: 64:14 & 63:14
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ALKAN: Petit Conte. Nocturne No. 1, Op. 22. Gigue, Op. 24. Marche, Op. 37 No. 1.Le Tambour bat aux champs, Op. 50 No. 2. Esquisses, Op. 63. Toccatina, Op. 75. Etudes dans les tons mineurs, Op. 39 Nos. 4-11. Trois Petites fantaisies, Op. 41. Preludes, Op. 31 Nos. 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16.
Ronald Smith, pianist
EMI 85484 (2 CDs) (B) (DDD) TT: 79:29 & 75:53
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BIZET: Carmen
Grace Bumbry (Carmen); Jon Vickers (Don Jose); Mirella Freni (Micaela); Kostas Paskalis (Escamillo); Paris National Opera Chorus and Orch/Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, cond.
EMI 85505 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 73:43 & 78:21
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SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 2, Op.19 No. 12. Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 "Song of the Night." Symphony No. 4, Op. 60 "Symphonie concertante." Concert Overture, Op. 12. Harnasie, Op. 55. Mazurkas 1 and 2, Op. 50. Theme and Variations for Solo Piano.
Wieslaw Ochman, tenor; Andrzej Bachleda, tenor; Piotr Paleczny, pianist; Felicija Blumenthal, pianist; Polish Radio National Symphony Orch; Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra of Krakow; Jacek Kaspszyk (Sym 1 & overture); Jerzy Semkow (Sym. 3 & 4); Antoni Wit (Harnasie), cond.
EMI 85530 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 75:36 & 74:32
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CHOPIN: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Scherzo No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 20. Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31. Scherzo No. 3 in C# minor, Op. 39. Scherzo No. 4 in E, Op. 54. Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23. Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38. Ballade No. 3 in A flat, Op. 47. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
Cecile Ousset, pianist
EMI 85511 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 64:45 & 61:10
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BRAHMS: Deutsche Volkslieder
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Gerald Moore, pianist
EMI 85502 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 47:29 & 43:28
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SIBELIUS: Lemminkäinen Legends, Op. 22. Spring Song, Op. 16. Romance, Op. 42. The Dryad, Op. 45 No. 1. Dance Intermezzo, Op. 45 No. 2. Pan and Echo, Op. 53a. In Memoriam, Op. 59. Canzonetta, Op. 62a. Valse Romantique, Op. 62b. Suite Mignon, Op. 98a. Suite champetre, Op. 98b. The Tempest, Op. 109 Nos. 1, 2 and 3 (Prelude, Suites 1 and 2). Andante festivo
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch/Sir Charles Groves, cond.
EMI 85532 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 75:40 & 78:26
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Gemeni is another new label from EMI, a series of more than thirty twin-CD sets each with a list price of one mid-priced CD—a great bargain indeed for the collector. Complete recording information is provided, but program notes are limited—although they are in English,. German and French. The operas include a synopsis of the plot, but complete texts/translations are available on EMI's website (http://www.emiclassics.com). Each has a statement thanking purchasers for buying the recording, reminding them of copyright laws, and asking them not to duplicate them in any way. Listed above are nine of the most interesting issues thus far.

It's a pleasure to hear the splendor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in this 1994 recording under Wolfgang Sawallisch, sonically one of the most successful recordings made in Fairmount Park's Memorial Hall. Sir Thomas Beecham's Haydn recordings are famous, and here we have the final six of the "Salomon" symphonies, one of two sets of Haydn symphonies recorded 1958-1959. Peter Donohoe's performances of Tchaikovsky's three piano concertos are among the top recordings of these works, and his version of Concerto No. 2 has the complete second movement with luxury soloists violinist Nigel Kennedy and cellist Steven Isserlis. Inclusion of the unjustly neglected Concert Fantasy is another plus. Ronald Smith's Alkan recordings, made mostly in 1984, are a fine introduction to this composer's music. Bizet's Carmen is one of three operas issued thus far in the series (the others are Bizet's Pearl Fishers and Rossini's Barber of Seville), starring Grace Bumbry as Carmen with vivid conducting by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and superb sonics. A great introduction to music of Karol Szymanowski is found in the set devoted to him featuring the ballet pantomime Harnasie, three symphonies (No. 4 actually a piano concerto), a concert overture and various solo piano works. French-born pianist Cécile Ousset has made many superb recordings throughout her illustrious career but most of them, unfortunately, are no longer available— including her Grand Prix du Disque Brahms Concerto No. 2. Things are rectified somewhat with this release of Chopin's two major sonatas plus the ballades and scherzi, recordings made 1987-1988. The 42 folk songs of Brahms recorded in 1965 by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau are a major issue in this series although here, particularly, lack of texts is highly inconvenient. Sir Charles Groves is heavily represented in the current catalog currently by recordings of works by a dozen English composers. The British conductor turns out to be equally effective in music of Sibelius. This performance of the four-movement Lemminkäinen Suite may not attain the level of either of the Ormandy Philadelphia recordings, but it is a powerful reading, and the Liverpool Orchestra is first-class. Also we have the two suites from The Tempest, plus many other neglected shorter orchestral works—and we are spared Finlandia, fortunately.

This is a fine series from EMI, a boon for collectors with a budget—and a way to obtain some memorable performances from the past.

R.E.B. (June 2004)