STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 32. Burlsque in D minor. Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28.
Byron Janis, piano (Burlesque). NBC Symphony Orch. (Till Eulenspiegel). Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica."
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Willem Mengelerg, cond.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 4. Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique." Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Capriccio italien, Op. 45. Slavonic march, Op. 31,. 1812 Festival Overture, Op.49
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Paul van Kempen, cond.
ANDROMEDA 5039 (2 disks)
TT: 77:13 & 70:09

Hearing an RCA open-reel tape of Fritz Reiner's March 8, 1954 recording of Also sprach Zarathustra was my first stereo listening experience, and I was amazed at the presence two channels could provide and, of course, the performance is magnificent. Now we can hear this legendary recording in ultimate audio thanks to Pristine and, as always, it is a thrilling experience. It is unfortunate Chicago's Orchestra Hall did not have a larger organ, but it serves very well providing a solid low bass. Burlesque was recorded almost exactly three years later, and again we have the warmth of the venue, with Byron Janis' brilliant piano perfectly balanced. Till Eulenspiegel is a live performance with the NBC Symphony in Carnegie Hall January 19, 1957, and it is a fabulous reading capturing all of the score's humor, and it must be said that the NBC orchestra is as close to perfect as you can get. Audio is identified as "ambient stereo" and is excellent showing the benefits of recording in Carnegie Hall. No engineers are credited, but at two points in the score it sounds to me as if there is a bit of not-too-successful editing; check out 1:58 - 2:02 and 10:24. .I'd be interested if anyone else notices this?

I have long treasured Wlllem Mengelberg's 1930recorded of Beethoven's Eroica, and what a pleasure it is to hear it in this superb remastering, sounding infinitely better than previous releases. Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 was recordedJanuary 9, 1930 in Liederkranz Hall on eight sides; Symphony No. 3 was recorded in the same venue at the same time, January 4 and 9, on fourteen sides. This was the final year of Mengelberg's association with the orchestra. All repeats are there, the Dutch conductors only recording to d so. Arturo Toscanini and Mengelberg were oil and water, although both achieved magnificent results, and Toscanini won out in the end. These brilliant Beethoven recordings show what New York lost; the orchestra is in top form in these dynamic readings. It is unfortunate they were made in the rather small, unresonant hall, but producer Mark Obert-Thorn has add a touch of reverb to enrich the sound. This is a major issue in the Mengelberg discography—and don't overlook his magnificent Heldenleben recorded two years earlier in the warm acoustics of Carnegie Hall, Andrew Rose's miraculous restoration is available on Pristine.

This Andromeda 2-disk set is the latest issue of Paul Van Kempen's famous Concertgebouw recordings of Tschaikovsky. The first in the series was the 1812 Overture recorded Jan. 16, 1950. Symphony No. 6 and Slavonic march were taped in May 1951, Romeo and Juliet in July of that year. Capriccio italian was recorded in December 1951 as was Symphony No. 5 .(during those final sessions, Radetzky March and Marche militaire also were recorded). 1812 and Slavonic march are the only recordings in the series issued on 78s; the remainder were LPs issued by Philips in Europe and Epic in the U.S. It is intriguing to mention other Concertgebouw recordings during this period. In May 1950, Erich Kleiber made his famous recordings of Beethoven symphonies 3, 5 and 7. In June 1951, Otto Klemperer's magnificent live performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 was documented, and George Szell made his Decca recordings of symphonies of Brahms and Dvorák in September of that year. That same month, Eduard van Beinum began a series of recordings for Decca including Symphonie fantastique and symphonies of Brahms and Haydn. This surely was a productive era in the history of the Concertgebouw Orchestra! When the Tchaikovsky recordings were issued on CD by Philips, it was a 3-disk set coupled with Van Kempen's Lamoureux Orchestra recordings of the Suite No. 4 and Serenade for Strings. The Philips CDs sounded very much like the original LPs, heavy in bass, glassy ,super bright, sometimes a bit distorted in climaxes, particularly in Capriccio. Philips also issued a single CD containing Symphony No. 5 and Capriccio. This was discussed in detail on this site (REVIEW), mentioning the cuts in the finale of the symphony and the added cymbals. Now we have this new remastering on Andromeda, and generally it is excellent. They have tamed some of the brightness as well some of the excessive bass. These are exciting, virtuoso performances that deserve to be in any Tchaikovsky collection. Perhaps at some time Pristine Audio will use their expertise to reissue them in best possible sound.

R.E.B. (May 2014)