SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 1 (1976). NIELSEN: Symphony No. 2 (live 1967). BRAHMS: Tragic Overture (1977). LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 (1955). IBERT: Escales (1958). WAGNER: Love Music from Tristan and Isolde (1960). GLIČRE: Russian Sailors' Dance (1953). GRAINGER: Handel in the Strand. Country Gardens, Shepherd's Hey (1950). DUKAS: Fanfare from La PČri (1957). LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1. TURINA: La oracion del torero (1958).
National PO (Sibelius/Brahms); Danish State RSO (Nielsen); Symphony Orch (Grainger, Dukas, Turina, GliËre); FNRSO (Ibert); Philadelphia O (Wagner)
EMI CLASSICS 75480 (2 CDs) TT: 78:43 & 78:45
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BERLIOZ: Benvenuto Cellini Overture (1951). TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 (live 1967). Capriccio italien (1958). SCHUBERT: Entr'acte from Rosamunde (1958). DVORAK: Three Slavonic Dances (1961). MENDELSSOHN: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture. (1954) BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4 (live 1965). WAGNER: Tr”ume (1958).
Hugh Bean, violinist (Wagner); Philharmonia O (Berlioz/Wagner/Capriccio); Bavarian RSO (Sym. 5); Royal PO (Schubert); FNRO (Dvorak); Israel PO (Mendelssohn); Czech PO (Brahms).
EMI CLASSICS IMG ARTISTS 75468 (2 CDs) TT: 75: 37 & 72:10
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SIR ADRIAN BOULT
SMETANA: Sarka (1954)/Prague Carnival (1953). DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 (1954)/The Water Goblin (live 1954). SUK: Serenade for Strings (1951). JANACEK: Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen (1954). BENDA: Symphony for String Orchestra (1954). MOZART: Symphony No. 33 ( 1954). TCHAIKOVSKY: Preghiera from Suite No. 4 (1951). NOVAK: Amorous Couple from Moravian-Slovak Suite (1953).
Czech PO; Slovak Philharmonic Orch (Tchaikovsky)
EMI CLASSICS IMG ARTISTS 75483 (2 CDs) TT: 77:34 & 79:46
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Nine more intriguing twin-CD sets from EMI gathering together performances from varied sourceshow odd it is to see a package with logos of EMI Classics, Decca, Sony Classical, BMG Entertainment and Supraphon, in addition to credits to various radio sources. This is part of a massive project of IMG Artists in collaboration with EMI Classics to issue sixty albums each devoted to an important conductor of the 20th Century, scheduled for completion in the Autumn of 2004. We've already covered many of these (Fritz Busch, Erich Kleiber, Nicolai Malko, Serge Koussevitzky) and (Ferenc Fricsay, Nikolay Golovanov, Ernest Ansermet). Audio quality is uniformly fine. Unfortunately, individual CDs do not list titles or tracks - one must always keep the booklet handy for that important information that easily could have been included on the labels.
Of the new nine, surely the most important is the one devoted to Leopold Stokowski which features some of his finest early mono recordings and one of his last, the Sibelius First, recorded in 1976 a year before his death at the age of 95. This transfer is superior to the previous Sony CD issue. As Stokowski never made any commercial recordings of Nielsen, this live performance of Symphony Two recorded live in Copenhagen is very welcome. Oliver Daniel's biography of the conductor listed this performance in the discography as "in preparation" - well, here it is! In addition we have, finally, Stokowski's 1960 Philadelphia recording of his arrangement of "love music" from Tristan. Let us hope more of the conductor's early-mid '50's mono recordings will also be issued.
Paul Kletzki's set is rather puzzling. He was a distinguished, reliable conductor who made many superb recordings, particularly with the Czech Philharmonic - but this 1965 live performance of Brahms Four does nothing positive for reputations of either. However, the live performance of Tchaikovsky Five from two years later is superb. The Schubert, Mendelssohn and Berlioz show the conductor at his congenial best.
Pierre Monteux was a favorite in Hamburg (as he was wherever he appeared), and here we have his live 1960 Beethoven Symphony No. 2 and Wagner Tristan excerpts from 1964, and repertory unusual for the conductor, Hindemith's Mathis der Mahler from a 1962 concert with the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra. We are on more familiar ground with Debussy's Nocturnes from 1955 recording with the Boston Symphony, already issued in RCA's big Monteux set. The extended (49') suite from Sleeping Beauty was recorded in 1957; it's surprising the sound isn't warmer, considering that the venue was Kingsway Hall, but the performance sparkles. Inclusion of the rehearsal of La Marseillaise is welcome; does anyone know if the recording was ever issued?
The Albert Coates set is a good sampling of this remarkable conductor's primary interests - Russian music and Wagner. Dynamic on the podium, one could always count on vivid interpretations. Coates was a link to the early 20th Century having played piano for Tchaikovsky when only six, studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, and conducting with Nikisch, whose assistant he later became. Coates had a long association with the LSO reflected in a long series of recordings beginning in 1919. Opera played an important part in his career and he made a number of outstanding Wagner recordings with the finest singers of the time including Lauritz Melchior and Frida Leider with whom he recorded the Tristan music heard in this set. The Tannh”user Overture was recorded by HMV Sept. 16, 1926, four months after Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra made their famous Columbia recording of the work in Amsterdam. We also have a truncated Francesca da Rimini (17:50), and a rather hasty, but powerful, Death and Transfiguration which has an intriguing metallic gong at the beginning of the transfiguration section.
The oldest recording in Otto Klemperer's set is the 1931 Berlin recording of a suite from Weill's Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, a work he recorded in 1961 with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Klemperer always championed Janacek's music and gave the U.S. premiere of Sinfonietta with the New York Philharmonic in 1927 as well as the Berlin premiere later that year. A live performance of this music from 1956 with the WDR K–ln Orchestra is welcome but it cannot match the intensity of the conductor's 1951 live recording with the Concertgebouw. The live performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 was made in Berlin a year after Klemperer's EMI recording which has just been reissued in a multi-CD budget EMI set. The live 1957 Munich performance of a suite from Pulcinella is more direct than the conductor's Philharmonia recording made in 1963 (available on Testament SBT 1156). Till Eulenspiegel, recorded live in Cologne in 1956, complements Klemperer's Philharmonia version.
Sir Adrian Boult's recording career began in 1920 with acoustic recordings made for the Gramophone Company and continued until 1978 when he was ninety! He recorded profusely for many labels, particularly EMI and Decca in a wide range of repertory. All performances on this set are studio recordings. Although he recorded most of the major works of Vaughan Williams and Elgar, surprisingly the only English music here is Walton's Portsmouth Point Overture recorded in 1967 (his third of this music). It seems rather odd that producers have included Boult's 1959 recording for the Reader's Digest of Franck's Symphony in D Minor (fine though it is). From the 1956 Nixa series of recordings we have the Prelude to The Tempest by Sibelius, along with LPO recordings of Schubert, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
Carlo Maria Giulini's live 1968 performance of Beethoven's Egmont Overture with the RAI Orchestra (in spite of a touch of ragged ensemble) proves how exciting he could be in concert. Mother Goose, recorded live in Munich in 1979, is exquisitely performed. All commercial recordings in this set are from Giulini's pre-Los Angeles period. Recorded in 1956 with the Philharmonia, Jeux d'enfants is spirited indeed, and Firebird has a surprisingly diabolical "Infernal Dance." This 1958 recording of Schumann's Symphony No. 3 (in Mahler's orchestration) has more energy than his 1981 Los Angeles remake.
A concert by Charles Munch always was an exciting eventand it is surprising that producers of this set didn't include any live performances. Except for the Berlioz Overture and Bizet Symphony, both recorded in Paris, all are commercial RCA recordings from Symphony Hall. Munch's Beethoven Choral is dynamic to the extreme, marred sonically by poor balances in the finale where RCA seemed to have difficulty coping with four soloists and a chorus plus the orchestra. Munch's Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet is dynamic, his Martinu definitive (the composer wrote Fantaisies symphoniques for the 75th Anniversary of the BSO and Munch conducted the premiere in January 1955, a year before this recording was made).
The legendary Vaclav Talich (1883-1961) led the Czech Philharmonic, which he first conducted in 1917, for almost a quarter-century. When Czechoslovakia was liberated in 1945, Talich was falsely accused of "unpatriotic conduct" and thrown into jail. He was exonerated by the official "purification" court but for unjust political reasons was prevented from conducting the CPO for five years during which time he formed the Slovak Philharmonic. In 1954 he returned triumphantly to the Czech Philharmonic, but by that time his health had deteriorated and he had to retire. In 1957 he was belatedly honored with the title "National Artist." This CD set contains much music close to him, particularly his third and finest recording of Dvorak's New World Symphony and the same composer's symphonic poem The Water Goblin, both live recordings from 1954. Talich promoted Janácek's music and gave the premiere of Sinfonietta in 1926. He also conducted the opera The Cunning Little Vixen and arranged the orchestral suite recorded heard on this set. Another feature is the Serenade, Op. 6 by Suk who, at the request of Talich, added a "wistful" coda to the Adagio, heard in this 1951 recording.
R.E.B. (February 2003)