CHERUBINI: Symphony in D. STRAUSS: Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24. BUSONI:
Berceuse elégiaque, Op. 42. Tanzwalzer.
VIVALDI-NACHEZL: Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 12 No. 1. BEETHOVEN:
Two Romances (Orch/Lawrence Collingwood). MENDELSSOHN: Violin
Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. (Chicago Symphony Orch/Desiré Defauw).
PAGANINI-ELMAN: Caprice in A minor, Op. 1 No. 24 (Wolfgang Rosé,
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Russian Easter Overture. Symphony No. 2, Op.
9 "Antar." Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34. RAVEL: Boléro.
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (Boston Symphony Orch/Serge
Koussevi"tzky). SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (Cleveland
This site recently mentioned an NBC/Cantelli concert of December 27, 1952 (REVIEW). Now we have another concert conducted by Cantelli from Carnegie Hall, this time with the New York Philharmonic, from March 24, 1954. It includes two works on the NBC program, the Cherubini and Strauss, along with two short pieces by Busoni. Cherub ini's symphony is only a touch brisker than the NBC performance, but the Strauss is about a minute faster, yet it looses none of its power, and the climax is thrilling indeed. Busoni's Berceuse was written in 1909 in memory of his mother, an elaborate but subtle orchestration of an early piano piece. It became a favorite of Toscanini. Tanzwalzer, dedicated to Johann Strauss, shows the composer in a much lighter mood. It is unfortunate that Ravel's Boléro, which ended the concert, is not included (apparently it was not broadcast). Andrew Rose's remastering has produced remarkably rich, detailed sound.
Russian-born Mischa Elman (1891-1967) was a prodigy, endorsed by Pablo de Sarasate and Leopold Auer. His Berlin debut in 1904 was a sensation, and the following year he gave the British premiere of Glazunov's violin concerto. Elman became a U.S. citizen in 1923, toured extensively and made many recordings, few of which are now available on CD. He had the misfortune of performing at the same time as Jascha Heifetz. Elman's abilities diminished, his career declined although the musical world continued to respect him. I recall a performance he gave in 1956 of Lalo's Symphonie espagnole with the Baltimore Symphony (Massimo Freccia conducting), and it technically left much to be desired. Pristine Audio's CD, beautifully remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn), gives us the opportunity to hear recordings made during Elman's prime, the Vivaldi recorded in 1931, the Beethoven in 1932, and the Mendelssohn in 1947. The violinist's long (13:28) set of variations on Paganini's famous Caprice No. 24 is of incredible difficulty, and Elman's performance shows strain. I'm sure dozens of today's young violinists could play it better. However, this reissue is welcome, particularly for the opportunity to hear the Mendelssohn in which Elman is accompanied by Desiré Defauw and the Chicago Symphony. Defauw was a rather tragic figure in the musical world.
Old-time collectors will remember the excitement when Mercury issued recordings by the Chicago Symphony conducted by Rafael Kubelik beginning in 1951 with Pictures at an Exhibition ition, a recording that to this day still impresses. The success of this series prompted the label to sign the Detroit Symphony under its then conductor Paul Paray. Pristine Audio already has provided terrific remasterings of many of the conductor's Detroit recordings, but now we have the very first one, featuring music of Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel mono recorded in 1953. Paray's dynamic performances engage the listener, and the orchestra is in fine form. Paray opts for a brisk open and close for Capriccio, with a few odd interpretive ideas along the way. The sound quality is well balanced and a bit of undefined bass, and Pristine's remastering (by Edward Johnson and Andrew Rose) has clarified textures. Detroit's Orchestra Hall is not a resonant venue, obvious from what we hear on this disk.. Pristine has wisely adjusted the dynamic range of Boléro to compensate for the limited dynamie range of the orighinal so that we now hear the effect the composer intended.
The Belgian conductor had a promising career as a teacher and conductor, was chief conductor of the Montreal Symphony from 1944 to 1953 and appeared as guest with a number of major American orchestras. In 1943 he began a 4 year leadership of the Chicago Symphony, but the hostile infamous Chicago Tribune music critic Claudia Cassidy, who had a large uninformed following, forced him to leave (as she later did with Rafael Kubelik). I attended a number of CSO concerts conducted by Defauw and always was impressed. I remember a stunning performance of the Khachaturian piano concerto with Arthur Rubinstein as soloists (his only performance of the work?), as well as Rubinstein as soloist in the Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody (after which he played a Chopin ballade as an encore), and Beethoven's Concerto No. 3. Defauw made a number of RCA recordings during his brief tenure, and they were superb, including Tchaikovsky's violin concerto with Erica Morini, Strauss's Burlesque and Weber's Konzertstücke with Claudio Arrau, Prokofiev's Scythian Suite and Respighi's The Birds, as well as shorter works by Franck, Smetana and Stravinsky. After the Cassidy demolition, Defauw returned to Brussels for a few years but, oddly— and sadly—returned to the U.S. and in 1950 became was chief conductor of the Gary Symphony Orchestra. where he remained for 8 years. He died in Gary, Indiana in 1960.
The Efrem Zimbalist (1912-1985) issue is of major importance. The Russian-born violinist had a remarkable life, a major figure on the concert stage, as a teacher, and as director of the Curtis School of Music from 1941 to 1948. He married the famous soprano Alma Gluck and their son, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. became a famous movie actor. He also was a composer of orchestral music including symphonies, a violin concerto and an opera. Little of his music has been recorded, and it is remarkable that an artist of his stature made so few commercial recordings. On this new disk we have his magnificent concert performance of the Brahms concerto with Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony from a broadcast March 30, 1946 (he had made his American debut in 1911 in Boston playing the Glazunov concerto). Koussevitzky's voice saying "Bravo" can clearly be heard after the second movement. The Sibelius doesn't represent Zimbalist's artistry at its peak—intonation sometimes is suspect. This is from a broadcast January 9, 1944 with the Cleveland Orchestra directed by Rudolf Ringwald. As remastering expert Mark Obert-Thorn explains, there were many problems with this recording, particularly in the first four minutes when the source had an 8-second echo which could not be eliminated. It was decided the historic value of this performance was so great that it should be released even with this audio problem—you'll find the first four minutes weird, an otherly-world experience indeed. Audio is as good as it could be in both concertos, and this is an opportunity to hear one of the leading violinists of the 20th century in live performance.
Toscanini often included operas and operatic excerpts in his broadcast programs. One was this Fidelio, broadcast December 7 and 14, 1944. Because of time constraint, virtually all of the dialogue was omitted; what we have on these disks is the broadcast with one exception: apparently Rose Bampton, usually a reliable singer, had a major vocal mishap during the demanding Abscheulicher. In June 1945 the aria was recorded in Carnegie Hall, and this is what is heard on this reissue. This is a grand performance of Beethoven's masterpiece, and the sound is remarkably good.
All of these CDs are available from PRISTINE AUDIO
R.E.B. (July 2012)