BERLIOZ:  Harold in Italy, Op. 16 (Klaas Boon, viola/Pierre Monteux, cond.) [rec. Nov. 24, 1963])  Roman Carnival Overture.  DEBUSSY:  Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (Leopold Stokowski, cond). [rec. July 5, 1951]
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra

AUDIOPHILE CLASSICS APL 101.558 (B) (ADD) TT:   62:29 

MOZART:  Serenade in G, K. 525.  MAHLER:  Symphony No. 4 in G.
Maria Stader, soprano/Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch; Otto Klemperer, cond. (rec. Nov.10, 1955).

AUDIOPHILE CLASSICS APL 101.553 (B) (ADD) TT:  70:26

 

Splendid additions to the Audiophile Classics Concertgebouw Series!  This is the first CD representation of Leopold Stokowski's performance of Roman Carnival from a concert of July 5, 1951 - the other works on the program were El Amor Brujo of de Falla, Symphony No. 2 of Brahms and the Debussy Faun, the latter previously issued in a 6-CD Globe set highlighting the Holland Festival over a half-century (Globe GLO 6900).  This is a Roman Carnival like none you've heard before.  Stokowski's Philadelphia Orchestra Bel Labs live recording from 1931 is brilliant, but can't approach the blazing intensity of this one.  The final pages approach grotesquerie - but how stunning it is!  When he made his Pye recording in 1976 with the National Philharmonic a year before his death (once available on EMI CD 64140), Stokowski was far more subdued.  Faun, always a specialty of the Maestro, is given a radiantly beautiful performance; doubtless the flutist was the Concertgebouw's principal, Hubert Barwahser.  CD notes suggest Stokowski returned several times later to conduct the Concertgebouw, but this is unlikely; it's not listed in Oliver Daniels' biography.  Stokowski did return to Holland in 1970, but to Hilversum where he conducted and recorded with the Hilversum Radio Philharmonic. 

As Pierre Monteux never made a commercial recording of Harold in Italy, this performance is of great interest for his admirers, with Boon a rich-voiced protagonist and no suggestion whatever from the podium that Monteux was 88 at the time.  Sound for Harold is exceptionally well-balanced and clear with considerable impact.  Audio quality of the Stokowski items is variable with some unfortunate changes in level but it still conveys the performances.  Perhaps Audiophile Classics will issue another CD with the Stokowski Falla and Brahms?

The Mozart and Mahler come from a concert Nov. 10, 1955.  This was relatively early in Klemperer's career.  He had already suffered extensively - a mugging in Los Angeles, brain surgery, physical problems that made it necessary for him to use crutches and conduct while seated, and dealing with manic/depressive periods that resulted in sometimes eccentric behavior.  Klemperer is in fine form in these performances. Mozart's serenade is charmingly brisk, the Mahler straightforward avoiding interpretive excesses favored by later Mahler conductors.  Maria Stader is superb as the soloist.  Klemperer later recorded this symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as soloist, long out-of-print.  Sound on this CD is rather lean but very clear, letting us hear an annoying cougher in both works. 

R.E.B. (February 2002)