MOZART: Overtures to The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan tutte. WEBER: Overtures to Der Freischütz, Preciosa, Oberon and Jubel. MENDELSSOHN: Fingal's Cave Overture. LORTZING: Zar und Zimmermann Overture. LANNER: Pestherwalz, Op. 93.
|Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin State Opera Orchestras/Hans Pfitzner, cond.

STRAUSS: Metamorphosen. Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier. Divertimento, Op. 86
Bamberg Symphony Orch/Clemens Krauss, cond.

STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30. Don Juan, Op. 20. Till Eulenspiegel's lustige Streiche, Op. 28.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Clemens Krauss, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica."
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Arthur Nikisch (Symphony 5); Berlin State Opera Orch/Oskar Fried, cond. (Symphony 3).

Jussi Björling (Faust); Elisabeth Söderstrom (Marguerite); Cesare Siepi (Méphistophélès); Robert Merrill (Valentin); Mildred Miller (Siebel); Thelma Votipka (Marthe); Ronald Reitan (Wagner); Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Jean Morel, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 064 (2 disks) TT: 2 hr. 36 min. 43 sec.

The avid collector of historic recordings surely will wish to investigate Pristine Audio's issues of Arthur Nikisch, Oskar Fried and Hans Pfitzner. The Nikisch 1912 recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 was long considered to be the first of this work, but CD notes point out that the first recording was actually in 1911 for Odeon with Friedrich Kark and the Odeon Symphony Orchestra. However, the Fried recording is the first complete recording, although there are no repeats (the scherzo lasts but 3:58).

Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949) composed concertos for piano and violin, two for cello, two symphonies, six operas/cantatas, chamber music and songs. His best-known work is the opera Palestrina. His cantata Von Deutsche Seele has been mentioned on this site (REVIEW), as well as his Symphony in C (REVIEW) conducted by Karl Böhm who championed his music—although few other major conductors did. Although Pfitzner was associated with the Nazis, he eventually was cleared of Nazism but died mentally ill in a Salzburg old people's home. He achieved considerable recognition for his conducting, and Prestine's CD contains a group of overtures and a waltz all recorded 1927-1933, in superlative transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. This site also contains intriguing observations by the late Roger Dettmer of Pfitzner conducting Beethoven's symphonies 1 and 6 (REVIEW) and symphonies 3 and 8 (REVIEW).

Clemens Krauss (1893-1954) was closely associated with Richard Strauss and conducted the premieres of Arabella, Cappricio (for which he wrote the libretto), Friedenstag, and Die Liebe der Danae. His politics were a problem and many questioned Krauss's association with the Nazis. He was not permitted to conduct 1945-1947 but after that continued his internationalcareer. He was considered to be a prime interpreter of music of Richard Strauss. Decca recorded the composer's Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, and Ein Heldenleben in Vienna's Musikverein in 1950/51. The first three of these are on Pristine's new CD in remasterings by Andrew Rose, who has done what can be done with original recordings. But the fact remains that these offer rather dim sound lacking in bass and rather thin. And this performance of "Sunrise," the opening of Zarathustra, is as perfunctory (1:26) as it gets. It's unfortunate that engineering isn't of the quality heard on the conductor's 1954 recording of Salome. The other Strauss disk offers studio recordings made for the Bavarian Radio in the early 1950s; these had been issued previously on Philips, but these remasterings offer much improved mono sound. Audio here is far superior to what is heard on the Decca symphonic poems CD, and these probably are Krauss's only recordings of these works. In the Divertimento based on clavier pieces by Couperin, Krauss manages to sustain interest in what surely is the composer's most boring work—quite an achievement!.

The issue of Faust is, among other things, a tribute to tenor Jussi Björling (1911-1960) who can be heard here in a role he did not record commercially. This is a Met broadcast December 19, 1959, the tenor's final performance at the Met in a role he had previously sung 12 times there including the 1953 opening night. According to Björlinbg's database, he sang 71 performances of Faust during his career. Although there exist several recordings of live performances of excerpts from Faust, he never recorded it commercially. Björling is magnificent in every way; the entire cast is exemplary. It is a luxury to have Cesare Siepi as the Devil, and Robert Merrill as Valentine. Björling's compatriot, Elisabeth Söderstrom, before she became the prime interpreter of Janácek, is a gentle, vocally secure Marguerite. This transfer was made by Andrew Rose from LPs issued on the Robin Hood label, and he was able to achieve remarkably clear, well-balanced sound. Faust is given with acts 4 and 5 somewhat rearranged and cut and because of this it is possible to issue it on two well-filled sides. This is a terrific addition to the opera catalog!

R.E.B. (November 2011)