MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Jascha Horenstein, cond.

Overture and Quado le sere from Luisa Miller. O Don Fatale from Don Carlo. Eri tu from Un Ballo en Maschera. Pace, pace mio Dio from La Forza del Destino. Act III of Rigoletto.
Gertrude Ribla, soporano; Nan Merriman, mezzo-soprano, Jan Peerce, tenor. Frank Valentino, baritone. Nicola Moscona, bass. NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.

This magnificent performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 5 was recorded August 31,1961 in Usher Hall at the Edinburgh Festival. How fortunate we are that BBC engineers were there! The distinguished conductor had a long association with this symphony. He conducted it in 1927 in his first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic, highly acclaimed by leading Mahler authorities of the time. Rafael Kubelik was to conduct the Edinburgh Festival performance, but the Czech conductor was unavailable. It surely seems there was sufficient rehearsal time to produce this inagnificent reading, of nobility, power and passion. Every bar is totally controlled and the BPO surely had to be on their best to accommodate frequent sometimes minute tempo changes. Orchestral playing is inspired and virtually perfect. This recording, now more than a half-century old, has excellent sonics thanks to the remarkable XR remastering by Andrew Rose. All those who love Mahler should own this performance. Of course there are many recent recordings and videos, but this Horenstein live performance is unique. RCA producer Charles Gerhardt tried to get RCA to record all of the Mahler symphonies; a suggestion totally ignored by the company. Can you imagine all of Mahler's symphonies with Horenstein on the podium and recorded by the Gerhardt/Kenneth Wilkinson team? Collectors look forward to future releases's in Pristine Horenstein Mahler series.

This all-Verdi War Bond Concert from in NBC's Studio 8H July 25, 1943 was special in many ways. During the concert an announcement was made in the hall that Mussolini had been deposed. Toscanini was ecstatic, waving his clasped hands above him and gazing heavenwards as the audience cheered. The hall announcement is not included on this recording, but we do hear commentator Ben Grauer's announcement (as well as his other concert introductions). And what a thrilling concert it is! Each of the four featured soloists has a solo except for Nicola Moscona who is heard as Sparafucile in the finale of Rigoletto. Toscanini also presented this in another War Bond Concert in Madison Square Garden May 25, 1944. That performance also featured Peerce, Merriman and Moscona, with Zinka Milanov as Gilda and Leonard Warren as Rigoletto. This new recording offers spectacular Verdi, and I am amazed by the audio quality, as restored by Andrew Rose. Studio 8H is notorious for its dry acoustics, but here we have rich, well-balanced, wide-range sound. RCA's lack of recording expertise ruined most of Toscanin's NBC recordings. Did engineers use different microphones for this concert? Whatever the process, you'll hear the genius of Toscanini in audio up until now alien to him on recordings from the era. A fabulous CD!

R.E.B. (July 14, 2014)