BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. BRUCH: Scottish
WAGNER:: "The Potted Ring" - Volume II - Siegfried
PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly
Legendary conductor Jascha Horenstein ,made a number of recordings for Reader's Digest, and some of them are now appearing on CD. and they sound better han ever because of new transfer technology. This Brahms Symphony was recorded with the remarkable Charles Gerardt/Kenneth Wilkinson team in January 29-30, 1962 for Reader's Digest in Walhamstow Hall in England, where the team recorded after Kinagaway Kingsway Hall no longer was available. Originally Decca planned a disk coupling the Hindemith violin concerto with Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364 with Oistrakh and Hindemith playing the viola part. However, Hindemith was not pleased with his own performance, so the project was abandoned. At the last moment, the Scottish Fantasy was recorded, a work Oistrakh had not played for many years, and the result was this vibrant performance of this magnificent work. The recordings were made September 24, 1972 also in Walthamstow, produced by Erich Smith and engineered by Alan Reeve
Here is Volume II in Pristine's commendable issue of all 122 78 rpm sides recorded by HMV between 1926 and 1932. The first volume (2 disks) featured highlights from Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. was mentioned on this site (REVIEW) Now we have another double-disk set devoted to Siegfried, and it is magnificent. Principal interest is that legendary tenor Lauriz Melchior is heard throughout in the title role, an unbelievable performance not matched by later heldentenors. Although not complete (it does contain all of the music HMV recorded), the set includes all major moments, and we are fortunate to have British soprano Florence Easton (1882-1955) as Brünnhilde. Easton was the reigning dramatic soprano of her time, also singing many lighter roles. She made a number of recordings including arias from a wide variety of roles. Her Brünhilde is of a quality unheard in today's opera houses. A number of sinners share the other roles, but all are of high qualnity. As with the first issue in the series, transfers were accomplished with consummate technical expertise by Mark Obert-Thorn, who has managed to extract remarkably natural, vivid sound from these recordings made almost a century ago. A complete list of track information can be found on Pristine's WEBSITE. Don't miss this extraordinary reissue!. I look forward Götterdämmerung.
This 1953 EMI recording of Puccini's Madame Butterfly is considered to be legendary. CD notes quote Alan Blythe as saying it represents Callas "at the peak of her vocal powers," admiring that on occasion "there are a number of technical shortcomings." That is putting it mild! At the time, Callas should have been at her best, but she produces some incredibly ugly sounds, not helped by a recording that originally had some distortion. Often her pitch is suspect, and it is hard to imagine that Karajan, a stickler for perfection, might not have said to her, "Maria, do you really want to try that D flat at the end of Butterfly's entrance?" She did give it a stab, and her wobble on that treacherous note is rather pathetic. No question that dramatically she is magnificent, but for me that cannot compensate for vocal defects. The remainder of the cast is superb, as is Karajan's approach to the music, and Andrew Rose's remastering has worked wonders on this recording made well over a half century ago. However, for a beautifully sung Butterfly, there are dozens of superior recordings, particularly those featuring Mirella Freni, de los Angeles, Caballé, and Tebaldi, to mention only a few that offer vocal perfection.
R.E.B. (March 2015)