MOZART: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. DE FALLA: El Amor Brujo. RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome. SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5
Shirley Verrett-Carter, mezzo-soprano; Philadelphia Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 264 (2 disks) TT: 1 hr. 50:05

MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Jo Vincent, soprano; Kathleen Ferrier, contralto; Holland Festival Chorus; Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Otto Klemperer, cond.

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond.

DOHNÁNYI: Variations on a Nursery Tune, Op. 25. RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.
Julius Katchen, piano; London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Adrian Boult, cond.

February 12, 1960 was a very special night in Philadelphia's Academy of Music. Leopold Stokowski, who became music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1912 and led them until 1940. During that time he developed the orchestra into one of the world's finest and gave numerous American and world premieres. In spite of wretched acoustics of the Academy, Stokowski was still able to create what came to be known as "The Philadelphia Sound." His 1960 return was a festive occasion and I was fortunate enough to be there! The audience gave Stokowski a standing ovation when he first appeared on stage, and enthusiasm increased as the evening progressed. The generous program featured three Stokowski favorites: El Amor Brujo (which he had recorded in 1946 with Nan Merriman and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony), The Pines of Rome (which he had recorded in 1958 with the American Symphony) and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 (which he had recorded in Philadelphia in 1939 and in 1958 with the "Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York"). The late Shirley Verrett (known at that time as Shirley Verrett-Carter) was soloist in El Amor Brujo, and shortly afterwards they recorded the work for Columbia.Pristine Audio's 2-disk set contains the entire concert including announcements by William Smith, who at the time was Assistant Conductor of the orchestra. It also includes Stokowski's brief comments to the audience at the conclusion of the concert beginning with, "as I was saying nineteen yeard ago..." Producers had access to the original tapes prepared by the station that broadcast the concert which were given to Stokowski's friend jack Baumgarten, and later to Edward Johnson of the Leopold Stokowski Society.I can tell you for sure that sitting in the center balcony as I was, the magic of Stokowski's interpretations came over, although richness was absent. Pristine Audio has been able to adapt the oddly engineered tapes into a format that offers quite adequate, if not true stereo, sound. They also have adjusted frequency ranges and a slight touch of reverb to compensate for Academy's dryness.

Otto Klemperer favored Mahler's Symphony No. 2. His first experience with the symphony was in 1905 when he conducted the off-stage brass for a performance conducted by Oskar Fried. In 1951, Klemperer recorded the symphony for Vox in Vienna with soprano Ilona Steingruber and mezzo-soprano Hilde Rössl-Majdan. About a decade later, he recorded it with soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Rössl-Majdan this time for EMI with the Philharmonia Orchestra; that label also issued a live performance from January 1965 with soprano Heather Harper, mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, and Bavarian Radio forces. This legendary performance from the July 1951 Holland Festival has been issued several times but this new version, remastered by Andrew Rose, is the most successful sonic recovery of the Dutch radio broadcast. a performance by the Concertgebouw Orchestra at its peak, with soprano Jo Vincent who was a favorite of Mengelberg, and the glorious Kathleen Ferrier two years before her untimely demise.

Wilhelm Furtwängler's legendary 1944 performance with the Vienna Philharmonic is considered to be the finest he made of the work. Andrew Rose's restoration comments point out that there are no audience sounds whatever and thinks the hall was empty. He also has done considerable work in adjusting frequency response, eliminating hiss, and correcting minor pitch variations. The result is a magnificent restoration of one of the truly great Bruckner recordings.

American pianist Julius Katchen (1926-1969) had a meteoric career and made many superb recordings, particularly of works of Beethoven and Brahms—many of which are still available. Pristine Audio's welcome CD returns to the catalog two of his finest recordings made in 1960 just a few months after London Records began to record in stereo. The Dohnányi was recorded January 12, 1959 in Kingsway Hall with engineer Kenneth Wilkinson; the Rachmanininoff sessions were May 1, 1959, also in Kingsway, with Alan Reeve as engineer. This reissue is taken from a London 4-track stereo tape, and boasts the bold, rich sound of the best early Decca recordings.

All of these superb issues are available from Pristine Audiu

R.E.B. (February 2010)