BEETHOVEN: Fidelio
Kirsten Flagsad (Leonore). René Maison (Floresan). Julius Huehn (Pizarro). Alexander Kipnis (Rocco). Marieta Farrell (Marzellini). Karl Lefköttr ( (Jaquino). Herbert Janssen (Don Ferrnando). Emery Darcy (First Prisoner. Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Bruno Walter, cond.
PISTINE AUDIO PACO 117 (2 disks) TT: 2:25:01
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STRAVINSKY: Petrushka ((1911 Ballet Suite). Pulcinella (1920 Balle Suite). GLAZUNOV: The Seasons Ballet, Opo. 67,
Ircg.UIgor Stravinsky, /. Alexander Glazunov, cond.
PRISINE AUDIO PASC 432 TT: 69:15
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BIZET: La Jolie Fille de Perth. Excerpts from L'Arlesiene and Carmen. GERSHWIN: An American in Paris.
NBC Symphony Orch/Artro Tocanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 431 TT: 72:34
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op.37. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58,
Artur Schnbel, piano; London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond.
PRISINE AUDIO PASC 433 TT: 65;45
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Kirsten Flagstad was a favorite at the Met makitng her debut February 2, 1935 as Sieglinde in Die Walküre with Artur Bodansky conducting. After that she sang the role of Brünnhildem a total of 69 performances by my count. Her final Met performance was Alceste April 1, 1952. Isolde also was a specialty of hers and she performed it about 80 times, along with most other big Wagnerian roles. How fortunate the opera world was to have her at the Met for such a long time. (If you go the Metropolitan Opera Archives on line, you will find a complete list of all of her performances, although the list does contain errorse). She first sang Leonore in Fidelio at the Met March 7, 1936 with Bodansky on the podium. He also conducted several other performances, but the one given February 14, 1941 was very special as it marked the debut of Bruno Walter at the Met, and now we have the opportunity to hear the stunning broadcast. It is the complete broadcast including commentary by Milton Cross. In this performance much of the dialogue is omitted. Pristine has done their usual superb job of restoring a recording made recording made seven decades ago. This is a feast for those who love Beethoven's only opera.

Igor Stravinsky's own recordings of suites from Petrushka and Pulcinella are featured in another Pristine disk, conducting unidentified orchestras dating from June 27-28, 1928 (Petrushka), May 6, 1932 and November 12, 1928 (Pulcinella). The reason for this was that Stravinsky had recorded three sections from Pulcinella at the same time he recorded a suite from Firebird, and later decided to record two more selections to complete the Pulcinella suite Stravinsky was not an accomplished conductor, but he elicited spirited performances, and collectoers surely will value these important first recordings. Petrushka is truncated quite a bit, most of the final scenes eliminated, perhaps because Columbia only allowed 6 78 rpm sides for the project. Of equal interest is Glazunov tune-filled ballet The Seasons, recorded with the composer conducting June 10, 13 and 14, 1929. This ballet has always been one of my favorites, with its endless flow of delectable melodies rivaling the best of Tchaikovsky, ending with the exciting Bacchanal. This is a splendid performance in every way, and he composer obviously knew what he wanted and got it. Fortunately he was sober; remember that Glazunov conducted the premiere of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1 in 1897 while inebriated resulting in a disaserous performance that initiated Rachmaninoff's long period of depression. But all is well here. Mark Obert-Thorn has again worked magic with his restorations, achieving remarkable clarity and definition in high percussion. An outstanding disk!

Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony gave a War Bond Concert September 19, 1943 in the NBC studios, a rather odd program featuring music of Bizet. It includes four excerpts from The Fair Maid of Perth, the conductor's own arrangement of a suite from Carmen that, surprisingly, does not include the Gypsy Dane, and five excerpts from L'Arlesiene, omitting the exciting Farandole. Strange indeed, but that's the way it was. To fill out the CD, we have something totally different, An American in Paris, from a broadcast March 18, 1945, also from the NBS studio. Performances are what one would expect, and Pristine has done their usual magic in restoration.

This site has mentioned Artur Schnabel's magnificent recordings of Beethoven's piano sonatas issued on Pristine, all reviewed by S.G.S. (see CD Index). When I was very young, I actually attended a concert Schnabel gave in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Sitting on what looked like a kitchen chair, he played a program of Beethoven and Schubert. No pretensions, no artificial gestures, just solid musicianship, and no encores. Schnabel made many recordings of Beethoven's piano concertos all with British orchestras except for 1942 recordings of Nos. 4 and 5 with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony. Schnabel and Sargent (the latter very young at the time) had played these two concertos in concert earlier, and recording sessions were February 17, 1933 (No. 3) and February 16 (No. 4). The pianist some years later record both again with Issay Dobrowen on the podium. Andrew Rose has remastered the Schgnabel/Sargent recordings using the best possible sources and the result is a clean, well-defined sound. .These 1933 recordings are important additions to the pianist's discography, particularly to hear the impetuous reading of the cadenza of Concerto No. 3.. Many years ago (2000) the late Roger Dettmer wrote a review of the fine Naxos CD (remasteered by Mrk Obert-Thorn) of these concerto recordings (REVIEW).You might find his comments intriguing; at any rate tht CD apparently is no longer available.

R.E.B. (February 2015)