Maria Callas (Floria Tosca). Tito Gobbi (Baron Scarpia). Giuseppe di Stefano (Mario Cavaradossi). Franco Calabrese (Spoletta). Melchiorre Luise (Sacristan). Dario Caselli (Sciaronne/Gaoler). Alvara Cordova (Shepherd). Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/Victor de Sabata, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 080 (2 disks) TT: 1 hr. 47:58

SCHUBERT: Die Junge Nonne, D.828. Die Liebe Hat Gelogen, D. 751. Die Post, D. 911, No. 1. Der Wegweiser, D. 911 No. 20. SCHUMANN: Frauenliebe und-Ichen, Op. 42. BRAHMS: Liebestren, Op. 3 No. 1. Meine liebe ist grün, Op. 63 No. 5. Sind es Schmerzen, sing des Freuden, Op. 33 No. 3. GRIEG: Haugtussa, Op. 67. CHARLES: When I have sung my songs
Kirsten Flagstad, soprano; Edwin McArthur, piano


JOHANN STRAUSS II: On the Beautiful Blue Danube. BORODIN-SARGENT: Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D. PAGANINI-LAVAGNINE: Moto Perpetuo. RACHMANINOFF-DUBENSKY: Vocalise. HANDEL-WHITTAKER: Tamburino fromn Alcina. PURCELL-HERBAGE: Hornpipe from King Arthur. GLUCK-STOKOWSKI: Lento from Iphigenie in Aulis. Musette & Sicilienne from Armide. Lento from Iphigenie in Aulis. Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice. BOCCHERINI-STOKOWSKI: Minuet from String Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5. TCHAIKOVSKY-STOKOWSKI: Andante Cantabile from String Quartet No. 1 in D. BERGER: Rondino Giocoso
Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
GUILD GHCD 2392 TT: 63:23

Leschelitzky plays Leschelitzky. Gabrilowitsch plays Sapelinikov. Grainer plays Tchaikovsky. Prokofiev plays Prokofiev and Glazounov. Vladimir Horowiz plays Rachmaninoff. Scriabin plays Scriabin. Liapounov plays Liapounov. Cherkassky plays Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Godowsky plays Moskowski. Ganz plays Moskowski. Leschelitzky plays Leschelitzky. Friedman plays Moskowski.

Probably the most famous complete opera recording of all time is Puccini's Tosca recorded in Rome in 1953 with Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi, Victor de Sabata conducting. This has been issued and reissued numerous times, on the original company EMI, other labels as well. Some of these have been mentioned on this site. Now we have the opportunity to hear this performance via Pristine Audio's remarkable XR remastering. The original well-balanced mono sound has been revitalized and judicious use of "ambient stereo" brings new life and presence to the performance. In the remastering it was discovered that the pitch was slightly askew, and that has been corrected. And what a performance it is! Callas at her best at the time, superior vocally than later in her career, and the supporting cast could hardly be bettered. No texts—probably everyone already has one, and complete track listings are here. Even if you already own a previous issue of this Tosca, you should investigate this new version that permits us to experience it in a new light.

Pristine Audio has turned their attention to Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962). They already has issued her Brünnhilde in Furtwängler 1953 La Scala Ring, and now we have this disk devoted to RCA recordings made 1950-1952, lieder of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, her only recordings of this music, as well as a favorite of hers, Grieg's Haugtussa recorded as well in 1950, a decade after her first recording of it for RCA. She would make yet another recording in 1957. We also have a favorite encore of hers, When I Have Sung My Songs by Ernest Charles; this also was a favorite of Rosa Ponselle. In all of this music, Flagstad is in glorious voice, and Mark Obert-Thorn's transfers could not be bettered. No texts are provided.

Leopold Stokowski made a series of recordings for Capitol with a hand-picked studio orchestra 1957-1958 and many of these, mostly for string orchestra, are on Guild's new CD, all well-balanced stereo recordings. It begins with a rather brisk account of The Blue Danube Waltz, the seventh and last recording of the work by Stokowski, who first made a truncated version in 1919 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. This is followed by a series of music arranged for strings by others including several pieces made by the conductor. The only non-arrangerment is Theodore Berger's sprightly but forgettable Rondino Giocoso written in 1933 and, surprising to me, performed in Dresden in 1939 with Willem Mengelberg on the podium. Guild's transfers are excellent, and this CD belongs in every Stokowski collection.

Dal Segno is an Australian company that specializes in piano recordings both new and historic; their catalog includes recent recordings by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Hélène Grimaud, Michel Dalberto and Wu Qian. This CD offers a selection of piano rolls made 1908-1933 for Welte-Mignon, Ampico and Duo-Art, reproduced on a modern concert-grand piano.We have the repertory listed above and artists/composers involved, and it seems that the mechanical process conveys the performances very well indeed, although dynamic range perhaps is a bit limited. It is quite amazing that those old piano rolls contained so much information that can be resurrected. Brief CD notes discuss the pianists, but say nothing about the piano roll process.

R.E.B. (August 2012)