MUSSORGSKY: A Night on the Bare Mountain (original
version). PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16. DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor,
Op. 95 "From the New World."
REGER: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Johann Adam Hiller,
Op. 100 (Paul van Kempen, cond.). Variations and Fugue on a Theme of
Op. 132 (Karo Böhm, cond). Berlin Philharmonic Orch.
MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov
Admirers of Klaus Tennstedt will welcome Testament's issue of a concert given in Berlin's Philharmonie March 13, 1984 as it contains music he did not record commercially. He did make a recording of A Night on the Bare Mountain in 1990 (with the London Philharmonic), but that was the Rimsky-Korsakov's version; at this concert he played the distinctive original version. Horaccio Gutiereez is the brilliant soloist in Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 (in 1990 he recorded the concerto with Neemi Järvi and the Concertgebouw), and the concert ends with a superb performance of Dvorák's most popular symphony. The Berlin Philharmonic is in top form, and the German engineers did their job well. Excellent stereo sound throughout. The only debit of this release is the price. Neither CD is well-filled and doubtless there were other Tennstedt items that could have been included.
Hats off to Pristine Audio for this superb issue of the first complete recording of Verdi's Aida recorded on 36 78rpm sides by Italian Columbia in 1928. And the performance is magnificent, setting a high standard for countless later recordings. Soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, chosen by Toscanini to sing in Mefistofele, sings the title role fearlessly although her rather thin voice is not what we hear today as Aida. . The remainder of the cast is excellent, although Swedish tenor Aroldo Lindi is not totally at ease. Ward Marston made the miraculous transfers and added a welcome touch of reverb to make up for the dry acoustic of the original. Balances are fine, and voices are captured with remarkable fidelity. This is an important issue for operaphiles.You can get it from Pristine Classical
German-born Max Reger (1873-1916) was highly respected during his lifetime as a composer, organist, pianist, and conductor. He wrote prolifically for the organ and chamber ensemble as well as orchestral works. Two examples of the latter are found on Guild's new CD, big scale orchestral variations on themes of Hiller and Mozart, both played by the Berlin Philharmonic. Paul Van Kempen conducts the Hiller variations recorded in July 1951, Karl Böhm directs the Mozart, recorded in December 1956. Seldom today does one hear of Reger's music being programmed by major orchestras and for good reason. Both Van Kempen and Böhm were supporters of Reger and do what can be done for Reger's sprawling scores. Should you wish to experience this music in "historic" performances by major conductors of the time, here's your opportunity.
Throughout his career, Sir Thomas Beecham championed music of Hector Berlioz and made a number of commercial recordings of it. However, these do not include the Requiem which fortunately is available in a 1959 live BBC performance. A major addition to the catalog is this live performance of the composer's third opera, The Trojans. This opera was a particular favorite of the conductor and he wanted to stage it as early as 1910 but this couldn't be done. Beecham did conduct a concert performance in 1960 in Washington's Constitution Hall, but illness prevented him from conducting other performances scheduled for New York and Philadelphia. Beecham in 1947 presented a studio performance recorded for the BBC, the first part in June, the second in July, and this is what is heard on this intriguing Somm set. The monophonic sound is well-balanced. Detailed track listings are provided along with a synopsis of the plot, but there is no libretto. Since the time of this broadcast, there have been several excellent recordings of The Trojans, notably by Sir Colin Davis and Charles Dutoit, as well as two Met performances conducted by James Levine, a CD from 2003 with Ben Heppner, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Deborah Voight (included in the huge 32-disk Met tribute to the conductor), and a DVD from 1983 with Plácido Domingo, Jessye Norman and Tatiana Troyanos.
Collectors treasure this 1952 recording of the Rimsky-Korsakov version of Boris Godunov, the first of two featuring Boris Christoff singing not only the title role, but those of Varlaam and Pimen as well. Christoff was one of the finest interpreters of this role for two decades. His second recording made in 1962 with an outstanding cast and French chorus and orchestra directed by André Cluytens once was issued in EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series,but is available now only as an MP3 download. This issue of the 1952 set is welcome—there's no libretto but we do have complete track listings and it is super-budget price. The Coronation Scene is particularly impressive, and the Death of Boris finale could hardly be bettered. If you don't have this, this is your opportunity to add it to your collection at minimum price.
R.E.B. (December 2010)