Easter Overture, Op. 36. MUSSORGSKY: Excerpts
from Khovantchina. TCHAIKOVSKY: Aurora's Wedding (arr. Diaghilev)
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. BORODIN: In
the Steppes of Central Asia. STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite
SIBELIUS: Finlandia, Op.
26. Swan of Tuonela and Lemminkainen's Return from Lemminkainen
Op. 22. Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49. Valse
Triste, Op. 44. GRIEG: Symphonic Dances, Op. 64
Op. 35. BORODIN: Polovtsian
Here are four more intriguing issues from the independent label ReDiscovery making available to collectors rare recordings not available elsewhere. The two Stokowski items are released with cooperation from the Leopold Stokowski Society of America; their president, Robert M. Stumpf, II, wrote notes for both of these, which include some intriguing details about the sessions. The orchestra was rather small (but does not sound small on these recordings) and consisted of some of the finest players in New York who would arrive in the studio for the sessions not knowing what was to be recorded—so rehearsals and recordings often were simultaneous. All of theseStokowski recordings were made in Manhattan Center from 1950-1954, just pre-stereo. Stokowski, as usual, was very involved with technical aspects of the recording; some vivid orchestral effects carry the Maestro's stamp. Surely the super pianissimo just before the final buildup of the Sibelius symphony finale (beginning about 9:30 into track 4) is assisted by engineering manipulation—but it works. There are real treasures here, all in perfect transfers—minus the LP clicks and defects that plagued most disk issues. You will not hear a more seductive, leisurely In the Steppes of Central Asia than the one heard here, and Firebird is tremendously exciting with those unusual French horn upward swoops in the finale vividly caught by the microphones. Russian Easter Overture features baritone Nicola Moscona singing the part written for a trombone. The three excerpts from Khovantchina display Stokowski at his most imaginative, replete with gongs. Identification of these is rather unusual; the section labeled "The Red Square in Moscow" is the Prelude to Act I, "The Hall in the Castle of Prince Khovansky" is better known as "The Dance of the Persian Slaves," and the third excerpt, "Vasily Blashemmy Church," is the Act 4 Entracte. Stokowski recorded music from Sleeping Beauty for RCA in 1947 (available on Cala 0522); this recording of music from the ballet arranged by Diaghilev and called Aurora's Wedding, was recorded in 1953. Glorious music-making throughout, on both of these CDs.
Morton Gould made a number of superb RCA recordings, particularly those with the Chicago Symphony. ReDiscovery already has issued his 1968 version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2 (RD 013). Now we have Gould's studio recording with a smallish pickup orchestra of another work of the composer, Scheherazade, coupled with an orchestral version of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances and the Élégie from Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, as well as a Sibelius collection. Sibelius seems to be a strange choice for Gould to record, but the composer of American Salute, Tropical and Latin American Symphonette had his "serious" side as well and gives splendid performances, particularly of the symphonic poem Pohjola's Daughter. The coupled Grieg Symphonic Dances (with the full-sized Philharmonia orchestra) is also welcome. On both of these CDs we hear RCA's fine, rich stereo sound of the period. However, I would have preferred if ReDiscovery had issued Gould's Chicago recordings of Copland's Dance Symphony and the conductor's own Spirituals for Orchestra. Maybe in the future?
These CDs are not inexpensive, but they are the only way to acquire these intriguing performances and anyone interested in the repertory/performances will get their money's worth. There is no CD booklet; notes are on the back cover. The basic cost is $15 per CD which includes shipping. They can be ordered from www.ReDiscovery.us where you will find a complete listing of their releases.
R.E.B. (June 2003)