'GREAT PIANISTS'
BACH: Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C (Edwin Fischer). BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 14 in C# minor. Op. 27 No. 2 (Ignaz Friedman). TCHAIKOVSKY: First movement Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 (Vladimir Horowitz/NBC SO/Toscanini). J. STRAUSS, Jr: Blue Danube Waltz (Josef Lhevinne). SCHUMANN: Finale from Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 43 (Myra Hess/Orch/Goehr). RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in C# minor, Op. 3 No. 2 (William Kapell). GRIEG: First movement Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (Benno Moiseiwitsch/Hallé Orch/Heward). RACHMANINOFF: Second movement Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (Sergei Rachmaninoff/Philadelphia Orch/Stokowski). CHOPIN: Nocturne in E minor, Op 72 No. 1 (Artur Rubinstein). BRAHMS: Second movemet Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 (Wilhelm Backhaus/BBC Symphony Orch/Boult). BEETHOVEN: Finale from Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 8 (Artur Schnabel/London Philharmonic Orch/Sargent). MOZART: Sonata No. 5 in G, K. 384 (Claudio Arrau). CHOPIN: Second movement Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 (Alfred Cortot/London Philharmonic Orch/Ronald). BRAHMS: Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79 No. 1 (Egon Petri). PROKOFIEV: First movement Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 (Serge Prokofiev/London Symphony Orch/Coppola).
NAXOS 8.110783-84 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 68:49 & 76:55
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'GREAT VIOLINISTS'
BRUCH: First movement Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (Fritz Kreisler/Royal Albert Hall Orch/Goossens). BEETHOVEN: Andante and variations from Violin Sonata No 9 (Adolf Busch/Rudolf Serkin). SARASATE: Gypsy Airs (Jascha Heifetz/RCA Victor Orch/Barbirolli). BACH: Chaconne from Partita No. 2 (Yehudi Menuhin). DVORAK: Finale from Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53 (Nathan Milstein/Pittsburgh Symphony Orch/Steinberg). HAYDN: Trio in G (Jacques Thibaud/Alfred Cortot/Pabo Casals). WIENIAWSKI: First movement Violin Concerto No. 2 (Elman/Robin Hood Dell Orch/Hilsberg). ELGAR: First movenet Violin Concerto in E minor (Yehudi Menuhin/Orch/Elgar). DE BÉRIOT: Violin Concerto No. 7 (Maud Powell/George Falkenstein, piano). PROKOFIEV: Andante from Violin Concerto No. 1 (Joseph Szigeti/London Philharmonic Orch/Beecham). BRAHMS: Second movment Violin Concerto in D (Jascha Heifetz/Boston Symphony Orch/Koussevitzky). KREISLER: Viennese Rhapsodie Fantasietta (Fritz Kreisler/Orch/Vorhees). BEETHOVEN: Second movement Violin Concerto in D (Bronislaw Huberman/Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Szell). ELGAR: First movement Violin Sonata in E minor (Albert Sammons/Gerald Moore, piano).
NAXOS 8.110980-81 (2 Cs) (B) (ADD) TT: 76:40 & 74:00
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'GREAT SINGERS'
PUCCINI: Nessun Dorma from Turandot (Jussi Bjoerling). DEBUSSY: Trois Chansons de Bilitis (Dame Maggie Teyte/Alfred Cortot). DONIZETTI: Una furtiva lagrima from L'Elisir d'amore (Enrico Caruso). VERDI: Mira d'acerbe lagrime from Il trovatore (Rosa Ponselle). HANDEL: Sweet Bird That Shunn'st the Noise of Folly (Dame Nellie Melba). MAHLER: Von der Schonheit from Das Lied von der Erde (Kathleen Ferrier). MUSSORGSKY: Serenade (Jennie Tourel). THOMAS: Leb' wohn Mignon & Wie ihre Unschuld from Mignon (Richard Tauber). MASSENET: Garden Scene from Werther (Ferruccio Tagliavini/Pia Tassinari). LEONCAVALLO: Un tal gioco, credetemi from Pagliacci (Beniamino Gigli). WAGNER: Mild und leise from Tristan and Isolde (Kirsten Flagstad). PUCCINI: O soave fanciulla from La Bohème (Licia Albanese/Giuseppe di Sefano). SCHUBERT: Der Hirt auf dem Feisen (Elisabeth Schumann). WAGNER: Preislied from Die Meistersinger (Set Svanholm). OREFICE: Grand aria (from Chopin) (Pia Tassinari). KORNGOLD: Gluck das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt (Lotte Lehmann/Richard Tauber). MOZART: Martern aller Arten from Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Erna Berger). BEETHOVEN: Abscheulicher from Fidelio (Frida Leider). WAGNER: Ich sah' das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust from Parsifal (Kirsten Flagstad/Lauritz Melchior). VON FLOTOW: M'appari from Martha (Ferruccio Tagliavini). VERDI: Confutatis from Requiem (Ezio Pinza). PUCCINI: Si, me chiamano Mimì from La Bohème (Renata Tebaldi)
NAXOS 8.110781-82 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 65:54 & 76:06
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All three of these twin-CD sets are really samplers for Naxos Historical CDs devoted to each of the artists involved, which might explain their super-budget price: two very well-filled CDs for less than $10 list. For the beginner they surely are of interest although one might question some repertory choices as well as the focus on particular artists. Each set includes a complete listing of other recordings available in the series as well as brief bios and information about each artist.

The earliest recording in Great Pianists is the 1926 Beethoven Sonata No. 14 played by Ignaz Friedman, the latest William Kapell's 1945 Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor. There are, indeed, many extraordinary recordings in this set, particularly the Horowitz/Toscanini Tchaikovsky from a 1941 Carnegie Hall concert, and Alfred Cortot's 1935 studio recording of Chopin's Concerto No. 2. Great Violinists has some rather odd repertory choices. Strange the middle movement of the Brahms concerto with Heifetz/Koussevitzky is included when the finale would be more appropriate. The same applies to the Huberman/Szell Beethoven concerto, particularly when the second movement goes right into the third and it's necessary to fade out of the latter.

Great Singers does of course contain many treasures, particularly the Lotte Lehmann/Richard Tauber Korngold duet, Wagner with Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior, and Frieda Leider's Beethoven. It's always a pleasure to hear tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini and soprano Pia Tassinari, but in addition to a duet each has an aria, while Bjoerling, Caruso, Gigli, Chaliapin and Ponselle have but one each.

But these are minor issues; these sets offer beginning collectors an opportunity to hear quality performances in superb transfers. Doubtless hearing these will whet the appetite to hear more performances by the artists concerned—and they are readily available on Naxos, also at budget price.

R.E.B. (October 2003)