PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 5 in B flat, Op. 100 (USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra). Symphony No. 6 in E flat minor, Op. 111 (New York Philharmonic)/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIOPASC 161 TT: 78:51

SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on Greensleeves. ENESCU: Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A, Op. 11. WALTON: Spitfire Prelude and Fugue.
New York Philharmonic/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIOPASC 133 TT: 55:26

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E
New York Philharmonic/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIOPASC 082 TT: 57:49

JOHANN STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus
Ljuba Welitsch (Rosalinde); Lily Pons (Adele); Charles Kullman (Eisenstein); Richard Tucker (Alfred); Martha Lipton (Orlofsky); John Brownless (Dr. Falke); Clifford Harvuot (Frank); Paul Franke (Dr. Blind); Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PAC0030 (2 disks) TT: 89:47

MENDELSSOHN: Capriccio Brillant in B minor, Op. 22. Rondo Brillant in E flat, Op. 29. LISZT: Totentanz
Peter Katin, piano; London Philharmonic Orch/Jean Martinon, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 054 TT: 37:21

Pristine Audio is a label that may be new to many collectors. This is a quality company specializes in historic recordings and live performances; five of these are listed above. The first features two major Leopold Stokowski Prokofiev performances: Symphony No. 5 with the USSR Radio Symphony recorded in 1958 for Melodiya, coupled with a live 1949 New York Philharmonic performance of Symphony No. 6, the latter previously available only in a NYP Radiothon edition. A second Stokowski CD features live recordings with the New York Philharmonic, the major work being Schumann's Symphony No. 2 from a concert in Carnegie Hall February 6, 1949 (the conductor's RCA mono recording with a pickup orchestra is available on Cala). We also have a Carnegie Hall performance of Enescu's Rhapsody No. 1 (Stokowski still omits the final chord), and the Walton Spitfire excerpts, also from the February 6 concert. The previously unissued full-length studio recording of the Greensleeves Fantasia, recorded February 21, 1949, fills out this intriguing CD.

This enterprising label also offers Arturo Toscanini's only recorded Bruckner, a live performance of Symphony No. 7 with the New York Philharmonic from a Carnegie Hall concert January 27, 1935. Predictably, it is brisk, without question the fast performance on disk (57:47). As stated on the jacket, source material for this release was badly damaged, with several brief passages missing; Andrew Rose's remastering does what can be done with the masters. This is a fascinating issue, and hearing it one can easily understand why Toscanini otherwise ignored music of Bruckner.

A welcome addition to the catalog is the release of Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus sung in English with new lyrics by Howard Dietz. This was not included in Sony's set of "complete Ljuba Welitsch recordings," probably for copyright reasons. This production was a huge Met hit during the 1950-1951 season, and rightfully so, although hardly "Viennese." Mark Obert-Thorn did the restoration and also provided informative program notes about the manifold problems in getting this together, including the fact that Fritz Reiner originally was to conduct, but as he had just signed with RCA, Eugene Ormandy, a Columbia artist, took over. Voices are recorded rather close-up, and the often clever text and dialogue are clear most of the time, which is fortunate as no libretto is provided (the original LP issue contained a complete libretto along with detailed information about stage activity. It is a hoot to hear Ljuba Welitsch, the Salome of at least two decades in the opera world, declaiming the dialogue, "It is clear that he is here to annex a willing partner for the purposes of sex." This is a fascinating issue, essential for the manifold admirers of the dynamic Bulgarian soprano.

Some old-time collectors may remember the audio excitement when London/Decca issued a new ffrr(full frequency range) recording. One of these was a superb disk of Peter Katin playing Mendelssohn and Liszt, now resurrected on this CD. Katin was a leading pianist of his time and made a number of important recordings. This Pristine Audio CD contains exactly what was on the original LP—which is rather unfortunate as total playing time is only 37:21. Katin's remarkable recording of Tchaikovsky's Concert Fantasy or Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 1 easily could have been included. Well, we are grateful for what we have, and these are welcome additions to the current catalog.

Check out the label's website; you will find many treasures indeed: http://www.pristineaudiodirect.com

R.E.B. (June 2009)