Various singers, orchestras and conductors
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 107 (2 disks) TT: 2:37:04

STRAUSS: Elektra
Birgit Nilsson (Elektra). Leonie Rysanek (Chrysothemis). Regina Resnik (Klytämnestra). Wolfgang Windgassen (Aegisthus). Eberhard Waechter (Orest). Vienna State Opera Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
ORFEO C886 1421 (2 disks) TT: 60:31 7 38:09

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring. Symphony of Psalms
SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg (Rite). Chorus and Orchestra of the French National Radio/Jascha Horenstein, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Gratulations Menuet (rec. Dec. 20, 1949). SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2 in B flat (rec. (rec. Dec. 20, 1949). DEBUSSY: Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun (rec. 23 Jan. and 27 Feb. 1950). BLOCH: Schelomo (Gregor Piatigorsky, cello. rec. Jan. 20, 1957). HAIEFF: Symphony No. 2 (rec. Nov. 30, 1958)

I can just picture remastering genius Mark-Obert Thorn sitting in the middle of a huge stack of 78 rpm disks, some acoustic, most electric, containing excerpts from Wagner's Ring, and then piecing it all together, selecting the best copies of each, then working his magic to revitalize the sound. And the result is very important to collectors. as it gathers together all HMV recordings of this music made in London, Berlin and Vienna 1926-1932, a total of 122 records. During that time, HMV recorded some of the greatest Wagner singers of the time including Frida Leider, Florence Austral, Göta Lundberg, Friedrich Schorr, and Walter Widdop. Orchestras involved were the London Symphony, Berlin State Opera, and an unidentified orchestra, with conductors Albert Coates, Leo Blech, Lawrence Collingwood and John Barbirolli. This is the first of three sets that will include all of these important recordings. Das Rheingold was not the focus of these early sessions; only about 22 minutes were recorded, but we do have the opening and closing. Die Walküre is much more complete; all of the important parts are there.The second issuein this Pristine series will feature scenes from Siegfried, the third, scenes from Götterdämmerung, as well as alternate recordings. The CD booklet only contains comments by Mark-Obert Thorn, and there is a complete track listing on the CD jacket. However, complete information, track by track, is available on Pristine's website. This is a magnificent issue. Those who love music of Wagner surely will wish to investigate this first-class issue of important performances by legendary singers of the past.

Again we are indebted to Pristine for f historic performances by conductor Jascha Horenstein. Now we have his April 1957 recording of Le sacre du printemps with the SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden, coupled with Symphony of Psalms taped June 30, 1953 at Théatre des Champs Elysées with the French National Chorus and Orchestra. The Rite was issued on Vox in mono and appeared later in stereo on the Classic Records label incorrectly identified. Andrew Rose and his XR process have worked miracles to restore and enhance sound of this quite exciting performance. Horenstein coaxes superb playing from the German orchestra; it is unfortunate he didn't have one of the great orchestras to work with. This is an intriguing addition to Horenstein's recorded legacy.

This Elektra from the Vienna State Opera December 16, 1965 is magnificent in every way. All of the singers are at the oeak of their artistry, and Karl Böhm's leadership inspires all. This performance was issued years ago on the Standing Room Only label, long discontinued. Now here it is, a necessary addition to any Strauss collection. Two years later Decca made their famous recording with Solti, Nilsson and Resnik, highly praised, always in the catalog. Unfortunately, Marie Collier was Chrysothemis, adequate but little more. The recording was one of Decca's sound spectaculars in every way, an exciting listening experience. Check out this site's comprehensive feature on all recordings of ELEKTRA. And don't miss this major reissue of one of the truly great performances of the opera.

Recently Pristine Audio issued the first volume in their series Charles Munch: Boston Rarities which contained Schumann's Symphony No. 1 and Symphony N. 4 of Brahms. Now we have the second issue, and again we have performances from early in the conductor's RCA recording career. Russan born American composer Alexei Haiff (1914-1994) was respected and won some prestigious prizes. His piano concerto won the New York Music Critics' Circle Award , and his Symphony No. 2 won the American International Music Fund Award. His works also include two other symphonies, three ballets, a violin concerto, many chamber works and for the piano his music includes a sonata composed in 1955 which he orchestrated and became his symphony No. 2, heard on this disk. The Munch recording was made Nov. 30, 1958. and issued on an RCA stereo LP, long out of the catalog. This performance is available on a private label coupled with a live performance of Symphony No. 3 (REVIEW). Today Haiff's music is virtually forgotten. ArkivMusic lists only one recording, a disk of piano music played by Leo Smit. The reason for this neglect is clear. Haiff's music sounds academic and limited in in inspiration. It is hard to understand why Munch bothered with it. However, the recording is of historic interest as one of the few examples of him performing American music. The Beethoven Menuet mono recording Dec. 20, 1949 originally was a filler for the composer's Symphony No. 7. The vivacious performance of the Schubert symphony was also recorded at this session. Three dates are given for Faun, Jan. 23 and 27 and Feb. 27, 1956, and it an example of early RCA stereo with much right and left. All of these are welcome additions to the Munch discography.

R.E.B. (August 2014)