TCHAIKOVSKY: The Storm, Op. 76. The Tempest, Op. 18. Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.
NBC Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
GUILD GHCD 2334 (M) TT: 73:41
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NIELSEN: Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 "Sinfonia espansiva." SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E flat, Op. 82.
Alexandra Browning, soprano; Colin Wheatley, baritone; BBC Northern Symphony Orch/Jascha Horenstein, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4249 (F) TT: 75:29
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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Symphony No. 6 in E minor. HADLEY: One Morning in Spring. BAX: Mediterranean. BERG: Lyric Suite.
New Philharmonia Orch. (Vaughan Williams); London Philharmonic Orch. (Hadley, Bax); BBC Symphony Orch. (Berg)/Sir Adrian Boult, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4256 (F) TT: 75:17
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REZNICEK: Donna Diana Overture. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 3 in D, Op. 29 "Polish." ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36.
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/Constantin Silvestri, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4258 (F) TT: 74:14
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These CDs of live performances by prominent conductors of the past contain some gems. The Stokowski performances are from broadcasts originating in NBC's Studio 8H: The Storm and Symphony No. 5 November 29, 1942, The Tempest, March 7, 1943. Stokowski made his first commercial recording of Symphony No. 5 in 1928 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, his last two in 1966 with the National Phillharmonic and in 1973 with a youth orchestra. His interpretation changed little over the years, a touch of reorchestration here and there, a sweeping Romantic approach—and a big cut in the final movement before the final triumphant statement of the main theme. The two other works are of major interest as they are Stokowski's only performances of either. In all of these performances the NBC Symphony is in top form, and much of the conductor's unique sound is conveyed in spite of the notoriously dry acoustics of Studio 8H.

Any live recording by Jascha Horenstein is of interest and collectors will welcome his performances of music by two composers very special to him. Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 was recorded in Manchester Town Hall October 30, 1970, Sibelius's Symphony No. 5 the following day in Sheffield City Hall, both with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra. Both are well-balanced mono recordings, but it is unfortunate Horenstein didn't have a better orchestra at his command. However, these powerful performances are still of interest to collectors. A plus is inclusion of a 6-minute talk by Robert Simpson about Horenstein. And it is good to hear the reliable Sir Adrian Boult in music in which he excelled: two works of Vaughan Williams from a centenary concert in Cheltenham Town Hall July 7, 1972, with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. We also have two other brief works by British composers, Bax's Mediterranean, and Patrick Hadley's One Morning in Spring, with the London Philharmonic from a concert in Barking Town Hall November 26, 1969. And, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, we have Berg's Lyric Suite. Boult was a staunch advocate of "modern" music and led the first performance in Britain of the composer's Wozzeck. Excellent stereo sound on this fascinating CD.

Of least interest is the CD devoted to Constantine Silvestre (1913-1969). This site mentioned a previous BBC Legends release of Tchaikovsky, Arnold and Enescu (REVIEW). This new issue features Silvestre conducting the Bournemouth Orchestra in the Reznicek overture from a concert from Bournemouth's Town Hall September 25, 1962, and the Tchaikovsky and Elgar in the city's Winter Gardens July 3, 1967. These are mono unresonant recordings, and orchestral playing does not show the Bournmouth Symphony at their best. Skip this one.

R.E.B. (June 2009)