BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel's
Merry Pranks, Op. 28. SAINT-SAËNS: Violin Concerto No. 3
in B minor, Op. 61. STRAVINSKY: Petrushka
STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30. An
Alpine Symphony, Op. 64. Don Juan, Op. 20.
WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
Three very special concerts took place in Berlin's Hochschule für Musik in October 1960. Distinguished conductor Pierre Monteux, 85 years young, made his second appearance with the mighty Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra he had conducted only once before, in April 1933. It seems odd that one of the most important conductors of the century (he conducted the premieres of The Rite of Spring, Petrushka, Daphnis and Chloe) only appeared twice with one of the world's greatest orchestras. The concert was a tremendous success in every way, the orchestra was in top form, Monteux at his most dynamic in music he grew up with. Michel Schwalbé, concertmaster of the BPO, was soloist in the Saint-Saëns concerto. Splendid music-making for sure, and the recorded mono sound conveys the performances with clarity and impact. As the playing time is a few minutes more than can be accommodated on a single disk, two are used, but at a special price. Those interested in historic performances surely will wish to investigate this.
\For many years I have treasured a DG 3-disk set of symphonic music of Richard Strauss conducted by Karl Böhm that contains all of the music on this new Urania mid-price two-disk issue, omitting the Festival Prelude, Till Eulenspiegel and Death and Transfiguration. All of these are magnificent performances by one of the great Strauss conductors of the era, and recorded sound throughout is excellent, stereo except for An Alpine Symphony, Don Juan and Heldenleben. This Urania issue is in "stereo," artificial of course, but not obtrusive. If you're interested in this repertory conducted by Böhm, get the DG issue which is still in the catalog—the 3 disks cost no more than the 2 in this reissue.
Sviatoslav Richter is one of the most recorded of all pianists making disks for many labels, particularly Melodiya. This new compilation contains a wide repertory including works for piano and orchestra by Franck, Chopin and Saint-Saëns. Most of the performances were recorded more than a half-century ago, but audio is decent enough. If you don't already own these recordings, here's an opportunity to get them at mid-price.
Saving the very best for last, don't miss this reissue of the historic performance of Tristan and Isolde recorded in Covent Garden May 18, 1936. What a cast! The leading Wagner singers of the time at their best: Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Herbert Janssen and Emmanuel List—and Fritz Reiner conducting. It is a thrilling performance in every way. It is a pleasure to hear this demanding music sung with such ease, authority and beauty. The mono sound is adequate, but it is unfortunate this isn't released on Pristine Audio. Surely their XR processing would have resulted in better sound and elimination of surface disturbances on original sources. This definitive performance previously was issued on Naxos—in superior sound—but this is only available in Europe. It was mentioned on this site in 2000 (REVIEW). This is a mid-price issue. Don't miss it!
R.E.B. (January 2013)