Khachaturian / Beecham conducts Haydn / Beecham conducts Mozart / Gould: Dance Variations / Transfigured Night / Mengelberg / Jascha Heifetz

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale." Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92.
|Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Willem Mengelberg, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 280 TT: 78:57

MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64.
Jascha Heifetz, violin; NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
Jascha Heifetz, violin; Royal Philharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
Jascha Heifetz, violin; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 267 TT: 73:01

LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI CONDUCTS
SCHOENBERG: Transfigured Night, Op. 4 (Stokowski Symphony Orch)
BARTÓK: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (Gerson Yessin and Raymond Viola, pianos; Elayne Jones and Alfred Howard, percussion.
GOULD: Dance Variations (Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists; San Francisco Symphony Orch).
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 274 TT: 73:59

HAYDN: Symphony No. 93 in D. Symphony No. 94 in G "Surprise." Symphony No. 95 in C minor. Symphony No. 96 in D "Miracle." Symphony No. 97 in C. Symphony No. 98 in B flat. Symphony No. 99 in E flat. Symphony No. 100 in G "Military." Symphony No. 101 in D "Clock." Symphony No. 102 in B flat. Symphony No. 103 in E flat "Drum Roll." Symphony No.104 "London."
HAYDN: The Creation
Elsie Morison, soprano; Alexander Young, tenor; Michael Langdon, bass; Beecham Choral Society; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
MOZART: Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201. Symphony No. 31 in D, K. 297 "Paris." Symphony No. 34 in C, K. 338. Symphony No.35 in D, K. 385 "Haffner." Symphony No. 36 in C, K. 425 "Linz." Symphony No. 38 in D, K. 504 "Prague." Symphony No,. 39 in E flat, K. 543. Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550. Symphony No. 41 in C, K,. 551 "Jupiter." Divertimento No. 2 in D, K. 131. Divertimento No. 15 in B flat, K. 287. Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 215 (Gioconda de Vito, violin); Overtures to The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Entr/acte No. 2 from Thamos, King of Egypt. March in D, K. 249 "Haffner."
EMI 50999 9 09946-2 3 (10 disks) TT: 65:22 / 70:41 / 77:06 / 78:24 / 72:08 / 72:07 / 71:46 / 71:46 / 77:36 / 67:32
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KHACHATURIAN: Excerpts from Spartacus (London Symphony Orch/Aram Khachaturian). Piano Concerto (Mindru Katz, piano; London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Adrian Boult, cond.) Four Pieces from "Pictures of Childhood." Adagio from Gayaneh. (Christina Ortiz, piano). Excerpts from Gayaneh (London Symphony Orch/Aram Khachaturian, cond.). Violin Concerto (David Oistrakh, violin/Philharmonia Orch/Aram Khachaturian, cond). Masquerade Suite (Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orch/Alfred Newman, cond)
EMI CLASSICS 27890 (2 disks) TT: 78:43 & 72:33
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Pristine Audio again has fascinating new issues in super-quality transfers. They already have issued several Beethoven symphonies from the cycle given in 1940 with Willem Mengelberg and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra; now we have this coupling of symphonies 6 and 7. The latter is particularly important as it is the only recording of the great Dutch conductor's unique interpretation. Purists will cringe—rubato is given full reign, and it is to the orchestra's credit they are able to main precision. This Pastorale complements Mengelberg's January 1938 Telefunken recording. In both of these there are some minor solo mishaps; this is not the Concertgebouw Orchestra in its usual perfect form. Pristine Audio's transfers are a considerable improvement on the original Philips LP issues.

The Heifetz disk gives us the opportunity to hear all three of the master violinist's recordings of the Mendelssohn concerto. The earliest on RCA, is a 1944 broadcast with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony, the second an HMV recording from 1949 with Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic, and the third is RCA's 1959 stereo recording with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony. Heifetz remains the perfectionist, and all three recordings display his glorious tone and impeccable technique.

Here are three more rare Stokowski recordings. His first taping of Schoenberg's Transfigured Night was made September 3, 1952, a monophonic recording with a pickup orchestra in Manhattan; he would record it once again, in stereo, for Capitol in 1957. It does seem odd that Stokowski chose to conduct the Bartók Sonata; invariably there is no conductor (although Antal Dorati recorded the work with two pianists and percussionists of the LSO). This is very much an oddity in the Maestro's discography, as is Morton Gould's Dance Variations. Stokowski conducted many of Gould's works and made this recording in 1953. It is a raucous, lively four-movement piece that surely is played with vigo. but the recording is not helped by the rather overly-brilliant RCA engineering. Engineer Andrew Rose has attempted with moderate success to provide "ambient stereo." . This performance is available in Europe as a download from Naxos (they also have Stokowski's stunning stereo recording of Menotti's Sebastian Ballet which no longer is available in the U.S. as RCA unfortunately has deleted many of their Stokowski recordings).

EMI offers this superb budget-priced 10-CD set of Sir Thomas Beecham conducting Mozart and Haydn. Several years ago the label issued a 6-CD set of these Beecham stereo recordings of Haydn's "London" symphonies; now we have all of these plus his late '50's English version of The Creation (with perfect singers), and nine mono recordings of Mozart symphonies with the London Philharmonic. And we also have other works of Mozart (including Violin Concerto No. 3 with Gioconda de Vito) with the RPO. Program notes are minimal, but complete information is provided regarding provenance and recording dates. If you don't have these famous recordings, now is your chance to get them at less than budget price.

Another valuable EMI reissue is a 2-disk set of works of Aram Khachaturian many with the composer on the podium. The major work is the violin concerto played by David Oistrakh who collaborated with the composer in writing the work. One might consider this recording to be definitive. The well-balanced mono sound holds up well. Everything else is in stereo with excellent sonics. EMI has included the piano concerto recorded in 1956 for Everest with Romanian pianist Mindru Katz and Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic.This is a fine performance—but I'm still waiting for the best of all—Oscar Levant with Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic, which has yet to appear on silver disk. Khachaturian's own 1977 recordings of excerpts from Spartacus and Gayaneh are here, plus the 1959 Hollywood Bowl/Alfred Newman Capitol recording of Masquerade. Again we find limited program notes, but these are welcome budget reissues.

R.E.B. (March 2011)