Classical CD Reissues  
May 2002 - Part 1 of 2

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18/BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"

Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano
Sir Malcolm Sargent conducts BBC Symphony Orchestra

BBC Legends BBCL-4074 68:15 (Distrib. Koch):

Culled from two concerts, we hear Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963) in two works dear to his heart, having recorded each at least twice. The Rachmaninov dates from 6 August 1956, the Beethoven 6 March 1963, near the very end of the great pianist's life. All of his assets are still intact, along with the years of accumulated experience: the loving tone (courtesy of studies with Leschetizky) and the wily rhythmic flexibility, the playfulness that borders on irreverence, the natural Slavic lilt. Few can truly provide the "sostenuto" to the unfolding of Rachmaninov's second movement to the Concerto as Moiseiwitsch can. He may not have (nor covet) the sheer percussive power Byron Janis or John Browning can deliver, but for sheer poetry of motion, Moiseiwitsch is peerless. The Rondo of the Beethoven is deceptively active, the dancing rhythms seem to emerge out of the most delicate fibers. Except for a missed beat by the horn, Sargent's forces stick with Moiseiwitsch like a velvet glove. He was Rachmaninov's favorite pianist, so it's about time you heard why.

--Gary Lemco

MOUSSORSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)/TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique"

Carlo Maria Giulini conducts Philharmona Orchestra

BBC Legends BBCL Stereo 4023-2 75:51 (Distrib. Koch):

Taped 7 September 1961, this disc captures a fiery Carlo Maria Giulini (b. 1914) in music he knows well. Giulini arranged his own treatment of Moussorgsky as a student in Rome, unaware of the Ravel orchestration, which Giulini calls "genius." A former viola player, Giulini excels in stressing the inner lines of any score he touches; his contemplative readings have often elicited critical analogies to Furtwaengler, especially in the art of musical transition in works like the Tchaikovsky Pathetique. With the Philharmomia Orchestra of London, Giulini has a host of personnel that provide lustrous colors for his tour of Viktor Hartmann's piantings a la Moussorgsky. Rarely has anyone lingered at the Tuileries so languidly, especially as the marking is for "capriccioso." The raw energy of the Bydlo section is pure Toscanini, with the same emphatic drama in the top line, Alan Civil, horn. The remainder of the suite is just as virtuosic, the breathless Schmuyle, the sparkling colors of Limoges, the eerie journey to the catacombs, the heroic grandeur of the Kiev's Gate. This Edinburgh reading of Pathetique contrasts with Giulini's 1959 studio recording as eminently unbuttoned, freer expression, often with a savage edge. A real find is Giulini's treatment of the underlying, mordant harmonies that saturate the militant Scherzo, suggestions of pain and loss confirmed by the lachrymosa of the Finale. A quite wild audience celebrates the pleasure of these musical affiliations.

Great record!

--Gary Lemco

BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14/SATIE: Parade-Ballet realiste

Igor Markevitch conducts Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (Berlioz) and Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (Satie)

Urania URN 22.202 62:55 (Distrib. Qualiton):

Igor Markevitch (1912-1983), composer and conducting student of Hermann Schrechen, combines the Franco-Russian school of music, always in an explosive manner. His capacity to make Prokofiev and Stravinsky revelatory was matched by his same concentration in Haydn and Mozart, especially as accompanied by Clara Haskil. The present "live" inscriptions date from 1952, when Markevitch was engaged by Decca and DGG to record a number of works with the Lamoureux Orchestra. The Berlioz, long familiar to Markevitch, is colossal and fluid at once. The extended Scene aux Champs is quite haunting; the Witches'Sabbath is a real nightmare worthy of Thomas de Quincey. The lithe playing in the Ball scene makes us hear adumbrations of The Damnation of Faust. Satie's Parade (1917) is a result of his work with Jean Cocteau, a kind of parody of WW I seriousness. Since the music is a melange of balletic, cabaret, and percussive gestures, it has little by way of "tradition" in its playing, so anythng goes, and this performance goes well. All in very good sound for the period.

--Gary Lemco


LOTTE LEHMANN: Lieder--Romophone 81032 (2 CDs):

I heard Lotte Lehmann live in recital always with great pleasure, I've listened to many of her recordings with much satisfaction, and this release is a valuable addition to the list. Its contents were recorded in 1941, and by then her voice had lost its bloom; an edge of shrillness has crept in, there is some inaccuracy on high notes, and there are the usual problems with breath control. But none of that matters when you listen to the warmth and understanding of her interpretations, the way she weights and colors the words and maintains the line of the song as a whole, all to maximum effectiveness. The first of these discs contains mostly Schubert, including a tender, womanly performance of Die Schöne Müllerin; the second contains lieder by Brahm and Wolf, a robust version of Wagner's Wesendoncklieder, and--surprise!--six songs about the glories of old Vienna, sung with irresistible gaiety. Lehmann was very great singer, and it's good to have these discs to include in our memories of her artistry

--Alex Morin

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL: Great Voices in Patriotic Song--Romophone 87002:

This release is a little off the usual track for Romophone, the British firm specializing in the complete recordings of great singers of the first half of the last century. The great singers are here, as expected, but in this case they are all devoted to a single theme: American patriotic songs. Most of them date to World War I, which--at least judging by these 23 selections--seems to have been more fertile in this respect than World War II, and the disc is a reasonably successful attempt to capitalize on the patriotic fervor that has swept this country since the events of 9/11. The contents range from a rather demure "Star-Spangled Banner" sung by Emma Eames in 1905 to robust versions of "America, the Beautiful" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" recorded by Leonard Warren in 1950. Along the way we get Caruso (a typically virile "Over There" from 1914), Louise Homer, Ponselle, McCormack (three sentimental ballads infused with a nobility they don't deserve), Schumann-Heink, Melchior (a wonderfully open-throated version of Earl Robinson's "The House I Live In"), and lots more. Thanks to the invaluable Mark Obert-Thorn, the fresh transfers are good and the sound is fine throughout. It's great fun to hear these fine artists bring their operatic diction and vocal authority to bear on this entertaining material.

--Alex Morin

RICHARD STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel, Op. 28; Concerto No. 1 in E-flat for Horn and Orchestra, Op. 11; Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

Jack Meredith, horn/Ferdidand Leitner conducts Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Orfeo C 555 011B 67:38 (Distrib. Qualiton):

The reliable Ferdinand Leitner (1912-1996) leads his favorite Richard Strauss in a program culled from two concerts, the Till and the Horn Concerto from April 13, 1972, and the Nietzsche-inspired Zarathustra from November 19, 1976. Leitner's recorded fame rests on a series of Strauss operas he mounted in Munich, as well as his collaborations with pianist Wilhelm Kempff. He treats Till as a breezy, picaresque rondo for orchestra, attentive to string (especially bass) colors and woodwind alchemy. Horn and D clarinet shine throughout. The exuberant, buoyant energy emanates an earthy sensuality we associate with Ferenc Fricsay. The optimistic 'militarism' of the E-flat Horn Concerto shines forth in rounded, bell-like tones. Meredith has a polished sonority; it sounds more German in approach than the French modality of Dennis Brain. We hear muscular allusions to Schumann's Op. 86 Konzertstuck for 4 Horns with bravura triplet runs dazzlingly effective. The Zarathustra is an extremely broad interpretation, nothing streamlined about it, a la Mitropoulos or Reiner. It might have something of Clemens Krauss with a more expansive palette. We can hear the tonal (C Major/B Major/B Minor) clashes distinctly.The "Convalescent" section has an eerieness all its own, its cascades leading to an evanscent, liberating "Dance-Song," whose violin solo (somewhat under-miked) goes uncredited. The tone-poem ends on notes of 'heroic ambguity' after some sweeping statements by a rapt ensemble.

--Gary Lemco

DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70; Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88; Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World"; Rehearsal of Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104-First Movement

Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Vaclav Talich conducts Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Tahra TAH 403/404 72:58; 62:13:

Vaclav Talich (1883-1961) remains the pre-eminent exponent of the modern style of Czech conducting, the master of a Bohemian tradition (Dvorak, Smetana, Suk, Novak) over which he demonstrated astonishing sympathy, as well as commanding respect in the German tradition of Mozart and in the Russian/Slovak repertory to which he came naturally. The inscriptions included here range 1935-1952, and they embrace the HMV symphonies 7 and 8 that had made their way to LP via the budget Camden series under a phony name (the "Carlyle" Symphony). The 1952 rehearsal sequence with a young Rostropovich was on LP also, in a Supraphon two-record set of orchestral excerpts led by Talich, along with some excellent editorials and selected writings by the conductor. What is entirely new (and therefore definitely collectible) is this New World from Prague 1949, a dark, intensely personal and expansive version that may remind connoisseurs of the tragically lyrical Fricsay account with the Berlin Philharmonic.

The Dvorak 7 and 8 had a brief restoration on the Koch label, but these Tahra reissues are sonically vivid, with excellent reverberation in the interior voices: witness the horn, string and flute interplay in the D Minor's "Poco Adagio." That same flute is no less dazzling in the finale of the G Major. If the 1938 Seventh and 1938 Eighth had more stereophonic presence, they would usurp the Szell renditions in Cleveland a generation later. Still, they generate terrific energy: the bass transition from the Trio back to the metrically tricky Scherzo in the D Minor is worth a lesson in conducting technique. My predilection for the G Major Symphony goes back to an old Mercury LP with Dorati and the Minneapolis; then, I discovered Szell, Walter, Kubelik and Talich (and even later, Stupka). Talich balances its easy grace with a gathering, convincing momentum. The Adagio of this symphony becomes under Talich a tone-poem unto itself, traversing any number of moods and passions. Few have made the Allegretto so ghostly and haunted as Talich; it might admonish the very British who recorded it not to divide up Czechoslovakia in order to appease the fascists, past and present.

The liner notes to the set indicate some delicious, unissued Talich that Tahra would do well to resuscitate: Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances" and Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro on the deleted Opus label; I can recommend the Benda B-flat Symphony; Tchaikovsky's Fourth Suite ("Mozartiana"), his Piano Concerto (with Wolf), and the F Minor Symphony. One caveat: the labelling on the 2 CD's is reversed on my copy. Recommended with prejudice, nevertheless.

--Gary Lemco


Legendary Wagner Singers of the 1930s - Bockelmann, Klose, Prohaska, Lorenz, Stoerring, Konetzni, Janssen, Reining, Roswaenge, Voelker, Bindernagel, Reinmar, Manowarda

Conductors: Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Franz Alfred Schmidt, Selmar Meyrowitz, Hans Tietjen, Leo Borchard, Wilhelm Franz Reuss

Teldec 2CD 8573-83022-2 TT: 127:12 (Distrib. WEA):

These two discs celebrate the "golden" Wagner ensembles built after Carl Kittel took over the music staff at Bayreuth in 1924. Many of the names are famous for their participation under Furtwaengler in the 1936 Bayreuth Festival Lohengrin. Happily, the groupings avoid the usual clutter of repeats devoted to Flagstad, Leider, and Melchoir; and instead, we hear the glories of slightly lesser lights like baritone Herbert Janssen (1892-1965) in 1929, emanating a velvet sheen in Tannhauser. Maria Reining(1903-1991), who was to make a sensation in the Kleiber versions of Der Rosenkavalier, turns in a lustrous "Einsam in trueben Tagen" and a deftly secure "Euch Lueften, die mein Klagen" from Lohengrin from 1939. Tenor Franz Voelker ((1899-1965) has a soft, lyrical middle voice, blended with interior strength, reminiscent of Peter Anders. He offers some lovely singing in duets with Maria Mueller (1889-1958) from both Lohengrin and the fateful Act I, Scene 3 from Die Walkuere. His "In fernem land" under Tietjen, Bayreuth 1936, possesses a luxuriant cantilena, beautifully paced, pointed to the revelation of his character's mysterious origins.

The tragically fated soprano Gertrud Bindernagel (1894-1932) who died by her jealous husband's hand, turns in a fiery Isolde's Love-Death under Meyrowwitz and the Berlin Philharmonic from 1932. Disc One ends with excerpts from Meistersinger, with the sturdy Rudolf Bockelmann (1892-1958), a truly formidable baritone who was equally persuasive in Rheingold and in Verdi. The only tenor excerpt is awarded to Helge Roswaenge (1897-1972), often credited as the best actor-singer in Germany. Baritone Hans Reinmar (1895-1961) shares Meistersinger honors with Bockelmann; his is a dark-hued voice that makes Hans Sachs eminently sympathetic if not overtly heroic. His 1933 "Wotan's Farewell" under Leo Borchard (accidently shot by a GI after WW II) is poetic, if not herculean in the manner of Uhde, London and Hotter.

Disc 2 is devoted to Ring excerpts, and it features competing Siegfrieds in the some of the same scenes, sung by Willi Stoerring (1896-1979) and the more famous Max Lorenz (1901-1975), although Stoerring's is the sweeter voice, less grating in the top while shaping his sword into dragon-slaying condition. Lorenz does commune clearly with Nature in the Siegfried 'forest-murmurs' of Act II, under Tietjen, 1936. Known as much for her work in Richard Strauss as for Wagner, Anni Konetzni (1902-1966) appears as Brunnhilde in a 1933 rendition of the Immolation Scene under Franz Alfred Schmidt. The Leo Borchard cut, Wotan's Farewell, gives us some idea of his sympathy for Wagner and for dynamic adjustment; had Borchard lived, he was to have served as interim director of the Berlin Philharmonic while Furtwaengler awaited clearance from the Allied tribunals after the War. As a testament to the wide range of talent that comprised Bayreuth in the 1930's, this is an invaluable addition to the Wagner legacy.

--Gary Lemco

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