Classical CD Reissues  
October 2002 - Part 1 of 2

John Ogden, piano - LISZT: Piano Concertos in E-flat and A Major; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Grand Fantasie de bravura on “La Campanella”; Transcendental Etude No. 11 “Harmonies du Soir”

Constantin Silvestri conducts Bournemouth Symphony (E-flat)
Sir Colin Davis conducts BBC Symphony (A Major)

BBC Legends BBCL 4089-2 73:13 (Distrib. Koch):

I had the pleasure of hearing John Ogden (1937-1989) in Atlanta in the Ravel G Major Concerto, where he played brilliantly and then was gone like a wisp of musical vapor. He had recovered enough from attacks of dementia to tour; but his wife Brenda Lucas permitted no conversations. Ogden was as close to a Busoni as Britain ever produced. He composed as well as played, and his ability to clarify knotty scores from Alkan, Liszt, Busoni, Beethoven and Tippett often proved revelatory.

This collation of diverse concerts 1967-1970 shows Ogden at his best and worst, in repertory he loved, Liszt. While absolutely capable of extravagant virtuosity, as in the sloppy and even vulgar moments of the Grand Fantasie after Paganini’s “La Campanella,” Ogden could also project earnest, seeking poetry, as in the 1967 E-flat Concerto with the late Constantin Silvestri, where color and balance counteract the urge to empty figurations. The A Major Concerto is from 1971, and it, too, avoids a purely rhetorical stance and takes us through its musical labyrinths with care and affection. Of the three solo works, the most effective is the first, the Mephisto Waltz from 1969. This has flair and dash, great rhythmic stride, and plenty of risky roulades. The “Harmonies” receive their original version and figuration, but (as in “La Clochette”) any chance to balance sheer demonic bravura with a sense of form utterly collapses. Ogden cannot negotiate between a sense of improvisation and a clean attack. Sounds like bad Alfred Cortot. Nevertheless, for the first three offerings on this disc, you are mesmerized by a real Liszt devotee.

--Gary Lemco

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor

Rafael Kubelik conducts Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam
TAHRA TAH 419 64:58:

This live concert from June 21, 1951 captures Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) on the brink of his international career, which could be said to begin with his Chicago appointment in 1953. Mahler, too, had not yet become the calling card Kubelik would proffer with the Bavarian Radio-Symphony ten years later. In 1951, this Mahler 5th must have proved revelatory, since it has little of the sentiment Bruno Walter brought to the score in order to ‘sell it’ to novitiates. This performance has both vigor and vinegar - a dynamic sense of the existential angst permeates this symphony. The Concertegebouw is extremely responsive to Kubelik’s sudden shifts and stop-on-the-dime subito of which he is capable. The famed Adagietto does not dawdle; and coming after two virtually hallucinatory scherzo movements it seems to purge much virulence from the body. The rondo-finale is both Viennese and Brechtian at once, with mocking punctuations in the winds and horns.

I do not know who provided Kubelik with his image of Mahler, whether it might have been a residue from Mengelberg’s glory days with the Concertgebouw. But this is a virtuoso reading, extremely athletic and emotionally supercharged and in excellent sound. Definitely for the Mahler connoisseur.

--Gary Lemco

WALTON conducts WALTON - Belshazzar’s Feast; Viola Concerto; Façade: Suites 1 & 2

Frederick Riddle, viola/Dennis Noble, baritone/Huddlersfield Choral Society
William Walton conducts Liverpool Philharmonic (Belshazzar); London Symphony (Viola Concerto); London Philharmonic (Façade)

Pearl GEM 0171 76:25 (Distrib. Koch):

I happened to be a youngster in the audience when George Szell introduced Walton’s Partita for Orchestra; Walton was there, too, and stood up to receive acclaim. I don’t recall how much I liked the piece, but I continue to harbor a respect and admiration for Walton’s music. The Pearl issue gives us the composer’s leading his own scores, inscribed 1936-1943, when he was already quite an old hand at orchestral conducting. The most popular of his works, Façade (1922), has two orchestral suites without Sitwell’s poems in narration; but still, the concert hall/vaudeville hall parody comes through in light and languid colors. As an “entertainment” the piece still holds up, with its allusions to Rossini and Bach in caricature. Beecham’s London Philharmonic is especially bright and witty in these crisp renditions from 1936-1938.

Walton’s Viola Concerto (1929), with its soloist Frederick Riddle, comes to us in a 1937 recording with the London Symphony. The form of the piece owes much to Prokofiev’s D Major Violin Concerto, Op. 19, with its dreamy outer movements and its quicksilver middle movement. Riddle negotiates the tricky fingerings and syncopations of this audacious work with suave mastery; Riddle proved a favorite of Beecham’s for a frequent Harold in Italy of Berlioz. His ability to slide from arco figures to staccato harmonics is quite a feat. The sound in this inscription is a bit pinched but Riddle’s accurate and melancholy tone reaches us.

The 1943 recording of Belshazzar’s Feast is a classic of its kind with inspired singing from Dennis Noble and an articulate, precise chorus in the Huddersfield ensemble. It would be another half-generation, when Dimitri Mitropoulos led Giorgio Tozzi in 1957 New York, when such another vital reading would occur again. Walton seduces some exquisite playing from his forces, including the woodwinds’ accompaniment to Noble’s opening “If I forget thee, Oh Jersusalem.” Several critics point to this aria for Noble’s tragic evocation of “If I prefer not thee above my chief joy.” That this lavish choral work could come from war-torn England in 1943, with its shortages and its anxious uncertainty about Britain’s future, is a miracle all its own. “Praise ye the god of gold” stands as symptomatic of the age. Highly recommended.

--Gary Lemco

Moiseiwitsch plays BEETHOVEN - Andante Favori in F; Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”; Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37

Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano/Jascha Heifetz, violin
Sir Malcolm Sargent conducts Philharmonia Orchestra
APR 5610 73:50 (Distrib. Albany):

This is the second volume of APR’s restoration of the Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963) legacy of Beethoven recordings, this from 1949-50. The significant addition is the earlier version of the Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata, a better balanced rendition than the 1951 published inscription that Heifetz preferred because his part is more prominent. The 1949 recording is quite the sizzler, except that I find the approach to the second movement entirely too fast, so that the variants come off as etudes or studies in bowing. Acoustically, the placement of piano and violin captures Beethoven’s original conception of the equality between the parts. We are fortunate to have this particular item at all, since the originals were destroyed and the test lacquers were in the archives of the pianist.

The Beethoven C Minor Concerto had a brief life in the US as a Bluebird LP; it then appeared on CD through the auspices of the International Piano Library, which coupled it with the Schumann Fantasy. Moiseiwitsch and Sargent are kindred spirits (as well as piano teacher and pupil), and the account is entirely happy, fleet and dramatically poised. The most unusual feature is the first movement cadenza by Carl Reinecke, which applies the opening motif’s rhythmic configuration for its own impetus. The Andante Favori, the slow movement discarded from the Op. 53 Waldstein Sonata, remained a Moiseiwitsch trademark. His affection for this plaintive piece is evident in every rendition he made (there are three), and it points to the sensitive control he had of dynamics and harmonic phrasing.

--Gary Lemco

FAURE: Shylock Suite, Op. 57; Pelleas et Melisande, Op. 80; Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11; Requiem, Op. 48

Henri Legay, tenor (Shylock)
Francoise Ogeas, soprano (Requiem)
Bernard Demigny, baritone (Requiem)
French National Radio Orchestra and Chorus
Desire-Emile Inghelbrecht, conducting

Testament SBT 1266 71:36 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi):

D.E. Inghelbrecht (1880-1965) has gained in reputation since his death; some of this posthumous appreciation owes itself to the Japanese classical-music market, which instituted a series of CD’s reviving Inghelbrecht’s way with Debussy, Ravel, Bizet, and Faure. The 1934 formation of the Orchestre National, playing its first nine years under Inghelbrecht, proved fortuitous for him and his art. His is a linear, direct approach to the score, literalist, but with studied enthusiasm. His recording career is relatively undocumented: like Roger Desormiere, Inghelbrecht did not make those political concessions that record producers insist upon for a long and healthy contract.

The Faure inscribed on this disc derives from 1954-55 sessions; at the time, any performance of more than the Nocturne from Shylock (as with Thomas Schippers on CBS) was a rarity. Listening to the suite from Pelleas, I am reminded how well Inghelbrecht knew the Debussy opera; his execution is haunted and deliberate, somewhere between Munch and Ansermet. The big work is obviously the Requiem: here, connoisseurs will want to compare his version with the two by Andre Cluytens and the one by Fournet. Francoise Ogeas’ soprano solo in the Piu Jesu is close to the color and dynamic of a boy soprano, so totally ingenuous is her plaint. The orchestral tissue under the chorus for the Agnus Dei is ravishing, liquid and muscular, like Fournet, but with its own character. Anyone seeking a basic—even more than basic—Faure collection might well begin with these classic interpretations.

--Gary Lemco

FAURE: 13 Nocturnes

Germaine Thyssens-Valentin, piano
Testament SBT 1262 79:50 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):

Germaine Thyssens-Valentin (1902-1987) is a pianist hitherto reserved for a few cognoscentgi and collectors, having made a few inscriptions of Faure’s music for the Ducretet-Thomson label in France. A pupil of Isidore Philipp, Jeanne-Marie Darre and Marguerite Long, Thyssens-Valentin brings a rich, sinuous tone to Faure’s often ephemeral, idiosyncratic, modal harmonies. The thirteen nocturnes (1875-1921) make a spectacular vehicle for her gossamer range of color, which can suggest a harpsichord’s transparency, to the thick, romantic textures more reminiscent (as in the A-flat, Op. 33, No. 3) of Brahms. The pearly play she achieves in the B Major and the two B Minor studies makes one think she is the French Moiseiwitsch. A subdued iridescence permeates her readings: witness the E-flat, Op. 36 and the harmonically experimental E Minor, Op. 107. Faure took his forms from Chopin; but like that worthy sage, he expanded the dimensions of the genres he explored, refusing to submit to convention, especially his own. Thyssen-Valentin preserves and enlivens the dignity and mystery in Faure’s oeuvre, the often liquid, mordant undercurrents of this highly personal style. I put Testament’s reissue of her wondrous Faure documents among my Best of the Year picks.

--Gary Lemco

Ernest Ansermet conducts - STRAVINSKY: Chant du Rossignol/RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade, Op. 35/DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun/BARTOK: Concerto for Orchestra/RACHMANINOV: The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29/RAVEL: La Valse/CHABRIER: Fete Polonaise

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Paris Conservatory Orchestra (Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Ravel)

IMG Great Conductors of the 20th Century 7243 5 75094 2
72:45; 78:25 (Distrib. EMI):


Among the most catholic of conductors was Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969), who combined a penchant for mathematics with an equal commitment to the music of Stravinsky and virtually every other musician of the Franco-Russian school. Besides having built the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ansermet had a marvelous ear: I recall hearing a London Decca LP of Ansermet’s rehearsals for Stravinsky’s complete score of The Firebird: in the glissando string runs one could hear a palpable change of dynamic or inflection following each interruption and adjustment. Even Ansermet’s last album featured an explosive Scherzo for Orchestra by Eduard Lalo, a hitherto unknown work Ansermet seemed to unleash upon our world. While his detractors claimed that Ansermet used the orchestra and Decca to further his own ego, music lovers benefited from the wide range of his tastes, from Handel to Honegger, from Bach to Chabrier, from Debussy to Tchaikovsky ballets.

The IMG set devoted to Great Conductors gives us Ansermet’s inscriptions and live concerts 1954-1964 and includes his second recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s mighty symphonic suite Scheherazade. The violin solo is uncredited and so is the oboe; the triangle part has to be the most prominent I have heard. Watch out for the first trumpet when Sinbad’s ship hits the rocks! The whole performance blazes with sultry exoticism. No less compelling is Ansermet’s Totensinsel of Rachmaninov, a September 1954 performance whose sensuous wash and eerie color makes it kin to Debussy’s three Nocturnes for orchestra. Even Chabrier’s ungainly Fete Polonaise, with its heavy tread, gains a certain charm in Ansermet’s translation. Ansermet’s treatment of the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra reminded me, curiously, of a Solti rendition I heard live. But the ultimate for stylistic rapprochement are the French works, where Ravel shimmers, Debussy evokes, and Stravinsky's musical roughage, his startling colors, in sonic splendor, of the Chinese legend of the Emperor’s Nightingale, simply enthrall. Had I compiled the set, I would have included Ansermet’s collaboration with Jeanne Demessieux in Handel organ concertos. But who’s complaining?

--Gary Lemco

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115

Adolf Busch, violin/Reginald Kell, clarinet/Busch String Quartet
William Steinberg conducts New York Philharmonic

Music & Arts CD-1107 66:06 (Distrib. Albany):

Adolf Busch (1891-1952) still remains a stellar figure in music: one of founders of the Marlboro Music Festival; virtuoso and pedagogue; composer and conductor. As soloist in this 1943 performance of the Brahms—a work Busch had learned via pupils of the concerto’s dedicatee Joachim—Busch brings a less-than-Romantic ethos to the platform. His is a hard-driven, unsentimental approach, much in line with the kind of breathless, Toscanini-modeled performance Steinberg often had to accommodate with Nathan Milstein. Besides sporting some quicksilver gypsy-style playing, Busch performs his own spicy cadenza for the first movement. The overall effect is a bit austere but technically on a stellar level. The Clarinet Quintet comes from a live concert given December 19, 1948, some twelve years after the famous commercial recording for EMI. Reginald Kell always had a ravishing, albeit highly emotional tone (read: vibrato). But the rapport between him and the string quartet is palpable; the playing is quick but stylish, improvisatory yet superbly balanced. This disc makes a welcome addition to the sparse Busch discography, an important legacy for acquired tastes.

--Gary Lemco

David Nadien: Volume Two: Romantic and Virtuosic Music from the Golden Age of the Violin

David Nadien, violin
Rudoloph von Eltz conducts Hungarian State Opera Orchestra/
Boris Barere, piano/David Hancock, piano/Samuel Sanders, piano

Cembal d’amour CD 117 70:25 (Distrib. Qualiton):


Taken from various appearances 1961-1973, this second tribute to David Nadien (b. 1927) from Mordecai Shehori’s Cembal d’amour label captures this suave artist in excellent sound and in top form, plying the Romantics with silken serenity. The first four bands are devoted to Sarasate’s ubiquitous Zigeunerweisen and Bruch’s G Minor Concerto, rendered with the long line, the pyrotechnical display, and the burnished tone we associate with Heifetz. The Wieniawski Scherzo-Tarentelle with the formidable Boris Barere comes off with a fiery aplomb to make owners of the Szeryng performance looking for new superlatives. The rest of the program could belong to any classic recital by Mischa Elman: Kreisler’s Reccitative and Scherzo, Op. 6 and Schoen Rosmarin; Tartini’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli; Veracini’s Largo; Dvorak’s Humoreque; Ravel’s Habanera; the Beethoven Menuet in G; Schubert’s Staendchen; the A-flat Brahms Waltz; a Paganini caprice arranged by Kreisler; and Schumann’s Traumerei. Nadien’s razor-sharp intonation and edgy vibrato works wonders in Kreisler; the sparks crackle with Viennese sentiment. The Veracini “Largo” gives us a slightly different sound, more pinched but lovingly meticulous, so you might think Morini is playing this intimate, salon piece. Connoisseurs will play this CD wishing it were twice as long.

--Gary Lemco

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