Classical CD Reissues, Part 2
for February 2002
Emil Gilels: Florence May Festival 11 June 1951: MOZART: Sonata in C Minor, K. 475/BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata"/PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 14/RACHMANINOV: Moment Musical No. 5 in D-flat, Op. 16/BALAKIREV: Islamey Fantasy
Emil Gilels, piano
Music & Arts CD-1102 68:15 (Distrib. Koch):
Emil Gilels (1916-1985) remains a great exponent of the Soviet music tradition, a pupil of Tkatch and Ringold who came to the attention of Artur Rubinstein in 1932. Even his recording of the Ninth Hungarian Rhapsody of Liszt at age 20 was the work of a master, and his later development fulfilled hisearly promise. When he finally made his American debut in 1955, he was a finished artist of great tonal and dynamic variety, capable of great insight in Beethoven, Brahms, French music, Schubert, Bach (especially in transcriptions), and the Russians. This recital offers his first appearance in the West: politics kept him in the Soviet Union except for competition tours prior to WW II.
Gilels' Mozart C Minor Sonata is a romantic's notion of this piece, decisive, volatile, somewhat over-pedaled. The second movement Adagio is exalted, the Molto Allegro finale aggressively propelled, with non-legato effects and spitfire accents reminiscent of Michelangeli. The playing in the "Appassionata" is a mite precious; in a drop-the-needle quiz I'd say this was by Arrau. The first movement gains a terrific momentum as well as a swelling, broad melodic line. The theme-and-variations manages literacy (and some diaphanous colors) without becoming merely prosaic. The finale dazzles the audience with a passionate kaleidocope of motion. The Prokofiev is pungent, ironically lyrical, playful and acerbic at once. The blistering Scherzo manages a kind a hint of warmth, and the Andante a Byronic melancholy. The Vivace is a fierce toccata, with sarcastic then lyric episodes that Gilels dashes off in a gulp. Rachmaninov's musical 'moment' is a re-set Chopin nocturne (Op. 27, No. 2). And having just audited Simon Barere's Islamey, I could well appreciate Gilels' milder, but no less quicksilver approach, a fireball wirh which to conclude a memorable recital. N.B.: DOREMI offers this same recital in equally fine sound on DHR-7795, and it includes two more pieces by Albeniz from 1950's Moscow.
Eugen Jochum in Concert: BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67/MOZART: Symphony No. 33 in B-flat, K. 319/BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Eugen Jochum conducts Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Hamburg State Theater Orchestra (Bruckner)
Music&Arts CD-1100 55:37; 5615 (Distrib. Koch):
This set is a natural complement to Music&Arts CD-1086, the 1938 Telefunken recording of the Bruckner Fifth. It is also, in collaboration with CD-1099, devoted to conductor Hermann Abendroth, a competitor with TAHRA's TAH 382/385 "Historic Unissued Recordings of the German Radio (RRG)," which offers both the Jochum Bruckner 3rd and the Abendroth Beethoven 8th. It seems there is a quiet war over the issuance of German wartime inscriptions, perhaps the only positive outcome of Goebbels' propaganda ministry, which insisted that RRG record the leading artists and ensembles of the period. The art of Eugen Jochum (1902-1987) fared well under this policy; his development as Fritz Busch's successor in Dresden and later Hamburg, succeeding Boehm, allowed this staunch Catholic to avoid the calamities of conscience demanded by the Nazi Party. The three inscriptions here date 1944-48, so Jochum was a part of the cultural community during the War and a large part of post-War reconstruction.
The Beethoven Fifth from 12 January 1945 is only months away from War's end. The sound is excellent for the period. The performance is grand, squeezing the last note of the opening motif in a way to make Wagner proud. Jochum's proportions are similar to those of Kleiber's famed Concertgebouw rendition, with a steady pulse and a deliberate spacing in transitions. Jochum makes editorial adjustments in color (bassoons and horns) in the opening movement recapitulation. There are some fierce accelerandi in the last movement, with frequent changes to the tempo to foster harmonic and dynamic effects.
Occasionally ragged, the Berliners still manage an explosive reading. The Mozart derives from East German Radio from February 1, 1948, formerly issued on Urania LP. The reduced orchestra plays smartly and briskly. Jochum has an athletic affection for this score, and one can discern his tread in several downbeats. Bassoons are prominent in the second subject, along with some delicate string portamento. Some of the cross-rhythms stand out as pre-Schubertian impulses.
The Bruckner D Minor is the composer's paean to Wagner; Jochum in 1944 uses the 1890 original edition from Raettig. Purists will point to Jochum's flexible, often violent, changes in the basic tempo, with frequent adjustments. His reading of the symphony is totally affectionate, leaning to the folkish and even Schubetian melos in the score, minimizing the Wagnerian bombast. An exception is the Scherzo, demonized and played as a clear, frenetically quick kin to those same movements in the 8th and 9th. But even here the laendler element (shades of the 7th) is obvious, two warring souls in the same breast. No less tempestuous is the Finale, opening as a raging torrent and only fitfully settling for more placid, dance-like waters. This version makes many later interpretations by other Brucknerians torpid and sluggish by comparison.
SCHUMANN: Fantasie in C, Op. 17/BEETHOVEN: 6 Bagatelles, Op. 126/BRAHMS: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5
Wilhelm Kempff, piano
Orfeo C 570 011B 79:55 (Distrib. Qualiton):
Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991) remains one of the great exponents of the German Romantic tradition, a thoughtful, intellectual pianist whose brethren include Backhaus, Erdmann, and Fischer. This Salzburg Festival concert is dated July 31, 1958, and it marks Kempff's only appearance at the Salzburg Festival. The Brahms Sonata, too, is a rarity in his discography-oddly, the only Brahms Kempff favored from this period was the Op. 4 Scherzo--and so the disc is even more welcome. The 63-year-old Kempff is well within his medium: the Schumann Fantasie, originally intended as an 'homage' to Beethoven, has all the "improvisatory" nature Kempff sought to achieve, that appearance of probing, while underneath there remains the severest kind of rhythmical regularity. The sonic image Kempff projects in no less remarkable, from lithe delicacy, to a deeply textured 'orchestral' polyphony, as in the second movement. The finale is wrought with metaphysical feeling, those allusions to Schlegel that haunt Schumann's text, an idyll rife with transparent mysteries.
Standing between the twin peaks of Romantic Agony, the Schumann and the Brahms, are the wistful, occasionally demonic Bagatelles, Op. 126 of Beethoven, hardly a concert staple. The F Minor Brahms has the convergence of innigkeit and volatile bravura that makes the piece particularly daunting to less perspicacious souls. Kempff often seems to 'commune' rather than to 'play' the piano, and the aura of authenticity is palpable in this recording. The willful arpeggios and huge stretches in the tempestuous Scherzo pose no obstacles to Kempff; and the finale looks back on the whole with a huge sigh. Quite a remarkable document, this.
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 38 "Spring"/R. STRAUSS: Sinfonia Domestica, Op. 53
Dimitri Mitropoulos conducts Vienna Philharmonic
Orfeo C 565 011B 75:24 (Distrib. Qualiton):
Would that the compact disc held more music so we could enjoy this entire concert from Vienna, 28 August 1957: besides the two symphonic work herein, Robert Casadesus and Mitropoulos collaborated in the Ravel Left-Hand Concerto. Mitropoulos (1896-1960) began his active association with the VPO in 1954, and he continued to present opera and symphonic works up until his untimely death in Milan, 1960. His volcanic temperament and his rather 'revisionist' tendencies towards the classics made for uniquely charismatic music-making, and the Vienna critics were both astonished and awed by his unbridled energy. Mitropoulos championed the music of Schumann, but typically in his own way: he never seems to have programmed the D Minor Symphony, but preferred Overture, Scherzo and Finale. He recorded the middle two symphonies, and there are VPO and NY Philharmonic transfers of the "Spring" from broadcasts. His model of the C Major Symphony impressed Leonard Bernstein enough for him to confess in our 1977 meeting that it was Mitropoulos "who imaged that piece for me; obviously, I added my own insights, but the tenor and the motion was his."
Richard Strauss was no stranger to the Mitropoulos repertory, either. He programmed many of the tone-poems, including a performance of Death and Transfiguration in memoriam Guido Cantelli. He and Serkin played the Burleske; there are renditions of Also Sprach Zarathustra, Don Juan, Don Quixote, and the Alpine Symphony. Mitropoulos' way with Elektra is legendary; he also programmed a suite from Die Frau Ohne Schatten. This performance of the Domestic Symphony tries to transcend its familial character and achieve a semblance of heroism. Some beautiful phrasing and harmonically rich texturing informs the Schumann, where several times in its Larghetto, we have glimpses of the polyphony of the "Rhenish" Symphony. Impulsive, iconoclastic and always fascinating, the Mitropoulos legacy wins favor where and whenever it resurfaces. An important addition to the mythos.
Music of France: RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales; Forlane from Le Tombeau de Couperin; La vallee des cloches/POULENC: Mouvements perpetuels; 2 Intermezzos/FAURE: Nocturne No. 3/CHABRIER: Scherzo-Valse/Debussy: La Soiree dans Grenade; Jardins sous la pluie; Hommage a Rameau; Reflets dans l'eau; La Plus que Lente; Poissons d'or
Artur Rubinstein, piano (The Rubinstein Collection 43)
RCA 09026 63043-2 72:53:
This disc has had prior life on RCA CD, but its inclusion in the 81-disc "Rubinstein Collection" is still most welcome. Here we enjoy Rubinstein's cosmopolitanism, the crisp, often 'unsentimental' stance (even in 'sentimental' waltzes) he could assume towards what was the contemporary, Parisian avante-garde. Except for the Debussy group, recorded 1945, the entire program comes from two sessions, in January and April, 1963. Given Rubinstein's ingratiating piano tone, his penchant for sonorous patina, it is curious he did not record more in the Gallic fare than he did, his Franck notwithstanding.
Other than the Saint-Saens G Minor Concerto, there is no other major French concerto in his repertory. Despite his interest in and friendship with Ravel, Rubinstein did not champion either of the concertos. The A-flat Nocturne of Faure and the Intermezzo in the same key by Poulenc show off Rubinstein's breezy, easy flair for coloristic melos, his urbane sense of French rhythm. This fleet facility is joyful to hear in Chabrier. The Ravel is tres sec, 'dry,' sparing in breadth and pedal. Even the Valley of Bells is comparatively chaste, closer to Marguerite Long than to Sviatoslav Richter. The 1945 Debussy inscriptions retain their sonic presence despite a more pinched piano tone; they do not suffer badly by comparison to the later recordings. A strong Spanish lilt echoes through the Granada evening-party. Rubinstein imparts to each of the Debussy pieces a sensual flexibility most alluring. His Gardens in the Rain is as close to a bravura display as we get. For a program of 'classical romanticism' at its best, this is a definitive recital.
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 "Eroica"/STOELZEL: Concerto Grosso in D for Four Choirs
Carl Schuricht conducts Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Orfeo C 538 001B 57:45 (Distrib. Qualiton):
The Salzburg Festival concert of August 23, 1961features Carl Schuricht (1880-1967), the Danzig-born pupil of Max Reger and scion of an organ-building family. Despite his age, Schuricht manages to infuse a rousing, spirited elan in the orchestra this evening, with Gottfried Heinrich Stoelzel's polyphonic Concerto Grosso, with its Handelian grandeur and Bach-lke polyphony, that has the trumpet part hopping and the VPO resounding in a manner worthy of Stokowski. The Eroica is of the lean-machine variety, no frills, but no lack of demonic intensity, either. Some wonderful inner voicings emerge, with clarinet, flute, and strings. The metric irregularities struggle for agogic alignment in a most singing engagement. The Funeral March has a directness and somber exaltation of spirit quite captivating, on a par with some of the great Furtwaengler renditions. By the time the polyphonies of the Finale die away, the audience has been tamed by a most audacious octogenarian master. A pity the Mozart piano concerto with Clifford Curzon could not be included on the limited format of the CD. Mesmerizing musicianship.
VAUGHN-WILLIAMS: A London Symphony in G Minor; Symphony No. 8 in D Minor
Sir John Barbirolli conducts Halle Orchestra
Dutton CDSJB 1021 73:33 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):
Vaughn-Williams' A London Symphony has been a concert staple ever since 1920, when it received its first final-version performance under Albert Coates. Valedictory in tone and romantic in canvas, the symphony has an Edwardian melancholy, and it is dedicated to the memory of composer George Butterworth, killed on the Somme in 1916. The music alternates between the bustling metropolis and a kind of pastoral sanctuary, an air of Hampstead Heath. Sea, city and pastoral life, in fact, form the first 'trilogy' of Vaughn-Williams symphonies, and each possesses a grandeur and expansiveness that appealed to conductor Barbirolli, especially after he assumed the helm of the Halle Orchestra in 1943 and dedicated himself to the propagation of this music.
The Sir John Barbirolli Society CD of the London Symphony derives from the first of two commercial inscriptions Sir John made: December 28-29, 1957 (a second was recorded in 1967). It is a colossal rendition, with striking climaxes and beautiful balances in timbre and dynamics, restored in audiophile sonics by Michael J. Dutton.This symphony was the composer's favorite among his nine, and Barbirolli lavishes all sorts of loving care in the opening two movements, especially the Lento second movement, and a wispish Scherzo that suddenly bursts forth in Cockney raptures. Barbirolli communicates a majestic sweep in his finale, the portentous march in G Major that ends with a paean to the spirit of a great city. The D Minor Symphony (1956) was premiered by Barbirolli, its dedicatee. This inscription, taken from the Pye LP, is a bit more condensed in scope than the live 1961 performance on an elusive Ermitage CD. Still, its kaleidoscope of colors and supple energy is putty in Barbirolli's hands: no wonder Vaughn-Williams called Barbirolli "Glorious John. . .one of those wizards who can take the dry bones of crotchets and quavers and breathe into them the breath of life." Check out the wizardry yourself.
VERDI: Requiem in Memory of Manzoni
- Maria Caniglia, soprano
- Ebe Stignani, mezzo-soprano
- Beniamino Ggli, tenor
- Ezio Pinza, bass
- Tullio Serafin conducts Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera House, Rome
- Naxos 8.110159 72:47:
Recorded in August, 1939 and released in the US in 1941, this has been an enduring, classic version of the Verdi Requiem, along with those of De Sabata and Toscanini. The present Naxos edition is a testament to the perseverance and intellectual devotion of engineer Ward Marston, who had to work with 78's of variable speed and pitch, as well as a "Lacrymosa" that suffered the loss of a few musical measures (which have now been edited in). Serafin's Roman quartet of soloists is a dream cast, with Gigli and Pinza at the height of their respective vocal powers. I have never been partial to Caniglia, whose throaty soprano I find a bit metallic in her highest notes, a la Nilsson. Nevertheless, the vocal quartet at the Recordare, Domine Jesu Christe, and Hostias are exalted, Gigli's Ingemisco intimate and impassioned in the old style of sobbing portamento, a beautiful diminuendo on "absolvisti," as sin is expelled by grace. Pinza moves broadly through the Confutatis, a bold crusader to be called among the blessed. The Offertorium becomes an extended operatic scene, a dramatized lyric celebrating the Stations of the Cross. An inspired restoration, with a master conductor's leading a veteran ensemble.
"From Haydn to Mahler" - HAYDN: Symphony No. 100 in G "Military"/MOZART: German Dances, K. 605/STRAUSS: Emperor Waltz/WAGNER: A Siegfried Idyll/MAHLER: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C# Minor
Bruno Walter conducts The Vienna Philharmonic (1935-1938)
Opus KURA OPK 2017/18 61:37; 22:08 (Distrib. Albany):
The Japanese have been resuscitating historic performances at an astonishing rate; import prices, however, have made items like Japanese Westminster prohibitive. With the demise of an historic label like Biddulph, it is refreshing to see a new import devoted to the idea that "music should be first" in its policy of noise-reduction. The point of interest in this set is the inclusion of two alternative prints of the Haydn "Military" Symphony in Japanese and French pressings, where the "appendix" French version on disc 2 is stunningly quiet!
Bruno Walter (1876-1962) needs little introduction to music collectors. His migration from Germany at the time of the Anschluss procued the few, around ten, recordings he made in Austria that are much admired. He then had to vacate Vienna and flee to Paris, then America. Walter's earliest record with the VPO is the Emperor Concerto with Gieseking, 1934. From 1935 we get Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, a work Walter played more expansively in later years, here rather streamlined for the '78 format, but played with fervor and great transparency of detail. The Emperor Waltz is from 1937 (as are Mozart's three German Dances), a linear, buoyant account, less tragic than Furtwengler's but suavely muscular, with some large luftpausen in the best Viennese manner. The last piece, the much-favored Adagietto (1938) from Mahler Fifth, has an aura entirely unique. Strings and harp are taut, nervous, other-worldly. While only some eight minutes in duration, the effect still captures Mahler's spiritual yearning that in modern performances is stretched to literally twice the distance.
- Gary Lemco
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