Classical CD Reissues, Part 2
for November 2002
PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63/TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35; Souvenir dun lieu cher, Op. 42Meditation; Serenade melancolique, Op. 26
Leonid Kogan, violin/Basil Cameron conducts London Symphony (Prokofeiv)/Andre Vandrnoot conducts Paris Conservatory Orchestra (Tchaikovsky Concerto)/Constantin Silvestri conducts Paris Conservatory Orchestra (Op. 42)/Kiril Kondrashin conducts Philharmonia Orchestra (Op. 26)
Testament SBT 1224 74:52 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):
One of six in a series dedicated to the EMI inscriptions by Russian violinist Leonid Kogan (1924-1982), this CD features stunning playing by one of the most patrician of musicians, whose understated but impeccable style communicates silken elegance.
There are many similarities of taste and approach between Kogan and elder compatriot Jascha Heifetz, whom Kogan admired above all violinists. Kogans career, however, suffered the constraints of the Soviet political regime, and only late in his life did he receive the freedom to travel and to record abroad. I recall a brief moment of his talents appearing in the French film, My Night at Mauds.
This all-Russian program of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky (recorded 1955-1959) complements the program included in EMIs Artist Profile set dedicated to Kogan (67732 2), which includes his later inscription of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Constantin Silvestri. The collaboration with Kondrashin in the B Minor Serenade, Op. 26 is the same. For the Concerto, Kogan plays a slightly cut version with Belgian conductor Andre Vandernoot (known for his work with Gyorgy Cziffra), a fervent, propulsive reading that manages to light quite a few hefty sparks, despite some academic phrasing from Vandernoot. The sleeper is the truly fluid reading of the Prokofiev G Minor (Kogan avoided the D Major) Concerto with Basil Cameron, where soloist, flute and percussion often conspire in deft, intimate ensemble. Even with razor-sharp intonation and the long melodic line, Kogan is the master of restraint, the Gary Cooper of cool emotionalism. All the fire is implied.
The liquid Meditation of Tchaikovsky, his souvenir of a beloved place, is a discard from the Violin Concerto as a slow movement; but Kogan infuses it with the dignity and elevated character of an aria from Yevgeny Onegin. Conductor Silvestri is a past master of making string and harp colors, and he and Kogan really go at it in their rendition of the Mozart G Major Concerto (included in SBT 1223). The 1959 account of the Serenade with long-time associate Kiril Kondrashin is justly famous, sensitively wrought, appropriately sentimental and demonstrative of that plastic sense of rhythm and urgent phrase that makes Kogans art both captivating and elusive at once. I urge collectors to acquire all six Testaments for their Kogan preservations.
Marilyn Horne in Salzburg = VIVALDI: "Nel profondo cieco mondo"/SCHUBERT: 4 Songs/HANDEL: "Iris, Hence away"/BIZET: 3 Chansons/FALLA: 7 Popular Spanish Songs/encores
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano/Martin Katz, piano
VAI VAIA 1207 68:46:
Marilyn Horne (b. 1936) continues to be active despite her retirement from the stage, as Director of the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, as well as heading her Marilyn Horne Foundation in support of vocal performance. This restoration of her 1979 Salzburg Festival recital shows her off in superb voice in many languages and in a diversity of styles, lyric, coloratura and spinto.
The lyrical side of Horne's multi-faceted talent shines forth in the Schubert group and in the tender romances of Bizet, each sung in its native language. Horne's "Im Fruhling" makes its kinship with the last movement of the Schubert posthumous A Major, D. 959 Sonata obvious. Her easy grace in the Bizet love songs makes us recall that Berlioz' Les Nuits d'Ete can be sung by varied voice ranges as well; the sultry exoticism of Victor Hugo's "Farewell from the Arabian Hostess" has suggested promises that Carmen fulfills. For those who savor Horne's razor sharp delivery in rapid and florid passages, her melismatic virtuosity in the opening Vivaldi aria from Orlando Furioso and the Handel aria from Semele will astonish. Horne has had an affection for Falla's 7 Popular Spanish Songs, their "deep song," since 1955: she sails through these, wrapping an entranced audience around her musical fingers. Pianist Katz makes the accompaniment to "Asturiana" sound like "Le Gibet" from Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.
The three encores are entire worlds unto themselves: Donizetti's "Brindisi" from Lucretia Borgia embraces the art of bel canto with the mocking conceits of carpe diem voluptuousness. "My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice" from Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila remains one of the great mezzo vehicles, allowing Horne to dip into her throaty, chest-toned lower register. Finally, Foster's "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," with its beguiling simplicity, emotionally poised on elegant harmonic shifts, all enunciated beautifully by music's most natural successor to the international artistry of Jennie Tourel.
WAGNER: Overtures and Preludes: Die Meistersinger; Tristan und Isolde; Gotterdammerung: Siegfrieds Funeral March; Flying Dutchman; Tannhauser Overture; Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III; A Siegrfried Idyll
Karl Muck conducts Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Naxos Historical 8.110858 75:43:
Karl Muck (1859-1940), along with Arthur Nikisch and Felix Weingartner, belong to the older Germanic tradition, where the lean, athletic and largely unsentimental approach to Wagner is the rule. Muck found his way to Bayreuth in 1892, where his interpretations of the Ring cycle gained prominence; but in 1901 he led what became his calling card, Parsifal. By todays standards, Mucks tempos seem slow in the latter work, although the suppleness of phrase and the ease of transition well presage the taste of arch Wagnerian Hans Knappertsbusch.
Naxos supplements its release of Mucks 1927-1928 Parsifal excerpts (8.110049-50) with these more popular Wagner staples, of which only the Meistersinger, Gotterdammerung, and the Siegfried Idyll were available commercially in the US.
Mark Obert-Thornes restorations are exceptionally quiet for the period, and we can well appreciate Mucks athleticism in Meistersinger and the spun out eroticism in Tristan. The Siegfried Idyll comes in around the same length as Bruno Walters various inscriptions, although their inflections vary in nuance and tempo fluctuations. The Lohengrin Act III Prelude also exists in a Boston Symphony version, made just prior to Mucks internment in 1918. Muck was ever the tough, durable conductor, well prepared and often volatile in performance. Like his contemporary Pfitzner, his talent and his irascibility were often at odds, making him politically incorrect. But these sets of his (virtually) complete electrical recordings mark him as a real force in music.
The Original Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet = 20th Century: STRAVINSKY: Pastorale/BARBER: Summer Music, Op. 31/MILHAUD: Two Sketches, Op. 227b/NIELSEN: Quintet for Winds, Op. 43/GRAINGER: Walking Tune/PIERNE: Pastorale/HINDEMITH: Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2
Boston Records BR 1062 CD 62:01 (Distrib. Albany):
Boston Records has revived, on four CDs, some of the forty-odd inscriptions made by the Philadelphia Orchestra Woodwind Quintet (founded 1950) for CBS Records between 1953-1967. This collection of 20th Century works dates 1953 (Hindemith) to 1963 (Pierne, Milhaud,, Stravinsky). We get to reassess the playing of illustrious (mostly French-trained) principals who made the Stokowski sound: John de Lancie, oboe; William Kincaid, flute; Anthony Gigliotti, clarinet; Sol Schoenbach, bassoon; and Mason Jones, horn. Each of the CDs is dedicated to the memory of Sol Schoenbach. I have always claimed their great recording to be the Mozart Piano Quintet with Robert Casadesus (available via French Sony 5033882).
Given the ensembles penchant for French music, the airy, breezy figures of Milhauds Madrigal and Pastoral and Piernes Pastorale appear perfectly natural; in fact, pastoral easily provides the rubric of this CD. For Stravinskys early work, violin Veda Reynolds and English horn Louis Rosenblatt lend support. The 1956 Barber work owes much to his earlier orchestra piece Horizon, rarely heard. Here, and in the tricky Nielsen Quintet, syncopated and swirling filigree for clarinet and oboe receive star treatment. A bit of charm is Graingers 1905 Walking Tune, published as one of Room-Music Tidbits, with its unmistakable perambulatory character. The 1922 Kammermusic of Hindemith is in a decidedly less academic guise than many of his rigorous and expressionistic works. This five-movement suite is a happy piece, rife with triplets and graceful three-note intimations of the waltz, all rendered with sophisticated, suave flair by veterans at their trade.
CHABRIER: Espana Rhapsody/FRANCK: Psyche--Suite/ROUSSEL:The Spider's Feast, Op. 17/Faure: Pelleas et Melisande Suite, Op. 80/DUKAS: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Rediscovery RD 057 72:53:
The latest reissue from Rediscovery's negotiations of Mercury label originals finds Paul Paray in his especial, Gallic-Iberian milieu, leading the Detroit Symphony 1953-1955 in music both lithe and languorous. The opening Espana is liquid fun, as delicate and suave as any of Beecham's excursions, and even more ripe in color (listen to the col legno effects), with crystalline evocations from bassoon, flute, and battery (Paray's own training was here). Franck's Psyche can come off as monochromatic, but Paray gets his cellos to graduate their mauve and darker browns to a sensuous luster. The infrequently heard "Psyche Asleep" makes a haunting foil for the sporadic outbursts of passion in "Psyche and Eros." The Faure, too is cut from somber cloth, with moments of relaxation in the spinning song and the sicilienne, only to hear Melisande shrouded by death, all played with deliberation and affection by Paray.
If the magical balances Paray achieves in Chabrier were not enough, the shimmering and evanescent ensemble he elicits for Roussel should gratify the most fastidious taste. Along with the reading by Cluytens for EMI, this is the most polished, most debonair of performances, simply ravishing in color, with strings and harp in full, dexterous panoply. If Paray's Dukas does not quite generate the sparks of the more virtuosic Mitropoulos or Stokowski, it has a slightly more restrained character, that allows the more martial, polyphonic aspects of the score to shine. The last ten minutes of the disc are appreciations by various musicians of Paray and his rehearsal methods, his keen ear, and his musical standards in building repertory and the Detroit Symphony after its post-Depression decline. Musically and aesthetically satisfying on many levels!
KODALY: Galanta Dances; Marosszek Dances; Hary Janos Suite/IPPOLITOV-IVANOV: Caucasian Sketches, Op. 10
Artur Rodzinski conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Westminster 471 267-2 74:54 (Distrib. Universal):
This welcome reissue features Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958) in the kind of color-music program in which he excelled. The 1955 Westminster LP's had competed with both the DGG Kodaly with Fricsay and the CBS issue of Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic in Hary Janos and Caucasian Sketches (the Mitropoulos Galanta Dances were never issued). Rodzinski met Kodaly back in 1937 and came back to New York a believer, scheduling a 1946 Hary Janos in honor of the composer's visit. Beecham's orchestra is top-notch, with oboe, flute, violas and cellos all conspiring to create kaleidoscopic national dances of Magyar sensibility. The Hary Janos singspiel has an easy-going, self-important pomp that has rusticity and streamlined taste. While few performances of Ippolitov-Ivanov's suite have the tragic dimensions of the Mitropoulos version, Rodzinski (and a live concert tape from Stokowski) makes a satisfying second choice. Recorded sound remastering by Andrew Wedman is impressively lifelike. Recommended. [The Galanta & Marossek Dances were paired on a wonderful Westminster mono audiophile LP with wide grooves and recorded only on the outside half of each side; would be an interesting comparison with the CD if I still had it...Ed.]
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
Ginette Neveu, violin/Hans Rosbaud conducts Southwest Radio-Symphony, Baden-Baden
Hanssler CD 93.033 73:30 (Distrib. Albany):
Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962) is more associated with the Second Viennese School and post-modernism than with music of the Classics, but he managed to make splendid recordings of music by Mozart, Haydn, Gluck, and some Beethoven. This reissue offers two live concerts, made twelve years apart, with the brilliant but ill-fated French violin virtuoso Ginette Neveu (1919-1949) in a performance of the D Major Concerto less than a month prior to her tragic death in an airplane crash, an inscription available through Music&Arts (CD-550) around a decade ago. The 1961 F Major Symphony receives a broad canvas, urged with playful wit and some crisp attacks in the course of its iconoclastic formality. The Concerto is singularly long of limb, Neveu's taking breathless periods and splicing them together, with conductor hard pressed to keep up. Neveu was the French Nathan Milstein, assuming a blistering pace and relentlessly pursuing it to its logical conclusion. If conductor Richard Kapp is correct, from our many conversations on his mentor Rosbaud at our old "First Hearing" sessions, Southwest German Radio has an unissued treasure-trove of Rosbaud materials, so perhaps the archives are beginning to surface.
SHULMAN: The Music of Alan Shulman = Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra; Rendezvous for Clarinet and Strings; A Nocturne for Strings; Hatikvah; Waltzes for Orchestra; A Laurentian Overture; Minuet for Moderns; The Bop Gavotte
Emanuel Vardi, viola/Alfred Gollodoro, clarinet/Conductors: Leonard Bernstein; Guido Cantelli; Frank Black; Milton Katims; Samuel Antek; Don Gillis/
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Bridge Records 9119 48:23:
Alan Shulman (b. 1915) is a Baltimore-born composer and cellist, a Peabody graduate and pupil of Emanuel Feuermann, and founder of the Stuyvesant String Quartet. This album of NBC performances 1940-1954 gives us a formidable, if somewhat brief, sense of his compositions, which are songful and sincere, touched by elements of jazz, Broadway, and Jewish hymnody. The latter comes through in hints in his most ambitious and successful work, the Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra, most blatantly in his arrangement of Hatikvah, performed from 1949 with Leonard Bernstein.
Himself a member of Toscanini's NBC Symphony, Shulman writes graciously for strings; his Nocturne (under Katims, 1938) and the 1949 Cello Concerto (a tape exists with Leonard Rose and Dimitri Mitropoulos) attest to an easy facility and lyric impulse. The 1949 Waltzes for Orchestra (under Katims) could have been penned by Richard Rodgers, cross fertilized by Ravel. The audience's fervent enthusiasm after the last waltz makes us wonder why commercial record companies did not promote Shulman: certainly the Laurentian Overture (a tribute to the Canadian mountain chain) with Cantelli from March 1, 1952 equals the populist strain we hear in Grofe and Siegmeister. Although the pirate label AS Disc released a Cantelli all-American program, this piece (dedicated to actress Tallulah Bankhead) was not included.
The perky Rendezvous for Clarinet and Strings was composed for and played by Benny Goodman; in this 1946 tape the solo is Alfred Gollodoro, former bass clarinet with the NBC. The 1953-54 "novelties" written for Skitch Henderson (here played under Don Gillis) are dry, witty pieces in the manner of Leroy Anderson, with a touch of Beethoven's Eighth in the Minuet. My own reaction to Shulman's Theme and Variations, with Emanuel Vardi and Frank Black, 1940, remains quite strong, that it is a highly polished, lyrically sophisticated piece that needs to be heard more often. Bridge has done Shulman and music lovers good service in assembling this tribute to an under-rated talent. [Sonics show the age of these sources but still serviceable for this under-represented and interesting music...Ed.]
TCHAIKOVSKY: The Sleeping Beauty--Complete Ballet, Op. 66
Gennady Rozdestvensky conducts BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Legends BBCL 4091-2 72:04; 69:13 (Distrib. Koch):
I first heard Tchaikovsky's most beautiful ballet The Sleeping Beauty (1889-90) with Andre Kostelanetz conducting a severely cut edition. When Mercury offered Antal Dorati and then London proffered Ernest Ansermet in alternate, complete editions, I was quick to pounce on the LP's. Russian virtuoso conductor Gennady Rozdestvensky first led the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and then made his debut at Covent Garden with this same music back in the 1950's. When the BBC asked him to prepare the complete score for recording, he made a few judicious cuts in Acts II and III in order to maintain continuity, but otherwise kept the dances and panorama intact. This BBC CD is from the pre-recording concert of October 10, 1979, a sort of two-year anniversary celebration of Rozdestvensky's tenure with the BBC Symphony.
This "special concert edition" of the ballet is simply first class. While Stokowski, Karajan and Bernstein, or for the older generation Weldon, Malko and Lambert, have made lovely, extended selections from the ballet--along with the aforementioned Dorati and Ansermet readings of the complete score--Rozdestvensky opens with a torrent of sound that does not quit. No principals are credited in this edition, but the tone of the trombones, the violins, the flute, the oboe, the cellos is ravishing. Favorite sections like the Act I grand Waltz and the Act III Polonaise, as well as all the characteristic dances after the wedding, are sumptuously mounted, with no apologies for sentiment. The whole enterprise flows seamlessly, a real kaleidoscope of "symphonically-conceived ballet." If you must own one version of this music, choose this, since it repays in musical value many times. Igor Stravinsky used to say of his copy of The Sleeping Beauty, "All orchestration is there."
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor; Symphony No. 5 in D Major
Ralph Vaughan Williams conducts BBC Symphony Orchestra (No. 4); John Barbirolli conducts Halle Orchestra (No. 5)
Dutton CDBP 9731 65:51 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):
Dutton restores two classic renditions of seminal Vaughan Williams symphonies, both original recorded versions of these works. Vaughan Williams, a gifted but under-represented conductor of his own oeuvre, made his record of the fierce Fourth Symphony in 1937, two years after Adrian Boult gave the world premier. The Fourth, like that of Sibelius, is perhaps Vaughan Williams most intrinsically musical symphony, less inclined to any folksy melos and keeping a frenzied grip on the range of harmonic motion, from a minor second to the final concession to a major third. While I have always been keen on the Mitropoulos version of this dark piece, Vaughan Williams exacts no less than sustained tension and solemnity in the proceedings.
The 1944 inscription of the D Major by Barbirolli and his Halle Orchestra is only their second recording together, but it is an altogether sympathetic reading of a work Barbirolli was to champion affectionately throughout his career. The sheer contrast between the aggressive F Minor and the relatively halcyon D Major (dedicated to Sibelius) sporadically finds moments of similarity, when Barbirolli occasionally permits a dark cloud to pass through the D Majors sunny skies. Given that the piece was conceived amidst the horrors of a world war, its vision of a better tomorrow must have appealed to Barbirollis natural optimism. Even after almost 60 years, the performance still shines, essential Vaughan Williams repertory.
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