Classical CD Reissues  
April 2002 - Part 1 of 2

GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16/SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54/CHOPIN: Allegro de Concert in A, Op. 46

Claudio Arrau, piano
Alceo Galliera conducts Philharmonia Orchestra

Testament SBT 1233 78:35 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):

I had the privilege of twice interviewing Claudio Arrau (1903-1991), the great Chilean exponent of the French-German tradition. I did not hear him in either of the concertos on this disc, taken from inscriptions made 1957; but he did recall a Schumann Concerto in New York, a collaboration with de Sabata in 1951 as being particularly successful, "even though it was a long time ago," he quipped. Arrau's technique had not diminished in the 1980's, when I heard him, but it had slowed down and gained a ripe, monumental quality akin to what Klemperer experienced in his late period. Always masculine, assertive in his playing, these performances bespeak the breadth and supple (if not always subtle) musculature of Arrau's middle period.

The Grieg is perhaps the more persuasive of these two concertos: I find the Schumann a bit four-square and metronomical, without the sudden, explosive burst of risky aggression of which he was capable in the late 1940's, early '50's. The Grieg is more idiosyncratic, weighty, over-ripe, lushly vegetable (a la Andrew Marvell) playing. Technical security suffuses this rendition, especially in the first movement cadenza, a tour de force in color and shading. The curious Op. 46 of Chopin (rec. 1956), a concerto without ensemble, made up the second side of the Op. 25 Etudes on Angel LP. Arrau achieves a strong sense of orchestral coloration up through bar 86, and then he breaks into a ravishing solo cadenza that displays a powerful trill. The piece is designed like a concert aria, with Bellini-like declamations and theatrical roulades. All very polished and fluffy, covered in brilliantine.

--Gary Lemco

Tannhauser: Overture and Venusberg Music/DELIUS: Scenes from Act II, Irmelin/BIZET: L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1 and excerpts from Suite 2/MASSENET: The Last Sleep of the Virgin/Comments by Beecham

Sir Thomas Beecham conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Women's Chorus (Wagner)

BBC Legends BBCL 4068-2 73:22 (Distrib. Koch):

This concert from 16 September 1954 is right up Beecham's alley: the high energy; the catholic taste; the homogeneity of orchestral tone; the beautiful execution of Beecham's outstanding principals, like Alan Civil, horn and bassoonist Gwydion Brooke; and the entire coloring of music Beecham championed. Recall that Beecham and Albert Coates were likely the most outstanding Wagner interpreters in Britain. The women's chorus' contribution is virtually lulling after the spirited histrionics of the Venusberg. Beecham's fondness for Delius is the stuff of legends: his arrangement of themes from Irmelin's Act II has elements of exoticism and pathos, its syntax lifted right out of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe. No less compelling is Beecham's stylish appreciation of Bizet: I consider his C Major Symphony definitive. The young lady of Arles enjoys Walter Lear's saxophone and Leon Goossens' decisive oboe. The Carillon section has a tolling lilt that long remains with you. The Massenet excerpt from La Vierge is an old Beecham standby: I remember its inclusion in the old CBS LP (ML 5321, OP) as a lovely encore. Beecham used to quip acidly that it was "the sleep of the last virgin." For more of Beecham's dry, acerbic wit, buy the album.

­Gary Lemco

MOZART: Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477/BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 "Choral"

Margaret Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Werner Hollweg, tenor
Norman Bailey, bass
New Philharmonia Chorus
Rafael Kubelik conducts New Philharmonia Orchestra

BBC Legends BBCL 4071-2 77:16 (Distrib. Koch):

The 14 January 1974 concert in memoriam Otto Klemperer (d. 1973) features the dynamic Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) at the helm in a spectacularly energized version of the Ninth Symphony. The entire concert, opening with the grave Adagio from Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music, specifically sets the valedictory tone. Only six minutes long, the churning, minor harmonies delve into another world.

From the outset of Beethoven, we have a searching, luminously lyrical traversal of this score; yet, in spite of its explosive, turbulent outpourings, Kubelik finds moments of light and dance-like gestures. The similarities between Kubelik's approach and that of Ferenc Fricsay are palpable: each has a ferocious drive qualified by invasions of serenity and inner security. The figures dance as well as churn. Each has a sense of periodicity in the first movement, like Bruckner's music: it stops or runs down in entropy, then it drives itself ahead with renewed vigor. Feathery winds open the polyphonic Scherzo, complete with repeats and some great sonic definition between winds and tympani. The meditative Adagio, with its double-theme-and-variations, Kubelik molds with great affection. After a decidedly 'conversant' orchestral recitative, the famous last-movement motto for Schiller's Ode unfolds like a radiant curtain, interrupted by a bronchial cough or two. Norman Bailey, who had sung Wotan for Klemperer, invokes the higher spirits that surpass the merely abstract tones of the orchestra. Hollweg's janizzary march is deftly light. The exalted mystery Kubelik elicits from the "Seid umschlungen" forward equals anything in Furtwaengler and Horenstein. The vocal quartet and chorus sing with rapt purpose. Highly recommended.

--Gary Lemco

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 "Unfinished"/SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120/MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 :Italian"

GuidoCantelli conducts Philharmonia Orchestra

EMI Classics 7243 5 74801 75:35:

Recorded 1953-56, these inscriptions capture the febrile energy and emotional commitment of the late Guido Cantelli (1920-1956), the heir-apparent to Arturo Toscanini who died prematurely in an Orly plane crash. These performances have had life on CD in other formats, the major case being the 1955 "Unfinished" Symphony, which was included in the "Profiles" series Angel put out on conductors around five years ago. While some critics complained the opening movement of the Schubert lacked an underlying pulsation, it is a blazing performance, uncompromising and pointed as anything in Toscanini or Mengelberg. The Philharmonia plays with particular expansiveness.

If these performances reveal anything about Cantelli, it is his independence of musical mind, since his cadences and fortissimos convey as much of Furtwaengler as they do the ubiquitous Toscanini. The Schumann Fourth from 1953 is especially successful in synthesizing the two styles, enjoying a Latin esprit and vivacity while maintaining "German" seriousness and solemnity, the grand line. Even the respect for immediate segue between the opening two movements improves upon Furtwaengler's esteemed Berlin reading. The whole reads like a score possessed, dazzling. The 1955 Mendelssohn is Cantelli's second inscription of the piece; the first, in 1951, he considered inferior workmanship. This "Italian" is high-spirited romance, in many ways reminiscent of Beecham's equally brilliant version with the RPO. Cantelli's hand seems serenely confident in a score to him long familiar. The Philharmonia winds, of whom horn Dennis Brain is no mere adjunct, sound out the landscape with breezy effortlessness. If this stunning disc is your first Cantelli encounter, you will always savor these first impressions.

--Gary Lemco

MAHLER: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Kindertotenlieder; 5 Songs from Rueckert

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts Phlharmonia Orchestra (Wayfarer)
Rudolf Kempe conducts Berlin Philharmonic (Kindertotenlieder)
Daniel Barenboim, piano (Rueckert Songs)

EMI CDC 7 47657 2 62:26 (Distrib. Allegro):

Wilhelm Furtwaengler (1886-1954) was more of a Bruckner proponent than a Mahler interpreter, so the opportunity to hear him on CD in his 1952 commercial inscription (he and Dieskau performed the sequence live in Salzburg) of "Songs of a Wayfarer" with the youthful Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a treat not to be missed. The plaintive, passionate longing inherent in the score, so vital in the scoring of Mahler's own First Symphony, are as close as we get to hearing how Furtwaengler might have shaped that work. The third section, "I have a glowing knife in my breast," has an operatic, dramatic flair that must have impressed Alban Berg. The color of the Philharmonia Orchestra is meticulously drawn. The Songs on the Death of Children comes from 1955, under a sympathetic Rudolf Kempe. Dieskau's tone had already lost its low-tenor color and taken on a dark, autumnal hue, absolutely right for these lugubrous, ominous songs. The last of the set, the narrator's mourning a decision to send the children out in the weather, strikes unholy terror in any parent's heart. The last sequence, five songs from Rueckert, is taken from 1978 tapes; even a sensitive pianist cannot capture the special colors for "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen," although Barenboim certainly lingers over its modal harmonies. The Dieskau of 1978 is a master of nuance and emotional suggestion. This is one of those happy conjunctions of artists and repertory, blended to perfection.

--Gary Lemco

Emil Gilels Legacy 6 - MOZART: Sonata No. 17 in B-flat, K. 570/DEBUSSY: Etude No. 11 "Pour les arpeges composes"/CHOPIN: Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 "Funeral March"/SHOSTAKOVICH: 3 Preludes and Fugues from Op. 87PROKOFIEV: 5 Fugitive Visions, Op. 22; March from "The Love for 3 Oranges"/BEETHOVEN: Bagatelle, Op. 33, No. 1/PAGANINI-LISZT: La Campanella

DOREMI DHR-7805 73:04 (Distrib. Allegro):

This recital dates from 26 February 1954, given at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. It well captures Gilels (1916-1985) in his most lyrical vein, in repertory he had begun recording for EMI (Chopin, Mozart) and later for RCA(the Shostakovich Second Sonata, not preludes and fugues). The Mozart is very chaste, the sonic patina, with its sometimes minimal pedalling, reminiscent of Gieseking or Michelangeli. Perhaps the most purely fluid piece of virtuosity is the Debussy etude, a real marvel whose music-box sonority is matched in the last movement of the Mozart. The Beethoven E-flat Bagatelle is the pianist's only excursion into this domain. More granite suffuses the Chopin sonata, where the approach might not suit all tastes; the piano tone, thin in the middle, doesn't help. The concept seems to lie somewhere between Rubinstein and Richter, though it has a searching character worth a listen. The Russian material, especially the Prokofiev, makes me wish Gilels had been more 'integral' in recording the Op. 22 Visions. The finale, the Liszt Etude, reminds us what a thunderbolt Gilels had been in his wayward youth. Glad to have this one.

--Gary Lemco

Ida Haendel Vol. 4: MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218; Rondo from "Haffner" Serenade, K. 250/FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major

Ronald Turini, piano
Alexander Brott conducts McGill Chamber Orchestra

DOREMI DHR-7803 61:04 (Distrib. Allegro):

Ida Haendel, still an active artist, is one of the great exponents of Carl Flesch. She was part of the 1935 Wieniawski Competition whose first prize Neveu captured, with Oistrakh and Temianka, runners-up. This disc derives from two concerts: the Mozart from Montreal, 1977 and the Franck from Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1981. A naive touch is the retention of the original radio commentary. All of the pieces are new to her discography. The Mozart D Major Concerto under Brott is a salon experience, precisely tailored to Haendel's spitfire intonation and thin vibrato. The cadenza is her own. Like many virtuosos, she takes the Andante cantabile a bit too slowly for my taste, old-world style that manages to avoid a sag in the musical line. The "Haffner" Rondo sparkles, however, and Brott's ensemble have to move to keep up with her. The Franck benefits from a thoroughly sensual meeting of violinsit and pianist; here, Turini, with whom she worked several times and who made a small sensation with RCA. There is passion and mysticism in the performance, but always the means are thoroughly under severe discipline. The sheer rarity of the repertory guarantees the value of this disc for any connoisseur of Haendel, who is in a class by herself.

­Gary Lemco

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