Classical CD Reissues, Part 2   April 2003

Kurt Sanderling Conducts = SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 99; Symphony No. 5 in D, Op. 47/PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19; Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63/STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto in D/WAGNER: Prelude and Love-Death from Tristan und Isolde/BRAHMS: Haydn Variations/MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor; K. 491 SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120
David Oistrakh conducts = SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93/SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, D. 125/BEETHOVEN: Romance No. 1 in G Major, Op. 40

David Oistrakh, violin/Igor Oistrakh, violin (Shostakovich)/Mitsuko Uchida, piano/Berlin Symphony Orchestra

Harmonia mundi HMK 2905255.59 (5 CD set):

For the most part, this fine set celebrates the conducting art of Kurt Sanderling (b. 1912), the former leader of the Leningrad Philharmonic who, along with its more menacing principal, Evgeny Mravinsky, honed that ensemble into an international powerhouse. Once asked how Mravinsky achieved such consistent, splendid homogeneity of sound, Sanderling replied, "By appealing to sheer terror tactics." Happily, for seventeen years Sanderling led the Berlin Symphony with less intimidating manners, and this set captures some of the ambiance 1966-2002. The remainder of the set presents the great David Oistrakh (1908-1974) in his capacity as both soloist and conductor, with two especially rare glimpses of large, even unwieldy works, like a full-blooded Shostakovich Tenth from late September 1972.

Kurt Sanderling's repute on disc rests almost entirely on a few classics, like his monumental Rachmaninov Second for DG; a set of Beethoven licensed through EMI, and some Tchaikovsky licensed through Denon. Of late, some concerto recordings have surfaced with Grimaud and Uchida, and collectors fondly embrace their complete Sibelius symphonies cycle Sanderling did with the Berlin Symphony in the 1970's. The present survey adds considerably to the legacy, with both Oistrakhs and Sanderling turning in audacious, spirited readings of the two Prokofiev concertos, 1971 and 1965, respectively; Igor provides a savage, rather severe accouint of the Shostakovich Concerto recorded in concert, 1966. While Mravinsky recorded the concerto with David, there is also a live performance with Mravinsky and Ricci that used to be on the Opus 111 label.

Collectors will gravitate to this set for items like the Schumann D minor from May 19, 2002, part of the complete concert that includes the Brahms Haydn Variations, Teutonically rendered; and a real find, the Mozart C Minor Concerto, suave and passionate, with a lithe Mitsuko Uchida. The Wagner staple comes from the concert of 6 April 1970, quite lush in the Prelude but eager for consummation in the love-death, no lingering a la Stokowski. The romantic element, however, is not absent, even in such a dubiously grandiose work as the Shostakovich Fifth, where we know the jubilation of the finale is forced. The interplay between winds, harp, and lower strings in the haunting Largo is inspired. The approach to Schumann's Fourth had me reminded of Monteux's classy account.

David Oistrakh, who literally worked himself to death, had ambitions beyond his ability to play the violin; like Menuhin, Oistrakh studiously expanded his musical ken to embrace a good deal of conducting repertory. The Schubert Second, hardly a showcase piece, comes in a startling array of colors for the performance of March 8, 1965. The clarity of line has something of Karl Boehm, but not so detached and objective. The Shostakovich Tenth is huge, a portrait of Stalin and his idiosyncratic notion of terror. It has been done effectively by Mravinsky, Mitropoulos, Maxim Shostakovich, Stokowski (in Chicago), and now by the most compassionate of Soviet violinists. The ferocity of the Scherzo should say it all. This set, which Harmonia mundi offers at a budget price, occupies a special place on my record shelf. Purchase Here

-- Gary Lemco

Vaclav Talich conducts = SMETANA: Sarka; Prague Carnival/DVORAK: The Water Goblin, Op. 107; Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World"/SUK: Seredade in E, Op .6/JANACEK: The Cunnimg Little Vixen--Suite/BENDA: Symphony in B-flat Major/MOZART: Symhpny No. 33 in B-flat, K. 319/ TCHAIKOVSKY: Prayer from "Mozartiana" Suite, Op. 61/NOVAK: Amorous Couple from Slovak Suite, Op. 32

Vaclav Talich conducts Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Slovak Philharmonic (Tchaikovsky)

EMI Great Conductors 24 7243 5 75483 2 77:34; 79:46:

No matter how often I audition the work of Vaclav Talich (1883-1961), his sound remains resplendent and fresh at once, always the (Wordsworthian) sense of childhood novelty in music-making. The IMG/EMI contribution to Great Conductors of the 20th Century does justice to Talich, of whose recorded legacy pianist Ivan Moravec commented, "It is a mere shadow of the opulent sound we heard as students in Prague. Talich's Mozart and Beethoven [alas, of which we have none] may have been a tad more 'academic' than Furtwaengler, but the sense of soul-searching was no less deep and penetrating. His sound was a miracle of nature, and we music students knew we confronted something extraordinary."

While the brunt of this collation represents the stereotypical Talich program, there are some fascinating revivals. The elegant, little Symphony in B-flat by George Benda (1722-1795) is a pre-Classical morsel for strings, originally served up on a 1954 Supraphon LP entitled "Ars Musica Bohemia" on which Talich occupied six perfect minutes. The 1951 Tchaikovsky Fourth Suite is among the rarest of Talich LP acquisitions- here, we only get the "Preghiera" after Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, played with a religious fervor that crosses Humperdinck with Wagner's Lohengrin. Would the whole Suite would come back, coupled with the rare Tchaikovsky Fourth and Piano Concerto Talich led in the early 1940's. The 1954 Mozart Symphony No 33 derives from Talich's last radio broadcast, where he programmed one hour of Mozart, including the Prague Symphony and movements from the Wind Serenade, K. 361, formerly available on Multisonic CD.

The program opens with a visceral Sarka from Smetana's cycle Ma Vlast, which Talich recorded three times, even played in the face of Nazi occupation during WW II. The Prague Carnival record comes from a Panton LP of live recordings; the work sounds forced and uneven, and Talich cannot convince me it is inspired music. The Cunning Little Vixen is a suite Talich arranged from Janacek;s opera, recorded in 1954 and coupled with a devastating reading of Taras Bulba on Supraphon LP. The music of Josef Suk was almost as important to Talich as that of Dvorak; Talich's success in Suk's The Ripening tone-poem for orchestra won him international note. The youthful Serenade in E from 1951 receives lavish treatment, right in the same exalted league Talich achieved with Dvorak's own Serenade in E, Op. 22. Novak's Amorous Couple, recorded 1953, shows off the composer's use of the mixolydian mode, a sweet blending of colors for Talich's Czech Philharmonic.

Finally, the two Dvorak offerings, the tone-poem after Erben from 1954, again from a Panton restoration. Talich often cut the tone-poems for broadcast or commerical recordings: this piece is about 85% intact and has some excellent ensemble and swirling colors. Whati s remarkable about the 1954 New World is its utter seamlessness of sound, almost in the Stokowski vein but more refined and aristocratic. It has not the tragic dimensions of Fricsay, but there is a pathos and tension that won't be denied. Poignancy, intimacy, fervor, all are mixed with the Talich alchemy that remains idiosyncratic to this uncanny talent. Talich wrote a small, self-effacing epitaph that claimed his sound would join the names of fallen heroes in the dust of oblivion--sorry, Maestro, you continue to astonish and to delight us all. Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21; Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 - Guenther Wand conducts Orchestra of the Guerzenich of Cologne - Testament SBT 1284 60:05 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi):

BEETHOVEN: Overtures: Coriolan; Egmont; Leonore No. 3; Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36 - Guenther Wand conducts Orchestra of the Guerzenich of Cologne - Testament SBT 1285 64:53 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi):

I must confess that I had not been partial to the art of Guenther Wand (1912-2002), whom I considered a middling kapellmeister overhyped by RCA's marketing department in the last years of his life to inflate him into a classical icon. These inscriptions taken from 1956-1961 for the Club Francais du Disque reveal a conscientious, hard-driving interpreter of Beethoven; at least after the Coriolan and Egmont ovetures, which began to confirm my prior, bland assessment. Wand's personality emerges in the Leonore No. 3, with its strong sense of pace, good interplay of strings and brass, with the Guerzenich tympanist's earning real points over the course of these readings. In the D Major and A Major symphonies, we can hear some exemplary definition of agogic accents, the celli playing tremolando and the basses pizzicato.

Wand seems to elicit a dark, maestoso coloring for Beethoven, heavier than Haydn, weightier than Rossini, even in brisk, leggerissimo passages in the C Major. Wand's lines are lean, his sense of pace is sure. He takes a brisk opening for the Seventh, more Andante than Poco sostenuto, then ritards a bit for to add an undercurrent of sobriety to the furious dance ensuing. The D Major and A Major symphonies enjoy a muscular, often detached bowing, making an energetic cross between Schmidt-Isserstedt and Beecham. A literalist interpreter, this Wand, but with a gravity and momentum worth a connoisseur's listen. These readings pushed Wand's musical stock higher in my ledger. Paul Baily's remastering of the mono originals is pungent and startlingly clear.

--Gary Lemco

HAYDN: Violin Sonata in G Major, Hob.XV:32/DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in G Major/SCHUBERT: Sonata in A Major, D. 574; Grand Fanatasia in C Major, D. 934

Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Benjamin Britten, piano

BBC Legends BBCL 4083-2 68:57 (Distrib. Koch):

The Aldeburgh Festival managed to bring together two of the most prominent musicians of the 20th Century, Menuhin and Britten, whom the commercial record companies had kept asunder. Except for the Fantasia in C Major, from June 16, 1957, the entire disc comes from the recital of June 27, 1959. Britten was himself a formidable pianist, and he and Menuhin blend discipline and spontaneity in the so-called "Duo-Sonata" of Schubert, with pearly piano tones in brilliant detail accompanying Menuhin's searching violin tone. Happily, though Menuhin's intonation was never perfect in his mature years, there is not that perceptible wobble that plagues his late recordings.

The G Major Sonata of Haydn claims to be the composer's only excursion into the form that is not a transcribed piano trio. The Debussy Sonata is angular and eerie, more pointed and urgent than Menuhin's EMI inscription from 1974. The big work is Schubert's C Major Fantasy, after his lied Sei mir gegruesst. Along with the Serkin-Busch and Francescatti-Bagnoli recordings, this is a fiery, driven approach, capturing the often mercurial shifts of rhythm and affect with seamless facility, all romantic sympathy. We are privy to an intensely personal survey of mainstream Viennese classics, with one excursion into Menuhin's Gallic (by way of Enesco) influence, performances taut with meaning, a real melding of kindred spirits. Purchase Here

-- Gary Lemco

CHOPIN: Four Scherzos; 3 Etudes, Op. 10; Etude in A-flat, Op. 25, No. 3/Ballade No. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47; Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat, Op. 29; Polonaise in B-flat, Op. 71, No. 2; Waltz No. 14 in E Minor; Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60; Nocturne No. 19 in E Minor, Op. 71, No. 1; Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66

Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano

APR 5576 78:17 (Distrib. Albany):

The second installment of Chopin recordings by Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963) includes inscriptions taken 1925-1952, many of which, from 1927, were his first electrical recordings of these pieces. Several Moiseiwitsch never re-recorded in the 1950's, when his art was enjoying an autumn of appreciation. The Op. 10 Etudes, for instance, remind us just how much of a bravura colorist was Moiseiwitsch, the heir-apparent to Hofmann for contour and dynamic variety. While the E-flat Etude, Op. 10, No. 11 poses no difficulty with its tortuous spans, to hear the A-flat and the Op. 25, No. 3 played as "water-pieces" simply astonishes. The diminuendos Moiseiwitsch can produce have the ability to stop on a dime; his landings and transitions are seamless, smooth as glass. A fascinating moment occurs in the "Noel" section of the B Minor Scherzo, where Moiseiwitsch plays Chopin's alternate edition. The rocking momentum he achieves on both the Barcarolle (this from 1941) and the A-flat Ballade (1927) is hypnotic.. Scintillating, elfin, urbane, all at once, the Moiseiwitsch touch is magic. The E Major Scherzo has had few who can lift the songful trio into the stratosphere like he can. The quirky, youthful Polonaise in B-flat comes off as a hybrid, much like the Rondo-Mazurka, Op. 5.  Finally, the ubiquitous Fantasie-Impromptu, a Moiseiwitsch specialty, flittering with the same dragonfly effervescence Hofmann and Cziffra could muster in their finest moments. Beautiful restoration by Bryan Crimp, the whole package is a real collectors' coup. Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco.

[Moiseiwitsch portrait; not CD cover]
DELIUS: Piano Concerto/DEBUSSY: Gardens in the Rain; Clair de Lune; Toccata/RAVEL: Jeux d'eau; Toccata/GRANADOS: 2 Spanish Dances/IBERT: The Little White Donkey/POULENC: Mouvement perpetuel No. 1/STRAVINSKY: Etude in F# Major/PROKOFIEV: Suggestion diabolique/ VALLIER: Toccata/GODOWSKY: Concert Paraphrase on "Der Fledermaus"/CHASINS: 2 Chinese Pieces/PALMGREN: Rococo; Refrain de berceau; West Finnish Dance

Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano/Constant Lambert conducts Philharmonia Orchestra

Naxos Historical 8.110689 74:56:

This is the sixth installment in Naxos' retrospective of pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963). It is comprised of virtuoso encores and one unusual concerto, that of Frederick Delius, which had life on an HMV LP. I find the Concerto lyrically stolid, with abbreviated melodies but plenty of arpeggiated filigree, much in a Hollywood tradition. The encores are almost each and every one toccatas or etudes that demonstrate Moiseiwitsch's brilliant style, his diaphanous touch, smooth landings and transitions, and infinite gradations of pedalled dynamics. The Debussy pieces, especially the Toccata from Pour le Piano, are among the finest I know. The music of Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) had a curious fascination for Moiseiwitsch, who liked their spiritual simplicity. Palmgren is Finland's answer to Percy Grainger. All of the nationalistic, color music by Granados, Ibert, Chasins, and Poulenc is lean and scintillating at once.

The Stravinsky Etude is the only piece by the composer Moiseiwitsch inscribed; along with the Prokofiev (rec. 1950), we miss the pianist's excursions into lengthier works by the sarcastic side of the Russian school. The two Ravel pieces were recorded 1929 (Jeux d'eau) and 1946 (Toccata from Le Tombeau de Couperin), but they are equals in execution and impart deft classical lines along with the digital shimmer. The Delius also dates from 1946, with the assistance of the gifted Constant Lambert. Since there are few other performances for comparison, we accept the enthusiastic, if dignified, constraints of the concerto with pleasure, since Moiseiwitsch felt it deserved a larger audience. If anyone could sell it as a worthy addition to the repertory, it was he. Ward Marston's restorations are, as per expectation, lucid and as unobtrusively quiet as technology allows.

--Gary Lemco

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35; Symphony No. 4 in F Minor ,Op. 36

Pinchas Zukerman, violin/Rafael Kubelik conducts Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra - Audite 95.490 76:43 (Distrib. Albany):

Some discs you just know are going to be exciting; and when I saw this one available through Albany Music, I jumped at it. Originally, Nathan Milstein was scheduled to make his first post-War appearance in Germany for the concert of 24 April 1969, but illness prevented his collaboration with Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) for this historic Munich event. Columbia Artists' Management ushered in a twenty-one-year old replacement from Tel-Aviv, Isaac Stern prodigy Pinchas Zukerman. Frankly, I would have been as skeptical of the replacement as was the Bavarian Orchestra management: I have never taken a shine to Zukerman's violin artistry (excepting his CBS inscription of the Kabalevsky Concerto) as I have to his viola playing. Get thee behind me, artistic doubt!

What we have here, gentlemen, is some visceral musicianship, assuming you like your Tchaikovsky aflame. Zukerman is totally prepared for the virtuosic and temperamental demands of the Concerto, neither eschewing the punishing thirds and spiccato bowings, but offering up tender reveries where Tchaikovsky's sentimentality prevails. Nobility of line, sweetness of tone, fervent rhetoric, all are evident in detail, as Joachim Kaiser's review in the South German Times noted with rare appreciation of a new artist. The F Minor Symphony has equal sound and fury of its own, with Kubelik's urging the Bavarian players to alternate frenzy and intimate musings, in the heroic tradition of Koussevitzky and Mravinsky. At the end of the outer movements, he applies the musical afterburners to explosive ends, the symphony's ending in a dervish-like whirl of Russian colors. Whew!

--Gary Lemco

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