Classical CD Reissues, Part 2   May 2003

BEETHOVEN: The Nine Symphonies plus the overtures Fidelio, Leonore II, Ruins of Athens, Creatures of Prometheus – Clara Ebers (soprano), Gertrude Pitzinger (contralto), Walther Ludwig (tenor) and Ferdinand Frantz (bass), with Eugen Jochum conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in 1 (1959), 2 (1958), 2 (1958), 3 (1954), 4 (1961), 6 (1954), 7 (1952), 8 (1958) and Leonore II (1961); the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 5 (1959), 9 (1952), and the overtures Ruins of Athens and Creatures of Prometheus (1958). DG Original Masters 474 018-2 (5 CDs):

As Simon Rattle’s new Beethoven cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic marks the passing of a generation, so did Eugen Jochum’s cycle with the two German orchestras, although with considerably less fanfare—in fact, with no fanfare at all. Not only does Jochum’s magnificent recording span the introduction from mono to stereo—the earliest recording is the Seventh from November, 1952; the latest is the Fourth from January, 1961—under Jochum’s inspired leadership, it glides effortlessly between the musical ecstasy represented by Golden Age giants like Furtwängler and Mengelberg, and the streamlined, jet-set glories of Herbert von Karajan. Jochum would go on to record Beethoven cycles with the London Symphony (EMI) and Amsterdam Concertgebouw (Philips), but neither would match the success of this first.

It came out over such a long period of time, however, that it was not recognized as a cycle by many at the time; had it been, its competition would have been Karajan with the Philharmonia and Cluytens with Berlin (both EMI). In retrospect, Jochum is less elegant than the former, and less instrumentally sumptuous than the latter, but he has a musical passion and integrity all his own.

Throughout, he combines a tremendous sense of command without being controlling, a spiritual serenity which seems at times to wander almost without purpose, and an appetite for physical beauty that transcends the often indifferent sound. This is about Beethoven wandering in the mountains, at times surrounded by clouds, at times illuminated by sudden deep shafts of sunlight. It is not an approach that immediately makes you say “Jochum!” but it is so deeply and satisfyingly musical that it will refresh your spirit for many listenings to come.

After Jochum, DG would record Beethoven cycles with Karajan (three times!), Böhm, Kubelik, Abbado, Bernstein and John Eliot Gardiner—not to mention distinguished recordings of separate symphonies by Fricsay and Carlos Kleiber—but none have had the sense of splendid isolation and romantic vision these do. And just when you think it’s all cerebral poetry, power and passion come roaring to the fore, as in the Fourth Symphony and the Ruins of Athens overture which both have a leonine animal energy that is far sexier than one would ever imagine from Jochum.

Karl Dietrich Gräwe’s liner notes match the conductor for hovering about the core, but his sense of history and context is keen. The mastering by the Emil Berliner Studios has produced clean, spacious sound that allows the two orchestras to be heard as naturally as possible. And it makes obvious that, by 1961, DG was getting stereo right—just in time for the start of Karajan’s epoch making cycle a few years later. Purchase Here

- Laurence Vittes

TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35/BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26/SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 61

Zino Francescatti, violin
Artur Rodzinski conds. NY Philharmonic (Tchaikovsky)
Dr. Frank Black conds. NBC Symphony (Bruch)
Chalres Munch conds. ORTF Orchestra (Saint-Saens)
Music&Arts CD-1118 79:50 (Distrib. Albany):

Another in the increasing recorded legacy of Zino Francescatti (1902 1991), here in three staples he inscribed commercially to better effect, given the poor fidelity on at least two of the performances. The Bruch Concerto under Frank Black (4/29/45) fares best, with a hard-driven impetus reminiscent of Milstein's blazing approach with Barbirolli some years prior. Francescatti's burnished tone and slow vibrato stand out clearly, with that suave finesse he brought to his later commercial recordings of the Bruch with Mitropoulos and Schippers. The Tchaikovsky with Rodzinski (10/24/43) is a whiplash rendition, showing off Francescatti's razor honed intonation and brisk staccato and spiccato bowings. He plays a cut edition of the Tchaikovsky, as he does in Saint Saens, but the lyricism and nobility of line are there. I have always admired Francescatti's cantilena, especially in the slow movements of each of these works. While the opportunity to hear (1951, from Strasbourg) conductor Charles Munch in a Saint-Saens work he never committed to commercial records is invaluable, the lacquers for this transfer are indeed poor; we can hear metallic swish at several points, and the miking is distant. The edition matches point for point with the CBS Mitropoulos version, highly charged, with a brisk pace in the Andantino where a touch more Largo might have worked wonders. I know Francescatti played the Saint-Saens in New York with Szell--now, wouldn't that make a tasty dish to set before us kings? Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216; Violin Sonatas: B-flat Major, K.454; E Minor, K. 304; B-flat Major, K. 378

Arthur Grumiaux, violin
Clara Haskil, piano (K. 454; K. 304)
Atualfo Argenta, piano (K. 378)
Vaclav Smetacek conducts Prague Chamber Orchestra
DOREMI DHR-7779 64:45 (Distrib. Allegro):

Volume One celebrating the art of Belgian virtuoso Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) has the suave master playing an all-Mozart program, which seems fitting enough, given his innate sense of the Mozart style. These inscriptions all derive from live performances 1955-1957; the unique moment of hearing the gifted, but tragically short-lived, conducting talent Atualfo Argenta (1913-1958) on piano expands our appreciation of his gifts, although the sound is cramped and the miking at a very low level. The Smetacek collaboration in the G Major Concerto is all sun and light, with dazzling riffs and ensemble, Grumiaux's supplying his own effortless cadenza in opening Allegro. The two collaborations with the legendary Clara Haskil (1895-1960) from the 1957 Besancon Festival have had incarnation on Music&Arts (CD-860), and both versions suffer the keyboard's placement some distance away from the microphone. The alternately elegant and dervish-like qualities of the playing, however, more than compensate for the sonic limitations. Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

Mischa Levitzki, piano = GLUCK (arr. Sgambati): Melodie from Orfeo/SCHUBERT (arr. Tausig): Marche militaire/MENDELSSOHN: Spring Song; Rondo Capriccioso, Op .14/CHOPIN: Waltz in E Minor; Waltz in G-flat Major; Etude in A-flat Major/MOSZKOWSKI: La jongleuse/LEVITZKI: 2 Waltzes/LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6; La Campanella/BACH (arr. Liszt): Prelude and Fugue in A Minor/SCARLATTI: Sonata in A, K. 113/GLUCK (arr. Brahms): Gavotte/BEETHOVEN: Ecossaise in E-flat Major/TCHAIKOVSKY: November from The Months, Op. 37a

Mischa Levitzki, piano
Naxos Historical 8.110688 77:06:

The name of Mischa Levitzki (1898-1941) has been known to a select band of piano cognoscenti who know his Liszt E-flat Concerto (with Landon Ronald) and a few pieces of Chopin, Liszt, and various arranged pieces popular with virtuosos at the end of the acoustic era and early into electrical recordings. A pupil of Stojowski and Dohnanyi, Levitzki sported a ferociously light touch, deft pedalling, and explosive dynamics that rival Moiseiwitsch and Rosenthal. This fine restoration by Ward Marston gives us three cycles of Levitzki's reocrded art: the acoustics friom 1923-24; the early electrics, 1924-25; and the HMV recordings, 1927-33. Even in spite of the hiss and surface swish of the acoustics, Levitzki's flashy finesse comes through, including a breath-taking 1924 Marche militaire replete with added roulades and glissandi which enjoy any number of acrobatic leaps and turns.

After several noisy cuts, including a previously unpublished Mendelssohn Spring Song and a towering La Campanella that would make Nojima proud, the Liszt arrangement of Bach's A Minor Organ Prelude and Fugue on HMV is like a glimmer of calm seas. The evenness of tone and subtle lights of crescendo and rubato are old-school but ravishing to hear, shades of the kind of virtuosity Hofmann and Barere could urge from a piano. (By the way, Naxos needs to re-check the Schmieder listing for this piece). The Scarlatti is all tickle and sparkle. I actually prefer Levitzki's acoustic E Minor Waltz, slightly broader, than his 1924 remake. The 1927 Gluck Gavotte is, next to a performance by Elly Ney, the best I know, since the sound is cleaner than Hofmann's version. The Beethoven Scotch Dance is snappy, even niftier than my old favorite version by Foldes. While the 1928 remake of Schubert's march is cut more than the acoustic version, the middle section outdoes Godowsky at his own game. Finally, Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso in E, smooth as glass, exploiting the vehement singing line of which Levitzki was a past master. Some detractors thought Levitzki shallow, but his playing, as I well recall his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, could be astonishing and insightful at once.
Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

WAGNER: Overture to Tannhauser; Prelude to Lohengrin; Prelude to Die Meistersinger; Forest Murmurs from Siegfried/R. STRAUSS: Don Juan/MAHLER: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5/HUMPERDINCK: Overture to Haensel und Gretel

Willem Mengelberg conducts Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and New York Philharmonic (Humperdinck; Forest Murmurs)
Naxos Historical 8.110855 69:27:

This disc extends the Naxos restorations of virtuoso conductor Willam Mengelberg (1871-1951) with at least two of his most illustrious inscriptions, the Don Juan of 1938 for Telefunken and the Tannhauser Overture for Columbia, made in 1932. We also have the only commercial recording Mengelberg made of his beloved Mahler, the 1926 Columbia of the one movement from the C# Minor Symphony, played with fondness, not slackness, in the overblown way of modern readings. While there is a Mahler Fourth with Mengelberg and soprano Jo Vincent, that is a radio broadcast recording.

The Tannhauser Overture, along with Mengelberg's famous performance of Liszt's Les Preludes, is often used as a demonstration piece for this conductor's polished art. Mounted with a high gloss, the music enjoys a torrid commitment by the ensemble, with fine homogenuity of tone, shimmering string lines, and huge, arched phrases. Mengelberg took full advantage of the electrical recording process, seeing an opportunity to extend his artistic hegemony in Europe as Stokowski had done in Philadelphia. The two New York Philharmonic readings, the Wagner from 1927 and the Humperdinck from 1930, have been issued on CD prior on Pearl (Gemm CD 9474); here we have improved sound and more resonance in the treble lines. I did know Mengelberg's Lohengrin reading from June 1927, so this taut, liquid exercise in orchestral discipline came as a delight to me, too.

Richard Strauss and Mengelberg need few introductions. We are awaiting Naxos to reissue the New York Philharmonic Ein Heldenleben from 1927. The 1938 Don Juan is a whirlwind affair - vainglory, ego, and flamboyance, some very dark colors in the final pages. As in all Mengelberg records, the flexibility of internal rhythms is a fascinating study in itself; only the Mahler excerpt really exploits the romantic, atavistic use of portamento. Strong playing, rife with personality, mark these restorations, in vivid sound and colors, courtesy of Mark Obert Thorn. Purchase Here

-Gary Lemco

BACH (arr. BUSONI): Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564/SCHUBERT: Impromptu, Op. 90, No. 4; Minuetto from Piano Sonata in G, D. 894/SCHUMANN: Romance, Op. 28, No. 2; Arabeske in C, Op. 18;Traumerai, Op. 15, No. 7; Widmung (arr. by LISZT)/BRAHMS: Capriccio, Op. 76, No. 2; Rhapsody in G Minor, Op. 79, No. 2; Wiegenlied, Op. 49, No. 4 (arr. Rubinstein)/RUBINSTEIN: Valse-Caprice

Artur Rubinstein, piano
RCA - The Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 8 09026-63008-2 56:10:

Among the most fascinating of the restorations of the complete Artur Rubinstein recorded oeuvre, this CD gives us 78rpm shellacs from 1928 1947, most of which did not have any LP equivalent. Rubinstein made his first HMV appearance March 9, 1928, when he recorded the pert Brahms Capriccio in B Minor included in this set. The largest canvas, the Busoni arrangement of Bach's organ Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, dates from 1934, and carries us to restrained, lyrical heights, rather than to the stentorian, percussive crevices Horowitz gave us from Carnegie Hall in the 1960's.

Each of the pieces has a fluid, unaffected charm; and the excerpt from Schubert's Fantasie-Sonata makes us wish Rubinstein had elucidated on his thoughts on this piece later in his career. Schumann and Brahms are the direct beneficiaries of Rubinstein's pedagogy under Joachim and Barth. The Widmung has a spaciousness and singing line that are haunting. The Schumann Romance exploits the three-voice texture intimating of lovers' trysts accomplished in spite of harmonic (aka Wieck's) opposition. The music of Anton Rubinstein did not loom large in Artur Rubinstein's repertory, but this 1935 version of Valse-Caprice nicely complements the rendition made several years later and which did appear on extended 45's. Ward Marston's remasterings have captured rare moments from the hands of a fine artist just beginning to peak in his musical maturity. Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat Major, K. 456; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491; Piano Quaret No. 1 in G Minor, k. 478/BEN-HAIM: Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra/SCARLATTI: 2 Sonatas/FRANCK: Symphonic Variations/KHACHATURIAN: Piano Concerto in D-flat Major

Pnina Salzman, piano
Mendi Rodan conducts Jerusalem Symphony (Franck) and Israel Broadcasting Symphony (K. 491)
David Shallon conducts Jerusalem Symphony (K. 456)
Carlo Maria Giulini condicts Israel Philharmonic (Ben-Haim)
Anatole Fistoulari conducts Jerusalem Symphony (Khachaturian)
Amadeus String Quartet (K. 478)

DOREMI DHR-7828/9 77:57; 78:14 (Distrib. Allegro):

Pnina Salzman (b. 1924) is a native Israeli virtuoso now considered to be the Grand Dame of keyboard artists, enjoying a prestige accorded Guiomar Novaes in Brazil, Moura Lympany in Britain. A sterling technique, brilliant jeu perle, and a natural Mozart sound, Salzman evokes a lithe and fluent Mozart that Horszowski could muster in his prime. Trained by Cortot and Tagliaferro, Salzman's approach has a Gallic, soft rhythmic pulse, a high gloss, and she favors the long line. Her art being new to me, I went right away to the 1985 live tape of K. 456, with its haunted Andante, a work Argerich (with Jochum), among others, seemed to own but now has to share with this fine reading under David Shallon. This set, by the way, has fine sound throughout, not a quality to which DOREMI can always boast.

The most intriuging collaboration is the Ben-Haim Capriccio with Giulini from 1960. The piece clearly borrows its sensibility from Bloch's Shelomo, with angular, Eastern chant and bits of Hebrew psalmody. It has its own energy, and Giulini makes its colors shimmer. Anatole Fistoulari, once referred to as 'the world's greatest non-conductor,' specialized in the Khachaturian Concerto (with Lympany, with Katin), so his 1977 performance is an orchestrally secure, albeit undemonstrative, account. The bravura playing by Salzman, however, is scintillating. She drives it with the same ferocity as Kapell, and she can stroke the keys with the velvet paw when she likes; witness the two Scarlatti sonatas from 1980. I would argue that the Franck is among the most exalted I have heard, and I have heard many since my first 78s with Walter Gieseking and Henry Wood. The entire concept is on another plane entirely from most executors of this familiar staple. And finally, with members of the Amadeus Quartet, the dark and noble Piano Quartet in G Minor from 1984, revealing an intimate but expansive chamber music player in Salzman, again ushering comparisons with veterans Horszowski and Rubinstein. Producer Jacob Harnoy warned me this artist was great, and he called it all the way. So, where have the major labels been all this time? Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

J. STRAUSS: Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) - Complete Operetta; J. STRAUSS: Excerpts from New Year's Concert, 1952

Hilde Zadek, soprano/Alfred Poell, baritone/Emmy Loose, soprano/Julius Patzak, tenor/Rosette Anday, contralto/Karl Doench, baritone/Clemens Krauss conducts Vienna State Opera Chorus and Vienna Philharmonic
Preiser 20020 71:21; 68:68 (Distrib. Albany):

Ever since I owned the 78s called "Three Delightful Waltzes," with music conducted by Erich Kleiber and Clemens Krauss (1893-1954), I have been addicted to the Clemens Krauss penchant for lilting rhythms in the Viennese style. Though Mozart and Richard Strauss were his idols, Krauss knew the operetta and Wagner tradition through his associations with the Vienna Choir Boys, Artur Nikisch, and Franz Schalk. This inscription of The Gypsy Baron comes from 1951, issued originally via Decca, with an all star cast from the Vienna Opera. Julius Patzak, though beyond his prime, was still in good voice and would soon record Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter. Rosette Anday had performed Beethoven's Ninth with Wilhelm Furtwaengler. And Emmy Loose was Decca's answer to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf for beauty and intelligent singing.

The edition of the operetta is somewhat cut: we do not get the Treasure Waltz, and several lyric arias like the duet Wer uns getraut are not given repeats. What we do have is a sure sense of vocal ensemble, under-girded by the most suave kind of orchestral patina. Hungarian rhythms, bits of Turkish janissary marches, gypsy melos, and unbridled, sentimental goulash are all mixed into a charming stew. Hilde Zadek shines as Saffi, and her So elend und so treu captures us while it beguiles Patzak's Barinkay. All of the trios and choral ensembles shimmer with zal and elan born of long experience. I do miss Eric Kunz and Marcel Wittrisch, both of whom taught me in their old records to love this music. The New Year's Concert 1952 was the first of three Decca recorded with Krauss: his Libelle of Josef Strauss is diaphanous as air. There are nine waltzes, polkas and marches altogether; but to hear the Einzugsmarsch from The Gypsy Baron with the chorus still pales the strictly orchestral offerings. This is vintage Viennese schlogobers, deftly served. Purchase Here

--Gary Lemco

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