The constant reissuing of material from their archives by the major classical labels may seem tiresome to many collectors but sometimes it results in some outstanding and very worthwhile discs. Columbia’s Great Performances reissues began in the LP era and converted to CD release in the mid-1980s. Columbia had many legendary performers such as Gould, Bernstein, Szell, Stern, Ormandy, E. Power Biggs and so on. Now under the Sony BMG aegis, a new series of ten Great Performances CDs are being released this month, and this is one of them. These are newly remastered and benefit from the improvements in CD mastering and restoration which have been developed in the past several years.
This is the very first release on CD of both Mussorgsky selections. I was blown over by the spectacular sonics of the war horse Pictures with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It certainly never sounded like this on the original LPs. While I didn’t do any comparison with the challengers such as Reiner I found this a most exciting Pictures that one would not guess came from the 1960s. The Boris Godunov excepts from 1961 comprise most of the most exciting sections of the opera, with the big crowd scenes, the hallucination scene and Boris’ death scene. London was one of the best in this role, and since I tend to fall asleep at the complete opera, this bite-size portion should be just right, frankly. The restored recording decodes gorgeously to surround using ProLogic II, making the section with all the church bells truly impressive.
– John Sunier