Praga Digitals Archive

Tribute to Charles Munch – A Strasburger in Boston = Works of BERLIOZ, FRANCK, ST.-SAENS, ROUSSEL, DEBUSSY, FAURE, RAVEL – Praga Digitals

Tribute to Charles Munch – A Strasburger in Boston = Works of BERLIOZ, FRANCK, ST.-SAENS, ROUSSEL, DEBUSSY, FAURE, RAVEL – Praga Digitals

A generous sampling of the ‘Munch touch’ in Boston in the French music he championed.  Tribute to Charles Munch – A Strasburger in Boston = BERLIOZ: Romeo et Juliette Symphonie – Queen Mab Scherzo; FRANCK: Le Chasseur Maudit; SAINT-SAENS: La Princesse Jaune Overture, Op 30; Le Rouet d’Omphale. Op. 31; DEBUSSY: Fetes fr. Trois Nocturnes; FAURE: Penelope Prelude; RAVEL: La Valse; ROUSSEL: Suite in F Major – Boston Sym. Orch./ Charles Munch – Praga Digitals PRD 250 340, 80:17 (12/9/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: The wizardry of Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony in French repertory finds eloquent representation on this extensive program, from various discs originally recorded 1951-1961 for RCA Victor. Particularly endearing, we have the 15 January 1951 recording of the Saint-Saens 1872 Overture La Princesse Jaune (on LM 1701), a one-act opera that utilizes pentatonic scales to suggest the courtly life of Japan in a dream-vision, although Netherlands provides the setting of the drama. The BSO achieves a lithe, entirely flexible vocal line and resplendently transparent hues, including an amazing bottom and top line in the full complement of strings.  No less brisk, the symphonic poem Le Rouet d’Omphale, (1871) invokes the mythological enslavement of Hercules […]

Furtwangler Conducts BEETHOVEN = Leonor Ov.; Sym. No. 7 & No. 8 – Vienna Philharmonic – Praga Digitals

Furtwangler Conducts BEETHOVEN = Leonor Ov.; Sym. No. 7 & No. 8 – Vienna Philharmonic – Praga Digitals

Praga gives us three Beethoven performances by the veteran Furtwaengler. BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3 in C, Op. 72a; Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92; Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Wilhelm Furtwaengler – Praga Digitals mono-only SACD PRD/DSD 350127 (1/6/17) 79:22 [Distr. by PIAS] ****: Assembled from Vienna concert and studio performances, 1944-1954, Praga revives three extremely potent readings of Beethoven by Wilhelm Furtwaengler (1886-1954), of which the Beethoven Eighth Symphony (8 August 1954) from Salzburg eluded – as had the performance of the Second Symphony (10/3/48 from Vienna) – collectors for many years. The disc opens with a June 2, 1944 reading of the Leonore Overture No. 3, a symphonic poem of 1806 in its own right that precludes any need for stage drama. Besides possessing a grand leisure, the performance moves with regal authority in all parts, as luminous as it can be sudden and fraught with intimations of the abyss of Florestan’s unjust imprisonment.  Furtwaengler builds a terrific tension that at first culminates in the famed trumpet call that resounds with the urge to political and personal freedom, certainly an ironic commentary on the climate of the occasion […]

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24; Piano Concerto No. 8, Piano Sonata No. 11; Fantasia – Wilhelm Kempff – Praga Digitals

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24; Piano Concerto No. 8, Piano Sonata No. 11; Fantasia – Wilhelm Kempff – Praga Digitals

The Kempff Mozart recordings combine an elastic gravity with refined delicacy.  MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K. 491; Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, K. 246; Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331; Fantasia in d minor, K. 397 – Wilhelm Kempff, piano – Bamberg Sym. Orch. (K. 491)/ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Ferdinand Leitner – Praga Digitals PRD 250 359, 79:57 (10/7/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: Praga gathers recordings by the great German piano master Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991) recorded 1960-1962, of which the two works set in a minor key point to Mozart’s affinities with a burgeoning Romanticism. A case in point arises in the January 1961 reading of the unfinished 1782 Fantasia in d minor, K. 397, whose striking inwardness (Lento) wants to linger in an exalted space, but whose contrasting impulsiveness creates a palpable tension. Suddenly, in the last pages, a galant music-box sensibility dispels the clouds of doubt, although the authenticity of the conclusion remains questionable. Kempff allots to this rich piece his special presence. The 1786 Concerto No. 24 in c minor seems to be having a feast of recorded attention lavished upon it: the present performance from Bamberg […]

SHOSTAKOVICH plays SHOSTAKOVICH: 2 Piano Concertos; Concertino, Piano Quintet; Cello Sonata & others – Shostakovich & others – Praga Digitals

SHOSTAKOVICH plays SHOSTAKOVICH: 2 Piano Concertos; Concertino, Piano Quintet; Cello Sonata & others – Shostakovich & others – Praga Digitals

Praga collects a generous portion of the Dmitry Shostakovich legacy in his pianist capacity, working with gifted friends. SHOSTAKOVICH plays SHOSTAKOVICH: From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79; Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102; Piano Concerto No. 1 in c minor, Op. 35; Concertino for 2 Pianos in a minor, Op. 94; Piano Quintet in G Major, Op. 57; Cello Sonata in d minor, Op. 40; 4 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (arr. violin and piano); 3 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 – Dmitry Shostakovich, p./ Dmitry Tsyganov, v./ Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Maxim Shostakovich, p./ Beethoven String Q./ Nina L’Volvna Dorliak, sop./ Zara Dolukhanova, mezzo-sop./ Alexei Maslennikov, tenor/ Moscow Radio Sym. Orch./ Alexander Gauk/ Moscow Philharmonic Orch./ Samuel Samosud – Praga Digitals PRD 250 365.66 (2 CDs), 69:04, 73:06  (11/4/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] *****: In the interest of “authenticity,” few collections can compete with these assembled recordings by Dmitry Shostakovich, 1955 and 1957, in which he appears in his most famous instrumental guise, at the keyboard. As a human being, Shostakovich harbored sympathies for the oppressed Jewish populations of both Nazi and Soviet regimes, and his 1948 cycle of eleven songs From Jewish Poetry (15 January 1955) […]

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals

Two Mravinsky performances from the Prague Spring 1955, of which the Shostakovich seems “definitive.” BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60; SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in e minor, Op. 93 – Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (1955) – Praga Digitals PRD 350 115, 79:28 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: Praga Digitals restores two performances from the 3 June 1955 Smetana Hall concert of the Prague Spring Festival, here featuring the esteemed Russian conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988). Already known for the intense discipline he instilled into the Leningrad ensemble, Mravinsky gleans alert responses from his woodwinds – especially his principal flute and bassoon – for the opening Adagio – Allegro vivace first movement in the Beethoven B-flat Symphony. No less commanding, Mravinsky’s tympani reveals the new power Beethoven had brought to the percussion of the Classical symphony. Once the mysterious and even ominous b-flat minor Adagio passes us, the ensuing Allegro assumes frenetic and unbuttoned energies, volatile as they are irreverent. The capacity for direct lyricism in Mravinsky’s color arsenal reveals itself in the Adagio second movement, a fervent song in sonata-form, sans development.  Winds and strings converge in massive – although not particularly warm – harmony. What makes […]

Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts First Viennese School = MOZART: Marriage of Figaro Ov.; Sym. No. 40; HAYDN: Sym. No. 88 – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Berlin Philharmonic Orch. – Praga Digitals

Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts First Viennese School = MOZART: Marriage of Figaro Ov.; Sym. No. 40; HAYDN: Sym. No. 88 – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Berlin Philharmonic Orch. – Praga Digitals

In restored sound, classic Wilhelm Furtwaengler restorations embrace his Mozart and Haydn.  Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts First Viennese School = MOZART: The Marriage of Figaro Ov., K. 492; Sym. No. 40 in g, K. 550; HAYDN: Sym. No. 88 in G Major; Sym. No. 94 in G Major, “Surprise” – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Wilhelm Furtwaengler – Praga Digitals PRD 350126, 73:18 (9/30/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: In my younger days, with my having read Bruno Walter’s Of Music and Music-Making, I became convinced that anyone – over the age of 50 – who could render Mozart’s 1788 Fortieth Symphony properly had discovered one of the great secrets of the artistic universe.  Listening to Praga’s restoration of Wilhelm Furtwaengler’s recording (7-8 December 1948 & 17 February 1949) with the Vienna Philharmonic, I am impressed with the intensity and willful drive of his vision, especially its tragically serene majesty, which moves not at all slowly or lugubriously, but with an urgent, relentless power. The “digression” into f-sharp minor in the course of the first movement provides but one of a number of agogic or harmonic ventures that indicate that below a controlled surface, dark rustlings of Dionysos prevail. The […]

Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Alexander Dedyukhin, piano/ USSR Radio & TV PROKOKOFIEV: Cello Sonata; Sym.-Concerto; Concertina – Large Sym. Orch./ Gennadi Rozhdestvensky – Praga Digitals

Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Alexander Dedyukhin, piano/ USSR Radio & TV PROKOKOFIEV: Cello Sonata; Sym.-Concerto; Concertina – Large Sym. Orch./ Gennadi Rozhdestvensky – Praga Digitals

Mstislav Rostropovich showcases three brilliant cello works by friend and colleague Sergei Prokofiev.  PROKOFIEV: Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 119; Symphony-Concerto in e for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 125; Concertino in g for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 132 – Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Alexander Dedyukhin, piano/ USSR Radio & TV Large Sym. Orch./ Gennadi Rozhdestvensky – Praga Digitals PRD 250 337, 74:01 (9/9/16)  [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****: Praga assembles three seminal 1964 Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) “live” performances of music by his friend and collaborator Sergei Prokofiev, for whom he helped recast the Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 58. The premiere of the revised Sinfonia Concertante occurred 18 February 1952, with Sviatoslav Richter’s appearance on the podium to lead the Moscow Youth Orchestra. The success of the performance inspired Prokofiev to begin “a diaphanous concertino for cello and orchestra. . .which I intend to complete . . .in 1953.” Prokofiev’s untimely death prevented his finishing the last movement, so Rostropovich, working with Dmitri Kabalevsky, completed the score.  The 1949 Cello Sonata came as a product of “formal” criticism by Politburo member Andrei Zhdanov, who had accused Prokofiev – and Shostakovich, Miaskovsky, and Khachaturian – of having become […]

MOZART and SCHUBERT works played by pianist Annie Fischer – Praga Digitals

MOZART and SCHUBERT works played by pianist Annie Fischer – Praga Digitals

Hungarian virtuoso Annie Fischer brings refined energy and passion to Mozart in classic performances. MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20 in d, K. 466; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482; Rondo in D Major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 382; SCHUBERT: Impromptu in f, D. 935, No. 4 – Annie Fischer, p./ Philharmonia Orch./ Sir Adrian Boult (K. 466)/ Wolfgang Sawallisch (K. 482)/ Hungarian Radio Sym. Orch./ Ervin Lukacs – Praga Digitals PRD 250339, 81:58 (10/7/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] *****: Hungarian pianist Annie Fischer (1914-1996) remained the darling of Mozart interpretation, along with Clara Haskil, though Fischer could be more intense and aggressive in her performances. Andras Schiff credits her with some of “the most poetic playing” of his experience. Various conductors assisted Fischer in her Mozart journeys: Otto Klemperer, Ferenc Fricsay, Wolgang Sawallisch, and Adrian Boult.  The present collection assembles London performances from 1959 and 1965, while the Rondo has its recording location in Budapest of 1959. The collaboration on the 1785 d minor Concerto (February 1959) with Sir Adrian Boult establishes a truly ominous atmosphere of sturm und drang, later affirmed by the Beethoven cadenza. The powerful opening motives, however turbulent, find no echo in […]

RACHMANINOV: P. Con. No. 3; The Bells – Van Cliburne, p./Sym. of the Air/Soloists/ Krill Kondrashin – Praga Digitals

RACHMANINOV: P. Con. No. 3; The Bells – Van Cliburne, p./Sym. of the Air/Soloists/ Krill Kondrashin – Praga Digitals

The best version yet of this classic. RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in d, Op. 30; The Bells, Op. 35 – Van Cliburn, p./ Symphony of the Air/ Elizaveta Shumskaya, sop./ Mikhail Dovenmann, tenor/ Alexei Bolshakov, bar./ Moscow P.O./ Kirill Kondrashin – Praga Digitals Reminiscences stereo-only SACD PRD/DSD 350 123, 78:01 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****: Yes, this is that recording from 1958, Cliburn’s homecoming triumph after winning, against all odds—considering who was in power at the time in the Soviet Union—the First International Tchaikovsky Competition, a huge Cold War ploy if ever there was one, considering the wealth of musical talent present in Russia at the time, almost guaranteeing a win. It was the performance of the Tchaikovsky First and Rachmaninov Third that won the day for the young Harvey Lavan Cliburn, and when he returned to New York, Maestro Kondrashin was there at Carnegie Hall with him, subsequently recording the piece for RCA Victor. Only history will testify as to how much this significant event in the relationship between the United States and the USSR was soothed by the balm of Cliburn’s love for the Russian people, and their very demonstrable love for him. This recording has been […]

“STRAVINSKY in 4 Deals” = Violin Con.; Jeu de cartes; Movements – Soloists/Stravinsky – Praga Digitals

“STRAVINSKY in 4 Deals” = Violin Con.; Jeu de cartes; Movements – Soloists/Stravinsky – Praga Digitals

This album serves as a microcosm of Stravinsky’s evolving musical styles, in four performances expertly restored.  “STRAVINSKY in 4 Deals” = Violin Concerto in D; Pulcinella – Suite; Jeu de cartes; Movements for Piano and Orchestra – David Oistrakh, violin/ Concerts Lamoureux/ Bernard Haitink/ Philharmonia Orch./ Otto Klemperer/ Bavarian Radio-Sym. Orch./ Igor Stravinsky/ Margrit Weber, p./ Radio-Sym. Berlin/ Ferenc Fricsay – Praga Digitals PRD 250 329, 78:37 (8/12/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:   Praga assembles four distinct Stravinsky performances, 1937-1963, that realize the mercurial nature of the composer’s style, especially after his departure from Romanticism and the throes of Le Sacre du Printemps. Both the Pulcinella Suite (1922; rev. 1947) after Pergolesi and the Violin Concerto (1931) embrace neo-Classical ambitions, while Jeu de cartes (1936) – a ballet in “three deals” – ironically adopts both Classical and Expressionist modes. The late Movements for Piano and Orchestra of 1959 proffers Stravinsky’s version of pulverized materials in the style of Webern and serial technique. Of the four performances, three derive from studio recordings, while the Stravinsky reading of his own card game comes to us live – and in brash, exemplary mono sound – from Munich, 4 October 1957. The Violin […]

DVORAK: Sym. No. 9 in e minor, “From the New World”; Sym. No. 8 in G Major – Czech Philharmonic Orch./ Frantisek Stupka – Praga Digitals stereo-only

DVORAK: Sym. No. 9 in e minor, “From the New World”; Sym. No. 8 in G Major – Czech Philharmonic Orch./ Frantisek Stupka – Praga Digitals stereo-only

For those unfamiliar with the veteran Czech conductor Stupka, these two Dvorak performances provide a brilliant introduction. DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 in e minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”; Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Frantisek Stupka – Praga Digitals stereo-only SACD PRD/DSD 350 134, 78:23 (8/12/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****: The name of Czech conductor Frantisek Stupka (1879-1965) certainly did not convey to me the same authority as I had accorded Vaclav Talich, Karel Ancerl, and Rafael Kubelik, but these performances – of the “New World” Symphony (6 January 1964) and the G Major Symphony (8 January 1959) – have changed my perspective. Stupka – having made his reputation with the Czech String Quartet – served as co-director of the Czech Philharmonic from 1946-1956 and director of the Moravian Philharmonic, the latter of which remained an “Eastern” ensemble without recorded documentation. The live broadcasts here preserved by Praga prove instantly refreshing and eminently affectionate readings of repertory that once more – under an inspirational conductor – throw off any sedimentation or ossification from long-wrought familiarity. The reading of the New World Symphony proceeds linearly but with inflamed interior voices from the […]

BRAHMS: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 & others – David Oistrakh, v. – Praga Digitals

BRAHMS: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 & others – David Oistrakh, v. – Praga Digitals

The complete Brahms violin sonata cycle from David Oistrakh shines in live concert performances from Prague and Moscow. BRAHMS: Scherzo in c minor, WoO 2; Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 “Regenlied-Sonata”; Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100 “Thun”; Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Op. 108 – David Oistrakh, violin/ Frida Bauer & Sviatoslav Richter, p. (Scherzo, Op. 100) – Praga Digitals PRD 250 321, 73:38 (2/19/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:   Russian violin master David Oistrakh inscribed his live Brahms works over the course of six years, 1966-1972, in concerts alternating between Prague and Moscow.  Oistrakh opens (8 December 1968, Moscow) with the 1853 Scherzo that formed  a part of the so called F-A-E Sonata that Brahms, Albert Dietrich, and Robert Schumann co-created for their mutual friend Joseph Joachim.  Oistrakh and Richter strike a potent, slashing tone throughout the movement, although its tender episodes enjoy a sympathetic pathos. The musical scene switches to Prague (17 May 1972), where Oistrakh and Frida Bauer collaborate on the 1878 G Major Sonata. The transparent theme, based on the Op. 59, No. 3 “Regenlied,” gains volume and momentum from both performers, gravitating to a […]

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel – Claudio Arrau, p./ Bavarian Radio-Sym. Orch. /Rafael Kubelik – Praga Digitals

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel – Claudio Arrau, p./ Bavarian Radio-Sym. Orch. /Rafael Kubelik – Praga Digitals

Claudio Arrau realizes Brahms in the grand manner, both in recital and with a spirited Bavarian ensemble.  Claudio Arrau plays JOHANNES BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in d minor, Op. 15; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24 – Claudio Arrau, p./ Bavarian Radio-Sym. Orch. /Rafael Kubelik – Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 350 068, 79:27 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:  A sturdy combination of technical prowess and intellectual erudition marked the long career of Chilean virtuoso Claudio Arrau (1903-1991). Arrau’s often massive chordal approach made him a “German” performer par excellence, courtesy of his one teacher, Martin Krause.  Although Arrau and Vladimir Horowitz had been exact contemporaries, Arrau favored a personal and aesthetic distance from his public, preferring to preserve his individual space and vision without concessions to the public or to record company management. By the end of his career, he dropped encores from his response to audience adulation – you paid your money, and Arrau delivered his stated program. When I complimented him (in Atlanta) on his 1951 inscription of the Schumann Concerto with Victor de Sabata, Arrau remarked, “That was a long time ago.” The Brahms 1861 Handel Variations remained a staple of the Arrau […]

Romeo & Juliet = TCHAIKOVSKY, BERLIOZ, PROKOFIEV – Kondrashin/Monteux /Mravinsky – Praga

Romeo & Juliet = TCHAIKOVSKY, BERLIOZ, PROKOFIEV – Kondrashin/Monteux /Mravinsky – Praga

Despite an askew assemblage, the Romantic ethos of these scores has exemplary conductors at their respective helms. Romeo & Juliet = TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet – Overture Fantasy in b minor; BERLIOZ: Romeo et Juliette Symphonie, Op. 17: four excerpts; PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet Ballet – Suite 2, Op. 64b – Moscow Philharmonic Orch./ Kyrill Kondrashin (Tchaikovsky)/ Choir and London Sym. Orch./ Pierre Monteux (Berlioz)/ Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ Yevgeny Mravinsky (Prokofiev) – Praga Digitals multichannel SACD PRD/DSD 350 116, 79:20 (2/5/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: Praga assembles various musical responses to the 1595 Shakespeare play of the two star-crossed lovers of Verona, utilizing first Kyrill Kondrashin’s 7 January 1967 live performance from Moscow of the 1869 Fantasy-Overture by Tchaikovsky. Kondrashin (1914-1981) assumed major international renown through his collaboration on the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto on RCA with Van Cliburn in 1958. His reading of the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy enjoys a broad canvas, rife with drama and sumptuous, erotic longing. The Moscow Philharmonic strings, winds, and brass achieve lofty heights without losing the manic drive that often marks a Kondrashin realization. The reading offers a fine balance between the too-often rushed approaches of some conductors who want virtuosity to […]