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Volume 19 Issue 6 - March 2014

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Old Wine, New Bottles |

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESLong-playing discs were developed byBell Laboratories in the early 1930sand a few recordings of Stokowski andthe Philadelphia Orchestra were issued byVictor. The shellac discs of the time were notviable and they were withdrawn. In 1948thanks to vinylite and other factors, LPs wereperfected at Columbia Records under PeterGoldmark. By the early 1950s LPs were incommon currency, to the chagrin of RCA,the final holdout, who tenaciously supportedtheir “convenient” seven-inch 45s includingmultiple-disc sets. The transfers of existing 78rpm masters to LPs were much sought afterand required no costly recording sessions andColumbia and RCA had performances datingback to the turn of the century. Tape recordershad newly enabled anybody to inexpensivelydocument performances anywhere… wellanywhere but in the United States where themusicians’ union held sway.The Westminster Recording Company,founded in NYC in 1949, promptly looked toEurope to record those artists and ensemblesthat had not been signed up by producerssuch as Walter Legge for EMI. Throughthese Westminster recordings, new namesbecame familiar to the record-buying public.Included in this exhilarating new collection ofsuperb musicians was the German conductorHermann Scherchen. Over the years intothe stereo era he produced a Beethovensymphonies cycle, Haydn symphonies,Liszt tone poems, Mahler symphonies,Bach choral works, plus a body of work byMozart, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Offenbach,Ravel, Honegger and others. Not onlywere the performances fresh and excitingbut the sound, as heard on any and everyWestminster recording, was the ultimate inrealism and meticulously edited, on the bestpressings in the industry.In The WestminsterLegacy, The Collector’sEdition (DG 4792343,40 CDs) music loversand collectors alikewill find some usualand lots of unusualrepertoire not to befound in any otheromnibus edition. Some examples: 14 songsby Henri Duparc sung by Léopold Simoneau;Sena Jurinac singing Schumann’s Frauenliebe& Leben and Liederkreis, Op.39; Julian Breamplaying Turina, de Falla and Sor; The ViennaKonzerthaus Quartet plays Schubert’s Quintetin C major, Op.163 and the Octet Op.166; PaulBadura-Skoda plays Schubert’s WandererFantasie, Moments musicaux D780 and thefour Impromptus D899; Jörg Demus playsCésar Franck and Fauré; the Smetana Quartetplays two Beethoven quartets and joins theSmetana Quartet for the Mendelssohn OctetOp.20. The venerable Egon Petri performsthree Beethoven Sonatas, the Pathetique, theAppassionata and the Hammerklavier; theyoung Daniel Barenboim gives us Mozart’sPiano Concerto No.22 and the Piano SonatasNo. 8 & 16; Clara Haskil plays Mozart’s PianoConcerto No.20 and 11 Scarlatti Sonatas.Violinist Erica Morini plays the Brahms andTchaikovsky concertos.And there’s more, a lot more, includingHolst’s The Planets (Boult), the completeNutcracker Ballet (Rodzinski), Handel’scomplete opera Rodelinda (Priestman) andBeverly Sills singing Bellini and DonizettiHeroines. The sound on these discs remainsas vital as when we first heard them. Checkthe complete track listing at deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4792343.Martha Argerich isrecognized as one ofthe finest pianists inthe pantheon. Fromher early years whenshe was not yet 20,Doremi has unearthedfour Mozart performancesof works thatshe has not recorded commercially (DHR-8024). The 21st Piano Concerto, aka ElviraMadigan, with Peter Maag conducting theCologne Radio Symphony was broadcast onSeptember 8, 1960. From the same year she isheard in the only minor key sonata, K.310 inC Minor and also K.333 and K.576. Argerichalready possessed all the magic ingredientsfor outstanding Mozart interpretations:sensitivity, style, lilt, a pulse and breathingwith captivating innocence. A Mozartlover’s delight.Doremi has happily restored to activeduty the 1970 Verdi Requiem with GundulaJanowitz from Salzburg with Karajanconducting (DHR-7734/5, 2 CDs). There is nocommercial recording of the Requiem withJanowitz which issurprising becausethe ethereal beautyof her voice thatilluminates thisperformance is quiteincomparable. Onstage with her wereChrista Ludwig, CarloBergonzi and Ruggero Raimondi.On November 15, 1958 Herbert vonKarajan made his first appearance withan American orchestra, The New YorkPhilharmonic, in a program of Webern,Mozart and Richard Strauss (Heldenleben, ofcourse). Their November 22 concert consistedof the BeethovenSymphonies Nos.1 & 9with the WestminsterChoir and soloistsLeontyne Price,Maureen Forrester,Léopold Simoneauand Norman Scott.Archipel has issuedthis concert (ARPCD 0556, 2 CDs). I wasnot expecting the polish and suavity of theplaying, after all these were New Yorkers, notViennese or Berliners who were simpaticowith Karajan. The First is immediately seamlessand articulate, a quality that continuesthroughout. There is no lingering to smell theroses or make a point. Orchestral balancesare ideal and the mono sound good enough tohear all in perspective.The Ninth has the enormous sweep anddrive, played with often astonishing fire andoccasional raw energy. Unfortunately, therecorded balance seems to have been adjustedduring the intermission as timpanist SaulGoodman often swamps his colleagues in thetuttis making the sound somewhat dense. Thethird symphony in the package is a BeethovenFifth from Salzburg recorded August 18,1948 with The Vienna Philharmonic. ThisPromethean performance from Salzburghas astonishing assurance and an unmistakableaura of optimism. Those familiar withKarajan’s Ninth recorded eight months earlierin Vienna by EMI will know exactly what Imean. The monaural recording is dynamicand very satisfying. This performance isrecommended without any hesitation. Amust-have.Subscribe to HalfTonesThe WholeNote mid-month e-letter.Breaking news, just-in listings, contests, special offers,discounts, and more.Scan the code or go to thewholenote.com/halftones to register.62 | March 1 – April 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

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