BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. VIEUXTEMPS: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37.
Lola Bobesco, violinist; Cologne Radio Symphony Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
AUDITE CD 95.592 TT: 61:52
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MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77.
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON Joseph Szigeti, violinist; Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York, Bruno Walter, cond. (Mendelssohn); Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond. (Brahms)
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1197 TT: 67:55
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Maria Stader, soprano; Maureen Forrester, contralto; Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/Bruno Walter, cond.
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1199 T: 79:47
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.
Alfred Cortot, pianist; Berlin Radio Symphony Orch/Ferenc Fricsay, cond.
AUDITE CD 95.498 TT: 80:32
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 55 "Emperor." Sonata No. 21 in C, Op. 53 "Waldstein." CHOPIN: Etudes Op. 25 Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9; Etude Op. 10 No. 5.
Wilhelm Backhaus, pianist; Cologne Radio Symphony Orch/Georg Solti, cond.
MEDICI ARTS CD MM006 TT: 72:33
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Admirers of Karl Böhm (1894-1981) will wish to investigate these April 5, 1963 studio broadcast performances with the WDR Cologne Orchestra (previously known as Kölner Radio Symphony Orchestra). This Brahms First is incredibly dynamic, more so than Böhm's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic more than a decade later, although the orchestra surely is not the VPO. Of interest is the Violin Concerto No. 5 of Vieuxtemps featuring Romanian violinist Lola Bobesco (1921-2003), highly regarded by connoisseurs, but with a somewhat limited career. Obviously, from her performance in this broadcast, she was a major violinist.

Music & Arts has issued Joseph Szigeti's New York Philharmonic broadcasts of the Mendelssohn concerto conducted by Bruno Walter (February 2, 1941) and the Brahms concerto conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos (October 24, 1948). Ward Marston's digital restoration does what can be done with original sources accurately conveying Szigeti's solid musicianship as well as his intonation and technical limitations. Abraham Chipman's adulatory CD notes constantly refer to numbered reference points in both scores, information that will mean little to most readers—how many actually have the scores to refer to? Still, this is a major historic reissue, as is the label's CD of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 from a Carnegie Hall concert February 17, 1957, Bruno Walter's last broadcast with the NYP, but not his final appearance with the orchestra: that was a Pension Fund benefit concert February 26, 1958. Prior to that, Walter had made a series of recordings for Columbia in Hollywood and in New York completed his recording of Mahler's Symphony; only the final two movements were taped at the time of the broadcast a year earlier. Kit Higginson did the restoration of the original mono recording and did a fine job. This is an important issue.

The career of Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay was tragically cut short when he died in 1963 at the age of 48. He spent most of his time in Germany at the Bavarian State Opera and with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra, and even had a brief stint as music director of the Houston Symphony in 1954. A valuable addition to his small discography is this Audite issue of live performances of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra recorded January 24, 1957, one of the most exciting you'll ever hear, coupled with Schumann's Piano Concerto in a live performance May 15, 1951 with the RIAS Orchestra and Alfred Cortot as soloist. Habakuk Traber's informative CD notes tell of the pianist's involvement with the Germans during the war and this performance of the Schumann (Cortot's only appearance with the RIAS orchestra) "symbolized the hand of reconciliation held out to a great artist." Cortot's concept of the score is as a "fantasy," more so in this live recording than in his 1927 commercial recording with Sir Landon Ronald and the LSO. In 1951 Cortot was was 74. This performance is like no other, free in tempi to the extreme, with many finger slips—but it is important to have it available. The mono sound is adequate to convey the performances. The Tchaikovsky symphony was before an audience, the concerto was not.

Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969) usually is remembered for his Beethoven and Brahms, composers he recorded profusely beginning in 1908. This vivid performance of Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 is a studio recording made June 25, 1956 with the Cologne Radio Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti (not yet "Sir" - that didn't happen until 1972). The Beethoven sonata and Chopin were recorded during concerts September 24, 1959 and June 11, 1953. Even though he was nearing 70 at the time, Backhaus tosses off the incredible difficulties of the Chopin etudes with remarkable ease, including the demanding Op. 25 No. 6. Excellent mono sound throughout.

R.E.B. (August 2007)