BLOCH: Schelomo. STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35.
Emanuel Feuermann, cellist; Philadelphia Orch/Leopold Stokowski (Bloch)/Eugene Ormandy, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 168 TT: 58:10

ROSSINI: Overture to The Siege of Corinth. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in b minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique."
NBC Symphony Orch/Guido Cantelli, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 166 TT: 53:46

WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger. "Forest Murmurs" from Siegfried. Siegfried Idyll. Siegfried's Rhine Journey, Death and Funeral Music from Götterdammerung. Good Friday Spell from Parsifal. Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. The Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre.
La Scala Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 161 (2 disks) TT: 62:12 & 51:07

TCHAIKOVSKY: Aurora's Wedding Ballet Suite (arr. Diaghilev). WAGNER: Symphonic Synthesis of Tristan and Isolde (arr. Stokowski)
Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 167 TT: 75:49

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 595. Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201
Rudolf Serkin, pianist; NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 164 TT: 47:34

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58
Arthur Rubinstein, pianist; Royal Phillharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 165 TT:30:48

This site recently mentioned five releases from the intriguing French company Pristine Audio, which is dedicated to resurrecting important performances from the past. (REVIEW). Now here are six additional major issues, beginning with Emanuel Feuermann's 1940 Philadelphia recordings of Schelomo (with Stokowski), and Don Quixote (with Ormandy). The remarkable transfer was by Mark Obert-Thorn, who also made the transfers of Stokowski's Tchaikovsky and Wagner, recorded in 1953 and 1950 with his first-class pickup orchestra that made up in finesse what it lacked in sheer numbers. I once owned these LPs, and they surely didn't sound as glorious as they do in these transfers, also by Obert-Thorn.

The Cantelli/NBC concert from a broadcast February 21, 1953 is a treasure. The NBC orchestra has never been sounded better—indeed this was a first-class ensemble. The Tchaikovsky symphony is given a direct, powerful reading, magnificently played, preceded by a spirited reading of the Rossini overture. Fortunately the broadcast was from Carnegie Hall instead of the wretched Studio 8H, and Andrew Rose's transfer is excellent. The venue's clear, rich acoustics are ever apparent. The Tchaikovsky has been issued on CD before by AS Disc and Arkadia, no longer available.

Arturo Toscanini had a distinguished long connection with La Scala. For many years he was principal conductor, and afterwards returned often as a guest. His final concert, September 19, 1952, was broadcast and is heard in its entirety in this twin-CD set. The all-Wagner concert is testament to Toscanini's control of an orchestra, and the LaScala Orchestra is in top form. There was room on the CDs for some of the enthusiastic audience's applause, and the set also includes a lengthy pre-broadcast commentary. Andrew Rose did what could be done with the AM broadcast originals producing sound that well conveys Toscanini's powerful Wagner.

The Mozart disk is valuable as it contains the Piano Concerto No. 27 from a concert in Carnegie Hall February 23, 1936 at the end of the pianist's first U. S. tour. Andrew Rose gives detailed information about the manifold difficulties of making a transfer from sources that were very badly damaged, and he did his work well. Piano sound is surprisingly good considering circumstances, but nothing could be done about a few missing passages that were spliced in from other sources, and a bit of the cadenza is missing. But the pristine performance emerges through all this, and admirers of the pianist and conductor will welcome this issue. Mozart's Symphony No. 29 is from a Studio 8H broadcast of September 3, 1944, a super-precise reading in dry-as-a-bone acoustics.

The Rubinstein/Beecham eloquent performance of Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 recorded September 30, 1947 in Abbey Road Studios already is available thanks to Testament, where it is coupled with the pianist's previously unpublished 1939 recording of Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2 (REVIEW). In the Beethoven, Rubinstein chose to play the flashy cadenzas by Saint-Saëns and they do seem a bit out of place. Pristine Audio's release isn't nearly as generous: it contains only the Beethoven, with a total playing time of less than 31 minutes, so this release has strong competition from the Testament.

All of these intriguing releases are available from http://www.pristineclassical.com

R.E.B. (June 2009)

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