BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. STRAUSS: Death and Transfiguration, Op.24. WAGNER: Prelude to Act I and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde.VERDI: Prelude to Aida. KODALY: Dances of Galanta. RESPIGHI: Feste Romane.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Victor De Sbata, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 404 (2 disks) TT: 2:06:2

1Italiian conductor (and composer) Victor De Sabata (1892-1967) was highly regarded in all music centers, particularly for his operatic work in music of Verdi, Puccini and Wagner. His first conducting position was with the Monte Carlo Opera in 1918. In 1925 he conducted the premiere of Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges, memorizing the score in 24 hours and gaining the highest praise from the composer. He soon began an association with the St. Cecilia Academy in Rome, and began to conduct at La Scala succeeding Toscanini in 1930. That year, he began conducting at the Vienna State Opera, and soon appeared at Bayreuth. After the World War, and he conducted many times at La Scala, often with Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas. It was during this period he made the famous recording of Tosca, considered to be the definitive recording of the work. De Sabata conducted extensively in European and American music centers, and in 1950 led a series of remarkable concerts with the New York Philharmonic, many of which survive and show a master conductor at his best. Shortly after the 1953 Callas recording of Tosca, De Sabata had a severe heart attack that severely limited his activities. During this period, he reconciled with Toscanini; they had been estranged for more han two decades because of De Sabata's association with Mussolini. In June 1954 De Sabata conducted the Toscanini Memorial Concert at La Scala.

Thanks to Mark Obert-Thorn and Pristine Audio, we have this collection of the conductor's Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra recordings made March-April 1939. Performances are magnificent, particularly the Kodaly Dances of Galanta, the Strauss symphonic poem, and Respigh's Roman Festivals. The BPO is in top form, and the only problem here is the recorded sound. Original engineering was sub-standard, rather undefined and with a heavy, lumbering bass. Very unfortunate, but MOT has done everything possible to give us the finest listening experience. For a complete listing of De Sabata recordings, visit the Wikipedia DISCOGRAPHY. Many of these are no longer available but you might find them on the Internet; look particularly for the 1950 broadcast of Wagner with the magnificent Eileen Farrell at her best, with an inspired New York Philharmonic. These concerts also included a stunning Pine of Rome and Paganini Rhapsody with Arthur Rubinstein All very much worth seeking out! .Perhaps MOT and Pristine could work their magic on them? And if you'd like to Victor De Sabata, the composer, check out the fine CD of orchestral works conducted by Aldo Ceccato (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (February 2014)