AVSHALOMOV: The Taking of T'ung Kuan.TCHAIKOVSKY:
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. SMETANA: Tabor from Ma
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale." LISZT: Hungarian
Rhapsodies 1, 2 and 3. "Sounds of Nature."
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica." LISZT: Mazeppa (two recordings)
SMETANA: Ma Vlast.
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83. RACHMANINOFF:
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1.
VIEUXTEMPS: Violin Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 31. BEETHOVEN:
Romance No. 1 in G, Op. 40. Romance No. 2 in F, Op. 50. SAINT-SAËNS: La
Jeunesse d'Hercule, Op. 50. Le Rouet d'Omphale, Op. 31.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Symphony No. 5 in E
minor, Op. 64.
MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scotch." Symphony
No. 5 in D, Op. 107 "Reformation." Ruy Blas Overture. Fingal's
CHOPIN: Etudes, Op. 10 and 25. LISZT: Rhapsodie espagnole
How fortunate we are that rare recordings by Leopold Stokowski continue to appear. Music & Arts offers a fascinating issue of 1952 experimental stereo recordings with Stokowski and the Detroit Symphony recorded in the rather dry acoustics of Detroit's Masonic Hall. Master engineer Bert Whyte produced the recordings using a Magnecord PT 6BA2HZ unit. I'm sure Stokowski, always innovative in recorded sound, was fascinated by the results. Because of the conductor's unorthodox seating arrangements (often woodwinds are all on the right side), don't expect to hear the standard stereo spread, but there is no question that the two channel recording enables a pleasing aural experience. Jacob Avshalomov's 8-minute percussion-laden The Taking of T'ung Kuan is heard first, new to Stokowski's discography, followed by an impassioned performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. Mark Obert-Thorn did his usual masterful job in these restorations. The concert also included Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, two excerpts from Schubert's Rosamunde, and Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music, and one wonders if the stereo tapes of these exist. Of no lesser interest is inclusion of Bert Whyte's binaural recording of Tábor from My Fatherland recorded at the time of Mercury's monaural recording of the entire work December 6, 1952, which sonically is superior to previous CD releases. A fascinating issue!
Cala's close association with the Leopold Stokowski Society has enabled a number of major releases, the latest this issue of Stokowski's March 18-19, 1954 recording of the Pastorale made with members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Although this symphony often appeared on the conductor's concert programs, the abridged version made for Walt Disney's Fantasia in 1930 was his first recording, followed in 1945 by a Victor recording with the New York City Symphony original issued on 78's (M 1032), later on a budget Camden LP where the orchestra was identified as "Sutton Symphony Orchestra." Cala issued this on CD (CACD 0523) coupled with Stokowski's 1940 Philadelphia recording of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. In this performance, the second movement Scene by the Brook takes 16:47, is possibly the longest ever recorded. We have the conductor's talk Sounds of Nature which was included on the original LP release, in which we hear sounds of a brook, birds and very mild thunder, separately and then along with Beethoven's music. This Pastorale was recorded in stereo but, unfortunately, only 7 minutes of this remains, and can be heard in the John Pfeiffer tribute (68524) as well as in RCA's Stokowski Stereo Collection (68643), both deleted. Stokowski's vivid performances of the three Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies recorded early in 1955 fill out this welcome disk.
Music & Arts has another intriguing issue containing music of Liszt and Beethoven led by Oskar Fried, a major conductor of the time, who made the first recordings (acoustic) of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 and other major orchestral works. Wolfgang Georgy's CD notes state in 1913 when the Berlin Philharmonic under Artur Nikisch made the first complete recording of a Beethoven symphony it could not be the Eroica "because the cutting styli available at the time were unable to cope with the overpowering dynamics of the horns used in this work," so No. 5 was chosen instead. The Symphony No. 5 has no horns?? This Eroica was recorded in 1924 in Berlin with the State Opera Orchestra in preparation for the 1927 Beethoven anniversary year, with Fried on the podium. Quick tempi prevail and several repeats are omitted. Both of the conductor's recordings of Liszt's Mazeppa are presented, the first an acoustic made in 1925 with the State Opera Orchestra, the second an electric from 1928 with the Berlin Philharmonic. The difference in sound is remarkable. Gert Fischer made the excellent transfers.
In September 2006 this site mentioned 15 of the many releases on the exciting new private label BEARAC (see REVIEW). The label continues to issue major neglected and long-unavailable recordings, some of which are listed above. Of particular interest is Antal Dorati's September 1956 recording of Smetana's My Fatherland with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, quite superior in every way, including sonics, to the conductor's digital stereo remake of October 1986. Some treasures by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony are here, along with more major recordings by Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Antal Dorati's 1954 mono Minneapolis Daphnis and Chloe. The Brahms and Rachmaninoff concertos with Alexander Uninsky and Cor de Groot are very rare indeed. And this is only a small part of their catalog! Bearac transfers are of uniformly high quality. Cost is reasonable—a tad above mid-price. Check out their site for their complete catalog, and a tantalizing list of future releases: http://www.bearacreissues.com
R.E.B. (January 2007)