WAGNER: Die Walküre (Act 3)
Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde); Leonie Rysanek (Sieglinde); Sigurd Björling (Wotan); Brünnhild Friedland (Gerhilde); Lieselotte Thomamüller (Helmwige); Elfriede Wild (Waltraute); Ruth Siewert (Schwertleite); Eleanor Lausch (Ortlinde); Hertha Töpper (Siegrune); Ira Malaniuk (Grimgerde); Hanna Ludwig (Rossweisse); Bayreuth Festival Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 80022 (M) TT: 68:01

VERDI: Arias from Macbeth, Ernani, Don Carlo, Aroldo, Otello, Don Carlo, and Aida
Maria Callas, soprano; Philharmonia and Paris Conservatory Orch/Nicola Rescigno, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 80018 (M) TT: 79:11

BIZET: Carmen Suite No. 1. Patrie Overture. Roma - Carnaval. CHABRIER: Gwendoline Overture. Joyous March. Espana. SAINT-SAËNS: Omphale's Spinning Wheel, Op. 31. FAURÉ: Dolly Suite, Op. 56.
French National Radio Orch/Royal Philharmonic Orch/London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 79985 (M) TT: 77:35

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Suite from The Nutcracker, Op. 71a. Waltz from Eugene Onegin
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 80015 (M) TT: 71:49

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique." Swan Lake Ballet Suite, Op. 20.
Philharmonia Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 72474 (B) TT: 67:50

CHOPIN: 12 Études, Op. 10. 12 Études, Op. 25. 3 Nouvelles Études. Allegro de concert in A, Op. 46.
Claudio Arrau, pianist
EMI CLASSICS 79987 (M) TT: 79:45

EMI continues to reissue superb recordings of the past, and at mid- or budget-price. All of those listed above except for Karajan's Tchaikovsky, are in the Great Recordings of the Century series, and deservedly so. Bayreuth had reopened in July 1951 with a legendary performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 conducted by Furtwängler; this Walküre Act III was recorded August 12 of that year and is historic in many ways. Astrid Varnay was making her debut at the Festival as Brünnhilde (at the recommendation of Kirsten Flagstad), with the 24-year old Leonie Rysanek, at the beginning of her career, as Sieglinde, and Swedish baritone Sigurd Björling a powerful Wotan. Herbert von Karajan, 43 at the time, conducted this dynamic performance. Remarkably fine, well-balanced sound, and the complete text is provided in German and English. An indispensable issue for operaphiles. A

These Maria Callas Verdi recordings have been issued many times before. Recorded from 1958-1964, there are some wonderfully effective moments, and they also display the soprano's strengths and weaknesses. There are some thrilling moments here, some squally singing as well. Fine transfers, and complete texts in Italian and English.

Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) is heard on two of these reissues. The first is French repertory in which he excelled, the earliest recording being Espana recorded in 1939; other monophonic recordings are Bizet's Patrie Overture and the Carnaval from the composer's tribute to Rome. Of particular interest is Fauré's Dolly Suite which Beecham had never conducted before but during the recording sessions recalled playing piano duets with the composer in the early 1900's. Only the Eugene Onegin excerpt from the Tchaikovsky disk is in stereo; the rest, surprisingly, are mono. It seems odd the Symphony No. 4 is mono, as it was recorded at Salle Wagram in Paris in 1958, the early days of stereo; the Nutcracker excerpts date from 1954.

Herbert von Karajan recorded Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 for the first time in the 1939 for Polydor with the Berlin Philharmonic, available on several CDs. His second recording was made in the summer of 1956 in London's Kingsway Hall with the newly-formed Philharmonia Orchestra, Walter Legge as producer, Christopher Parker as balance engineer. Karajan recorded the Pathétique twice later with the Berlin Philharmonic, and there is a DVD of a performance with the Vienna Philharmonic. However, this 1956 performance is perhaps the finest of all. The Philharmonia Orchestra sounds gargantuan, with massed strings, brilliant brass and impactful percussion. Legge and his crew did a superlative job in capturing this performance, and here it is at budget price, with five excerpts from Swan Lake, recorded three years later, as a bonus. Don't miss this one!

Claudio Arrau (1903-1991) was a virtuoso of the first order during his early years, and this is vividly displayed in these recordings of all 27 Chopin études. This generously-filled CD (79:45) also contains the seldom-heard Allegro de concert, Op.46.

R.E.B. (March 2007)