ORFF: Der Mond
WAGNER: Das Rheingold
BACH: Orchestral transcriptions by Ormandy, Calliet, Smith, McDonald,
WAGNER: Overture and Prelude to Act III of Die Meistersinger. Der
dfliegende Holländer Overture. ELGAR: Enigma Variations,
Op. 36. Larghetto from Serenade for Strings. DELIUS:
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.
WEBER: Der Freischütz Overture. Invitation
to the Dance (arr. Weingartner). SCHUBERT: Entr'acte No. 3 from Rosamunde.
from The Tempest. MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scottish."
Two decades ago EMI released this Orff coupling, a 2-CD set that has been discontinued (although it is available as an MP3). Now again we have these definitive performances, Der Mond recorded in 1957, Die Kluge in 1956. The composer's Carmina Burana, the first part of a trilogy that also includes Catulli Carmina and Triumph of Aphrodite, is a staple of the concert repertory. Der Mond and Die Kluge, based in Grimm fairy tales, are equally entertaining, filled with snappy rhythms and humor. Der Mond is about four "rascals" who steal the moon, divide it into four parts and take it with them to their graves. But the dead rascals crawl out of their coffins in the underworld, glue the moon together and the resultant light disturbs the peace of the dead. St. Peter descends from heaven, restores peace and returns the moon to heaven. Die Kluge's story is told by three vagabonds. A peasant is put into prison by the King because when he returned a mortar he had found, he did not return the pestle as well. The peasant's daughter, the Clever Woman, intrigues the King, answers three riddles and tricks the king into marrying her. EMI gathered some of the greatest singers of the time for these recordings and all are splendid. Sawallisch doesn't miss any of the power of these vivid scores, and the sound is early EMI stereo—excellent indeed. This is a budget bargain, although no librettos are provided.
The other new releases listed above, all of enormous interest for collectors, are available only from PRISTINE AUDIO. This performance of Das Rheingold recorded live at the 1953 Bayreuth Festival is considered by many to be the definitive performance—what a cast, in particular the magnificent Wotan of Hans Hotter. Sound quality is remarkably good. Krauss's complete 1953 Ring already is available in its entirety on three other labels. I understand Pristine is planning to issue the remainder of the Krauss Ring.
We are grateful to Edward Johnson for his splendid achievements in the world of classical music, particularly for his work on the legacy of Leopold Stokowski. He is the Stokowski authority of our time, and founded the Stokowski Society. Johnson did intensive research preparing lists of Stokowski recordings and live performances, included in Oliver Daniel's 1982 Stokowski—a Counterpoint of View, lists that have since been updated because of the plethora of newly-discovered live performances. This Pristine Audio CD features music of Johann Sebastian Bach, all recordings from Johnson's personal collection, played by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Stokowski transcribed many works of Bach including almost all of the music heard on this CD. Not to be outdone, Ormandy made his own transcriptions of some of the same works, many of which are heard on this intriguing CD, along with some arrangements by others as listed above. . As Stokowski recorded almost all of his own arrangements, now we have the opportunity to hear the same music in other transcriptions. Excellent transfers, from original Columbia and Philips issues.
Sir Thomas Beecham had an active career in the United States. In 1942-1943 he conducted 18 performances at the Met (including Carmen, Manon, Tristan and Tales of Hoffmann) and appeared as guest conductor with many American orchestras. Beecham was conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 1941 to 1944. Some performances from 1943 have survived on cassettes, and Pristine's CD apparently is the first of three they plan to issue. Considering preservation problems, audio of these performances is remarkably good, and the orchestra plays very well. It is fascinating to hear this live performance of Enigma Variations from more than a decade before Beecham's classic Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recording.
Pristine also offers more treasures from the studio of Mark Obert-Thorn, a collection of rare recordings by Felix Weingartner. MOT already has to his credit superb reissues of the conductor's Beethoven recordings made from 1927-1940, available on European Naxos. Now we have this intriguing collection of even more esoteric Weingartner, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 recorded in 1929 with the Royal Philharmonic, and recordings with the Basle Symphony Orchestra. Of particular interest is Invitation to the Dance played in an orchestration by the conductor (which I prefer to the one by Berlioz). For whatever reason, perhaps because of 78 rpm time limitations, a number of small cuts are made, but we do hear Weingartner's solution to the awkward "fake" ending to the piece. Invariably during live performances the audience applauds after the resounding "end" to Invitation, not realizing there is a soft conclusion to the work. Even the "sophisticated" audience in Vienna at the 2003 New Year's Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Harnoncourt applauded at this point; details are on this site (REVIEW). Weingartner considered himself to be a composer as well as a conductor, but his music never attracted other conductors. Now, thanks to the enterprising label cpo label that is making premiere recordings of many of his works, we can further access Weingartner's contribution to the symphonic literature.
R.E.B. (February 2010)