STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
New York Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 225 TT: 47:16

WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger. IVES: The Unanswered Question. MOZART: Symphony No. 35 in D, K. 385 "Haffner." STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40.
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 227 TT: 79:29

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21. BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Willem Mengelberg, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 221 TT: 73:28

WEBER: Euryanthe Overture. Abu Hassan Overture. SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture and Alpenkuhreigen und Zwischenaktmusik, Op. 115. BEETHOVEN: Egmont Overture, Op. 84. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
Berlin State Opera Orch/Max von Schillings, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 228 TT:77:59

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, O. 23.
Mark Hambourg, piano/London Symphony Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent (Beethoven); Royal Albert Hall Orch/Landon Ronald.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 223 TT: 63:28

Herbert von Karajan only conducted four American orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic once, the New York Philharmonic eight times in November 1958, fifteen performances with the Metropolitan Opera, and two concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra at the 1967 Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals. Pristine here offers NYP performances as listed above, as well as a coupling of Webern's Five Pieces, Op. 5, Mozart's Symphony No. 41 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 (PASC 224), and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with soprano Leontyne Price, also Maureen Forrester, tenor Leopold Simoneau, and bass Norman Scott (PASC 222). The LAPO concert is of particular interest—here we have Karajan conducting The Star Spangled Banner (!), and what apparently is his only performance of music of Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question) recorded at the Hollywood Bowl July 2, 1959. Transfers convey these historic old monophonic radio broadcasts, and collectors surely will be intrigued.

Two of Willem Mengelberg's finest performances can be heard on Pristine Audio's CD that contains the first symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms recorded by Dutch Radio during concerts April 14 (Beethoven) and October 13, 1940. Mengelberg had recorded the Beethoven for Telefunken in November 1938; he never made a commercial recording of the Brahms other than a Columbia recording of the third movement May 31, 1930 . These live performances are utterly magnificent, superbly controlled and played, typical Mengelberg. Andrew Rose's restorations from Philips LP releases sound better than ever.

Conductor Max von Schillings was particularly known for his Wagner and his role as chief conductor of the Berlin State Opera from 1919 to 1925. Some of his early electric recordings of Wagner have been reissued on Grammophono and Preiser. This issue concentrates on other repertory, the featured work Beethoven's Symphony No. 6. Orchestral playing is often scrappy, violin tone thin. Producer Mark Obert-Thorn did what could be done in restoration of these early electric recordings ( (1928-1929).

Mark Hambourg (1879-1960) is a legendary figure in the pianistic world. A prodigy, he studied with Leschetizsky and made his debut in Vienna in 1894 playing Chopin's Concerto No. 1 with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Hans Richter. Shortly after that he played the Brahms Concerto No. 1 with the composer in the audience. A friend of Busoni and Rosenthal, Hambourg toured extensively and made a number of recordings, particularly works of Liszt. This new Pristine CD contains Hambourg's only concerto recordings, the Tchaikovsky in 1926, the Beethoven in 1929. The latter is a straight-forward reading, but the Tchaikovsky is remarkable in many ways, a big, bold somewhat untidy performance in the grand Romantic style. Hambourg embellishes the first movement cadenza in a distinctive way, and his slow tempo for the waltz interlude of the second movement is an entirely new, and effective, approach to this music. Orchestral playing is undistinguished, balances are odd and audio is variable; Mark Obert-Thorn did what could be done with the oddly-balanced original recordings. This performance of Tchaikovsky's warhorse should not be missed.

Pristine Audio CDs are available from Pristine Audio. Check out their entire catalog - they have some extraordinary treasures.

R.E.B. (June 2010)