SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.
HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32. HONEGGER: Summer Pastorale
WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger. Rienzi Overture. Dawn,
Siegfried's Rhine Journey and XI from Götterdämmerung. Ride
of the Valkyries from Die Walküre. Overture and Venusberg
Music from Tannhäuser.
Op. 26. En Saga, Op. 9. Karelia Suite, Op. 11.
Tapiola, Op. 112. The Swan of Tuonela from Lemminkäinen Suite,
Valse triste, Op. 44.
STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35. Symphonia domestica, Op. 53. Ein
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77. SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D
minor, Op. 47.
Cala continues its distinguished series of Leopold Stokowski reissues with this fine release of Sibelius's first two symphonies, both recorded pre-stereo, Symphony No. 1 in 1950 with a hand-picked studio orchestra, Symphony No. 2 in 1954 with the NBC Symphony. These recordings are magnificent, impassioned performances marked by Stokowki's characteristic string sonorities. These performances have approached legendary status. Music of Sibelius always was important to Stokowski; he first conducted Symphony No. 1 in 1910 with the Cincinnati Symphony, and in succeeding years in Philadelphia conducted the United States premieres of Symphony No. 5 (1923), and Symphonies 6 and 7 (1926); the latter he recorded in 1940 with the All-American Youth Orchestra. He also made a second recording of Symphony No. 1, in 1976 with the National Philharmonic Orchestra currently available in EMI's Great Conductors of the 20th Century series (75480)—but collectors will always have a special place in their collections for this remarkable 1950 recording of the work. In January 2004 the private label ReDiscovery issued this symphony, coupled with Stokowski's 1952 recording with the same orchestra of excerpts from Schubert's Rosamunde (see REVIEW).
ReDiscovery has issued the first CD appearance of another block-buster, distinctive performance: Bernard Herrmann conducting the London Phlharmonic in Holst's The Planets issued in London's Phase-4 series. The performance wasn't well received at the time, which perhaps is understandable. This is the slowest of all recordings of Planets, Mars is very slow, about two minutes longer than any other recording. However, this is impressive in its own inexorable way, and I welcome the opportunity to hear Herrmann's imaginative way with Holst's masterpiece. Honegger's charming Summer Pastorale is a wonderful filler. This CD is available only from ReDiscovery: (http://www.rediscovery.us)
The London Philharmonic's own label has a major issue—a collection of Wagner orchestral music with the orchestra conducted by Klaus Tennstedt, who was appointed Principal Conductor and Music Director in 1983 and remained associated with the LPO until his death in 1998. In 1980 Tennstedt recorded many Wagner orchestral works with the Berlin Philharmonic for EMI (available in an EMI Gemeni 2-disk budget set) but these live recordings from the BBC Proms August 20,1992 are more compelling, Wagner on a grand scale, wonderfully played and superbly recorded! Doubtless what we hear are the BBC masters, which capture the resonant acoustics of Royal Albert Hall to perfection. A London critic stated the encore performance of Ride of the Valkyries was "one of the most thrilling accounts" he could recall. In this concert Tennstedt included the Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser, inexplicably not included in his Berlin recording. Let us hope the LPO series will continue with more treasures such as this.
EMI Classics has reissued some of Herbert von Karajan's finest recordings in their mid-price Great Recordings of the Century series. These generous compilations are worthy additions to the catalog, should you not already have them, and the digital remasterings are fine. A highlight of the Sibelius collection, recorded 1977-1986, is Finlandia, which here receives one of its most powerful recordings. To include all three works in the Strauss set, it was necessary to spread Symphonia domestica over two disks, but the break is at the end of the quiet adagio, a relatively unobtrusive interruption. This recording was made in Salle Wagram in Paris in 1973 when Karajan and his orchestra were touring France; the others were in Berlin's Philharmonie in 1975 and 1974. Another major issue in the series are Ginette Neveu's mono recordings of the Brahms concerto (1946) and Sibelius concerto (1945). Walter Legge produced both. The Sibelius recording has several historic elements: it was the first major session for the Philharmonia Orchestra, Walter Susskind was doing his first international recording, and the violinist's first EMI recording. Four years later, October 28, 1949, Neveu was killed in a plane crash in the Azores, another tragic loss to the music world.
R.E.B (November 2005)