TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture, Op. 49. LISZT: Mephisto
Polka and Fugue from Schwanda. SMETANA: Overture to The
DVORÁK: Carnival Overture, Op. 92.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.
Ever since JVC began issuing their superb remasterings of RCA recordings I've eagerly awaited release of the Reiner items listed above, particularly his magnificent Polka and Fugue from Schwanda, which has long been one of my favorite recordings. For years I treasured a 15 ips copy of this recording that my good friend Chuck Gerhardt had made for me from the RCA master. In the early '80s, I made the mistake of leaving the tape (clearly labeled and in my announcer's slot) at a public radio station where only to find that another announcer quickly needed a tape and took my treasured tape over which a jazz program was recorded! - but that's another story!.Now that this JVC issue is here, that loss of that tape has been aleviated.
Three of the works on this Reiner CD (1812, Weinberger, Dvorák) were recorded in January 1956; the others in December 1955. I've never understood the acclaim Reiner's 1812 has garnered over the years. There are no cannon (not even a bass drum to replace them), and, surprisingly, no organ at the conclusion. Reiner also makes a brief cut in the work, which might make some listeners expect that this would be a very hasty performance—but it is not—it's just 12:33 because a short central part is missing. Of course it's beautifully played and very well recorded, but for a demonstration 1812 one should look elsewhere. The Weinberger Polka and Fugue is given a dazzling performance. The recoding has a wide dyamic range. The fugue begins very quietly, but builds to a thundering climax and at the end we do, indeed, hear the Orchestra Hall organ in all of its majesty, doubtless assisted to some extent by the recording team of Richard Mohr and Lewis Layton. Equally fine in sound are Reiner's splendid performance of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz and the two overtures. 1812 and Mephisto Waltz were released on Living Stereo (61246) coupled with Tchaikovsky's Pathétique; the JVC transfers are far superior. No question, this is one of the finest JVC releases, and highly recommended.
Pierre Monteux's Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 was reccorded January 28, 1959 in Symphony Hall, produced by John Pfeiffer with John Crawford as recording engineer. While very well played, this is not one of the more dynamic performances of Tchaikovskly's "Fate" symphony in spite of its short playing time (39:49); this is one of the fastest Tch Fours ever recorded. On this disk the Boston Symphony has a decided French sound, with super-brilliant brass—which may appeal to some listeners. Level on the third movement pizzicato scherzo is very high; the plucked strings are almost as loud as the full orchestra in climaxes. Not one of my favored JVC disks.
R.E.B. (May 2004)