GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16. SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54.
Leon Fleisher, pianist; Cleveland Orch/George Szell
LOCKED IN THE VAULT Vol. 57 (S) (M) TT: 59:46

MAHLER: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Kindertotenlieder.
Maureen Forrester, contralto; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
LOCKED IN THE VAULT Vol. 55 (S) (M) TT: 41:41

SEARLE: Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2.
London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Adrian Boult (No. 1)/Josef Krips (No. 2)
LOCKED IN THE VAULT Vol. 58 TT: 47:59

Three more major releases from the private label Locked in the Vault. Leon Fleisher's 1960 Epic recordings of piano concertos of Grieg and Schumann has been recognized as among the finest performances of each work, with Fleisher at his virtuoso peak but always sensitive to the big romantic episodes of both concertos. The support from Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra could not be bettered. These performances have been available previously on CD, but in mediocre transfers. Now we have this LITV issue made from an Epic open-reel tape—and it is magnificent sonically. Fleisher's incandescent playing is now revealed in stunning clarity, with a solidity in the bass lacking in all previous issues, even better than the original stereo LP which doubtless had to attenuate bass to get both works onto a single disk. Even if you have other recordings of these concertos you should also own these distinctive collaborations now available in pristine sound—and if you have previous CD issues of the Fleisher/Szell performances you can now find out what they really sound like.

Charles Munch is never associated with music of Gustav Mahler so this LITV issue of the composer's two best-known song cycles is particularly welcome. Maureen Forrester's contralto voice has a very distinctive sound and for years she was a favored soloist in Mahler performances. She recorded Das Lied von der Erde with Fritz Reiner, Symphony No. 2 with Bruno Walter, two of Symphony No. 3, one with Zubin Mehta the other with Bernard Haitink, and Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Felix Prohaska. These fine performances of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder were recorded in December 1958, issued as RCA LSC 2371, apparently not in the catalog for a very long time. They are fine performances in every way with warm "early-stereo" sound.

The third CD is devoted to music of Humphrey Searle (1915-1982), a fascinating unjustly neglected British composer who was a contemporary of Benjamin Britten. Searle studied with Anton Webern and much of his writing reflects this serialist association. He also catalogued the complete music of Franz Liszt (the "S" identification of each of Liszt's works refers to this), and had a great sense of humor, participating in the famous Hoffnung Music Festivals. These recordings of his first two symphonies were recorded by Lyrita. One wonders how Josef Krips, known particularly for his Mozart, became involved in this project, but he did—and it works. All of Searle's symphonies have been recorded on cpo with Alun Francis and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; this LITV issue offers collectors the premiere recordings of the first two symphonies. Outstanding transfers, as always from LITV.

All of these are budget CDs. No program notes, but of course a complete track listing and basic information. There are many other fascinating issues on LITV. To order and for more information visit the LITV website: http://home.comcast.net/~litvr/

R.E.B. (September 2003)