ARNOLD: Beckus the Dandipratt Overture. MAHLER: Songs
of a Wayfarer (Eugenia
Zareska, mezzo-soprano); BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 1. BRAHMS: Variations
on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a. ELGAR: Suite No. 2 from The Wand of Youth
TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58.
MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer (Thomas Hampson, baritone); Symphony No.
1 in D.
BRITTEN: A War Requiem, Op. 66
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat, K. 450. Piano Concerto No.
23 in A, K. 488. Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
SCHUMANN: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt. (Helen Donath, Kari Kövaas,
sopranos; Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano; Theo Altmeyer, tenor; Bruno Pola,
Hans Sotin, basses; Dusseldorf Chorus and Orch/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos,
RAVEL: Daphnis and Chloé. Rapsodie espagnole. Pavane pour
une infante défunte.
MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A Minor "Tragic"
There are some fascinating issues in this batch of new releases. The London Philharmonic's own label has some true treasures, particularly their CD devoted to early recordings of Eduard van Beinum, who was principal conductor of the LPO from for two years. Of particular interest is the 1947 recording of Malcolm Arnold's brilliant overture, the first recording ever to be made of his music—the composer was principal trumpet of the LPO at the time and can be heard in the intricate trumpet solos. Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, recorded in 1946, here receives one of its finest recordings (in December 1956 Beinum recorded the same music in Holland with Nan Merriman). The Beethoven and Brahms are prime examples of Beinum's energetic approach to the classics, and the Elgar is given a truly dazzling performance. Tranfers are superb, and the only negative point here is that the CD also could have included the first Wand of Youth Suite, or the Cockaigne Overture. Tchaikovsky's mighty Manfred is given a stunning performance recorded in Royal Festival Hall December 8, 2004, with the brilliant young conductor Vladimir Jurowski who will become the LPO's principal conductor in 2007. This is a dynamic account with a particularly brisk second movement, and the LPO responds nobly to the conductor's many demands (his interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances issued in surround sound is REVIEWED on this site).
Klaus Tennstedt recorded Mahler's first symphony in 1977 with the LPO; here we gave an impassioned performance given in Royal Festival Hall February 12, 1985, coupled with one of the best performances you'll hear of Songs of a Wayfarer recorded in the same venue September 26, 1991, with Thomas Hampson an ideal soloist. Of least interest in this group is the Britten which was recorded live May 8, 2005, with a total playing time of less than 84 minutes for two full-priced disks. Superlative sound on all of these releases.
EMI offers remarkable value with three Mozart piano concertos recorded 1953 (No. 15) and 1955 with the great pianist Solomon Cutner as soloist; all three were issued several years ago on a full-price Testament CD; here they are at a third of the cost. EMI's Schumann collection offering all of the composer's major choral works is remarkable value, particularly at budget price, with both disks having near-maximum playing time. Rose was recorded in 1974, the two Requiems in 1983, and Mass in 1987. Fine, well-balanced recordings of outstanding performances that have stood the test of time.
The two Decca reissues in their Originals series are indeed major recordings. Monteux's Daphnis, recorded in Kingsway Hall in April 1959, was produced by John Culshaw, the other two works were recorded two years later with another master producer, Erik Smith. Here they are, newly remastered and sounding better than ever. Solti's Mahler Eighth was recorded August/September 1971 in Vienna because of the prohibitively high cost of choral recording in Chicago. The blazing Chicago brass is heard to great advantage in this recording produced by David Harvey with engineers Kenneth Wilkinson and Gordon Parry. With only a few seconds to spare, it fits onto a single CD.
Pierre Boulez' new Resurrection continues his Mahler cycle that began in 1995 with his Chicago Symphony Symphony No. 9 and continued with No. 1 in Chicago, Nos. 4 and 7 with the Cleveland Orchestra, and Nos. 3, 5 and 6 with the Vienna Philharmonic. Now only No. 8 remains unrecorded, although at one time collectors were able to hear a magnificent performance of this with the BBC Philharmonic from the BBC Proms in 1975 issued in stereo on Artists Live Recordings FED 041/2, long out-of-print. This was before Boulez intensified his super-analytical, cool approach to Mahler, heard to the extreme in this new Symphony No. 2. The Vienna Philharmonic has at least a half-dozen recordings of this music currently available, the earliest being Bruno Walter's live performance from 1948, the most recent Gilbert Kaplan's 2002 issue of the score's new edition. The Boulez is distinguished by stunning brass playing which has been captured by recording producer Christian Gansch with uncommon presence. Almost six minutes shorter than Kaplan's performance, the Boulez is squeezed onto a single CD with maximum playing time of 80:36.
Eduard van Beinum and his Concertgebouw Orchestra give us a powerful performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 6. The concert date is unclear: CD annotation states it was July 12, 1955 (probably correct), while the producer's web site gives December 7, 1955 as the concert date. Beinum's propulsive style of conducting is refreshing, and the famed Dutch orchestra is in top form. Beinum elects to play the Scherzo following the Andante. Don't expect perfect sound, but it adequately conveys the performance. This is a most welcome addition to Beinum's all-too-short Mahler discography. This is a private issue; for information check this site: www.haydnhouse.com
R.E.B. (July 2006)