TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13.Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17. Symphony No. 3 in D, Op. 29 "Polish." Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique." Manfred Symphony, Op. 58. Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32.
London Philharmonic Orch/Mstislav Rostropovich, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 19493 (5 CDs) (B) TT: 70:47 / 72:32 / 76:43 / 79:07 / 78:34

BRAHMS: Serenade No. l in D, Op. 11 (rec. April 7, 1935). Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16 (rec. March 31, 1935). Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 (rec. March 15, 1936). Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 (rec. January 30, 1936). Four Part Songs (rec. January 30, 1936)
Robert Casadesus, pianist; New York Ladies' Choir; New York Philharmonic/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
GUILD GHCD 2337/38 (2 disks) (F) TT: 2:26:17

DEBUSSY: La Mer. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. RAVEL: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe. Boléro.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 7161 (M) TT: 64:15

ARENSKY: Suite No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7. Suite No. 2, Op. 23 "Silhouettes." Ballet suite, Op. 50a "Egyptian Nights."
State Academic Symphony Orch/Evgeny Svetlanov, cond.

Symphonies, concertos, orchestral music, choral music, songs, folksongs, Hugh the Drover, Riders to the Sea, Sir John in Love.
Various orchestras, soloists and conductors

EMI CLASSICS 06636 (30 disks) (B) TT: 34 hours +

Rostropovich's Tchaikovsky recordings with the London Philharmonic were made in London's Kingsway Hall (with the exception of the Pathétique recorded in Abbey Road Studios)1976-1977. These are excellent performances with committed playing by the London Philharmonic heard in big, resonant sound. Symphony No. 6 perhaps is not as committed as the conductor's live recording with his National Symphony Orchestra in 1990 when that orchestra was on its Russian tour (a performance once available on Sony S 45836), but it still is one of the finest of the 150+recordings of the work currently in the catalog. To enable inclusion of all of this music on 5 disks, it was necessary to split two of the symphonies over two CDS, a minor inconvenience. All of these recordings were issued more than a decade ago on EMI, discontinued by the company but currently available thanks to ArkivMusic—but now available at super-budget price.

Primary interest in Guild's new set of Brahms broadcasts with Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic is the stunning performance of Piano Concerto No. 2 with Robert Casadesus as soloist. One usually doesn't associate this major pianist (1899-1972) with music of Brahms—he is particularly famous for his Mozart concertos with George Szell conducting—but he gives a magnificent, virtuoso performance of the great B-flat concerto. He plays many chords staccato, which I have never heard done before in this music (sample 8:58 into the first movement). Technically he is immaculate—with the exception of an obvious missed note at the end of the last movement—but this is inconsequential. Toscanini would make an exciting recording of this concerto four years later for RCA with the NBC Symphony and his son-in-law, Vladimir Horowitz as soloist, but this Casadesus performance is of equal interest. The other works are important additions to the Toscanini discography: the first serenade and songs are his only recordings of the works—he recorded Serenade No. 2 in 1942 with the NBC SO.

From the plethora of Karajan reissues in DGG's Masters Series of mid-price CDs, this is one of the more interesting offering glossy, polished performances of four staples of the symphonic repertory. CD notes tell us that Karajan's La Mer is outstanding because he has sailed since he was six and was an expert yachtsman. It also states at the same time of these recordings (mid '60's) Karajan made his first recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring; the second was made in 1977. At any rate, should you wish to add these Karajan performances to your collection, you can now do so at modest price—although DGG easily could have included more music: 64:15 isn't much playing time.

Anton Arensky (1861-1906) began composing music before he was 10. After studies with Rimsky-Korsakov, he was recognized by the musical community and soon became a professor at Moscow Conservatory where his students included Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Arensky's music is strongly influenced by Tchaikovsky but his symphonic works attracted little attention He is best known for his chamber works, particularly the charming Waltz from the first of his four suites for two pianos. The late conductor Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002) made countless Melodiya recordings, and his Foundation is reissuing many of them in fine remasterings that were well-engineered to begin with. All feature the USSR State Orchestra. Three orchestral disks offer Arensky's music, one featuring the two symphonies, another a collection of short works, and the one listed above that contains three suites, each consisting of a variety of dances and interludes, all pleasant but unmemorable. Rimsky-Korsakov said of Arensky, "He will soon be forgotten." And, generally, he has, but at least we have the opportunity to hear some of his music in fine performances very well recorded.

EMI has released, at super-budget price (less than $3 per disk) the Vaughan Williams "Collector's Edition." On 30 (!!) disks we have virtually all of the composer's major works including all of the symphonies conducted by Vernon Handley, Sir Adrian Boult conducts Job and many of the shorter works. Also included are concerrtos, choral works, songs, chamber music and the complete operas Riders to the Sea, Hugh the Dover and Sir John in Love. The packed CDs also include almost a half-hour of Sir Adrian Boult in rehearsal. Don't expect program notes or luxurious packaging. An incredible bargain, indeed!

R.E.B. (June 2008)