BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a. SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 4 in C minor "Tragic." STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28.
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Otto Klemperer, cond.
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1207 TT: 62:16

DEBUSSY: Iberia. RAVEL: Le Tombeau de Couperin. Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2. ROUSSEL: Bacchus and Ariane Suite No. 2
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orch.(Daphnis); NBC Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1208 TT: 68:14

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Elsa Cavelti, contralto; Ernst Häfliger, tenor; Otto Edelmann, baritone; Lucerne Festival Choir/Philharmonia Orch/Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond.
MUSIC & ARTS CD 790 (F) TT: 75:20

SIBELIUS: Luonnotar, Op. 70. Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49. En Saga, Op. 9. King Christian II, Op. 27. The Bard, Op. 64. Spring Song, Op. 16. The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22 No. 3. Lemminkainen's Return, Op. 22 No. 4. Pelleas et Mélisande, Op. 46. Kuolema, Op. 44. Swanwhite, Op. 54.
Taru Valjakka, soprano; Bournemouth Symphony Orch/Paavo Berglund, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 97689 (2 disks) (B) TT: 66:23 & 77:14

ORRIEL SMITH "Cluckoratura & Catoratura Songs and Arias"

"ACTIONABLE OFFENSES" - Indecent Phonograph Recordings from the 1890s

Music & Arts has issued Otto Klemperer conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in performances recorded live February 7, 1957, calling it "a previously unissued complete concert." Actually, this Till Eulenspiegel was issued more than a year ago on the label, filling out Klemperer's Berlin Philharmonic 1958 performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7. And it would seem there must have been something else on the concert—however, this disk offers welcome additions to the conductor's Concertgebouw discography. Andrew Rose's restoration is of the highest quality. You might wish to investigate the Q Disc Volume II of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; it contains music of Bartok, Beethoven and Mozart in live performances from l951-1957.

The M&A Munch disk contains his complete broadcast of March 28, 1954, the conductor's only appearance with the NBC Symphony. There are dazzling performances of three of Munch's favored works: Debussy's Iberia, Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, and the second suite from Roussel's Bacchus and Ariane. As a bonus, we have the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe from a New York Philharmonic concert of January 2, 1949. There was never a dull moment during a Munch concert; these are exhilarating readings that really put the orchestras through their paces. Again Andrew Rose did restorations, but nothing could be done to tame the overly-bright NBC studio sound. However, the ear can adjust somewhat to this, and surely these performances are of uncommon interest.

A third M&A releases offers Wilhelm Furtwängler's last performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 recorded at the Lucerne Festival August 22, 1954 three months before the conductor's death. The CD booklet contains a dissertation by John Ardoin on Furtwängler's performances of this symphony (which he never recorded in the studio). M&A issued this performance on LP in 1980, on CD in 1995; this fine new remastering is by Aaron Z. Snyder. On this recording each section of the final movement has its own track, so there are 19 of them including one for applause at the end following the rushed coda. This is a valuable issue to supplement other recordings of this work with the same conductor.

In the 1970's EMI recorded most of the orchestral works of Jean Sibelius with Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; he would record much of this music some years later in Helsinki, but these earlier recordings are excellent both musically and sonically and it's good to have some of them available in this reissue at budget price. This 2-CD set focuses on some of the symphonic poems. The gem is Taru Valjakka's radiant singing of Luonnotar. CD notes are miniscule.

How's your sense of humor? If you enjoy the absurd (and I surely do!) you might wish to investigate this second CD release by Orriel Smith, a remarkable singer who also has a great sense of the absurd. Her first CD was reviewed on this site (see REVIEW), and you might wish to check that out - everything said there applies to this second CD, although on this one she has expanded her vocal arsenal to include mewing cats. She has a bit of help from Don French (who produced these CDs), and I find it amusing that Kay Phillies is listed as "operatic consultant." Smith sings, in chicken-clucking style, the Bell Song from Lakme, Sempre Libera from La traviata and a number of other vocal treats including a "tribute to EGGith Piaf." For some this might wear a bit thin after several selections, but it's surely a great way to shock your opera-loving friends. You can get this CD by visiting:

Remaining in the odd orbit, Archeophone has a CD of "Indecent Phonograph Recordings from the 1890s." CD notes begin with the statement, "Material deemed to be beneath respectability and value--including the taboos, dirty jokes, and bawdy rhymes.....has not been well chronicled by historians..." And Archeophone surely has rectified this omission with this CD that contains an hour of this material presenting several well-known entertainers of the time: Cal Stewart, Russell Hunting and James White, as well as anonymous performers. Many of these old cylinder recordings were hidden for years—now some have been transferred to this CD, and, indeed, they are explicit, replete with 4-letter words. Profuse program notes tell the history of these recordings, and complete texts are provided. It's a fascinating document, although surely not for everyone.

R.E.B. (January 2008)