TCHAIKOVSKY:  Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique"
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
JVC JMCXR 0021 (F) (ADD) TT:  45:34
 

TCHAIKOVSKY:  Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.  STRAUSS:  Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28.
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
JVC JMCXR 0022 (F) (ADD) TT:  34:07

Considering the driving impulse Fritz Reiner usually brings to his performances, his Pathétique, recorded April 16 and 17, 1957,  has always seemed an enigma.  If ever a conductor has the opportunity for dramatic intensity, it is in the development section of the first movement, which begins with a tremendous fortissimo chord and continues for seventy bars before reaching an impassioned climax.  At the beginning of the development there a series of descending trumpet interjections most conductors effectively play very prominently—Reiner does not, nor is the first chord  of this interlude as cataclysmic as it should be. It is impressive in its own subdued way, but hardly as cataclysmic as when conducted by Mravinsky, Abbado, Rodzinski, Toscanini or many other conductors.  The third movement March has the usual Reiner precision—and also seems to be somewhat better recorded than the first, with a bass drum that will test your subwoofers. Surely more detail is heard in this superb transfer than on previous issues, even though fillers on the Living Stereo issue (Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, Liszt Mephisto Waltz) aren't there.

Munch's disk is a delight in every way in this miraculous Japanese remastering.  Romeo and Juliet was recorded April 3, 1961; Till March 20, 1961. There's much humor in Till, brilliantly conveyed by Munch, and Tchaikovsky's overture is appropriately sensuous.  The BSO is at its best, with a brilliant French sound to trumpets. There's a splendid sense of space with extraordinary definition - and what a pleasure it is to hear the silky Boston strings sounding so resplendent without a trace of harshness. Cymbals seem to be more recessed in the Strauss than they are in the Tchaikovsky, but they still have an appropriate glistening shimmer.

The price is premium, but the quality is there.

R.E.B. (December 2002)