CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. Fantaisie in F minor, OP. 59. RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome.
Shura Cherkassky, pianist; Royal Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
PROFIL PH 04015 (F) (ADD) TT: 64:10
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BIZET: Symphony in C. L'Arléisienne Suites l and 1, Op. 23.
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Charles Munch (Symphony)/ Charles Gerhardt, cond.
PROFIL PH 04090 (F) (ADD) TT: 60:36
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STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite. Pulcinella Suite. PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19.
Edith Peinemann, violinist; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch/Günter Wand, cond.
PROFIL PH 04056 (F) (ADD) TT: 71:03
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RESPIGHI: The Fountains of Rome (arr. by composer for 4 hands) (Ottorino Respighi and Alfredo Cassella, pianists). Ancient Airs and Dances (Richard Singer, pianist). DEBUSSY: Preludes: La terrasse des audiences du clair de line. Feilles mortes. General Lavine-eccentric. GRANADOS: Zambra from Spanish Dances. ALBENIZ: Iberia: Evocation. SCARLATTI: Sonata in G. CASELLA: Preludio,Serenata and Berceuse from Inezie. Children's Pieces: Preludio, Valse diatonique, Canone, Bolero, Omaggio a Clementi, Siciliana, Giga Minuetto, Carillon, Berceuse, Galop and Finale (Alfredo Cassella, pianist). CASELLA: Grazioso, Antigrazioso from Deux Contrastes (Carlo Zecchi, pianist). RESPIGHI: Seven Songs. ANON: Two Italian Folksongs (Elsa Respighi, mezzo-soprano; Ottorino Respighi, pianist).
PIERIAN 0024 (F) (ADD) TT: 76:45
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WAGNER: Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser. Preludes to Acts I and III of Lohengrin. Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. Overture to The Flying Dutchman. Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 76896 (M) (ADD) TT: 77:48
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Profil is a new (to me) label—and it's a boon for collectors that they are showing considerable enterprise in their releases. Recently, among other items, they have reissued several fine recordings made in the mid-sixties for Reader's Digest. Chopin's Concerto No. 2 with Cherkassky previously was issued on CD in 1988 on the Menuet label (160013-2), long deleted, and it's good to have it back in this fine remastering. The pianist is in his best form, and the RPO provides luxurious support. The Fantasie is tossed in for good measure, but that wouldn't be the reason to acquire this CD. The common denominator here is conductor Rudolf Kempe, who leads the RPO in a brilliant performance of Respighi's most famous symphonic poem. Produced by the late Charles Gerhardt (see FEATURE) and engineered by the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson, the stereo analog sound is superb. The Profil issue has sound that equals the Chesky issue (CD 18) of the same recording. Over a period of years, Gerhard recorded various movements of Bizet's L'Arlesienne (most of which were previously issued individually in various RD sets); here they are together, coupled with Charles Munch's vivacious performance of Bizet's Symphony in C. It's unfortunate Profil didn't include more music—this CD is only 60:36—they easily could have included Gerhardt's superb recording of the overtureto Lalo's Le Roi d'Ys (not available on CD), and Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld ) available on Chesky CD 108) Many recordings of Pines of Rome give separate tracks for the four movements; Profil has elected not to do so (Chesky doesn't either).

Another major issue on Profil is Günter Wand's recordings of repertory usually not associated with him. Actually he was a staunch advocate of contemporary music throughout his entire career, particularly works of Stravinsky, so it is appropriate that this disk includes that composer's Firebird Suite (1945 version) and a suite from Pulcinella. When Wand conducted his first concert with the NDR Orchestra in 1963 the program included Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, another favorite of the conductor, with young violinist Edith Peinemann as soloist. Over the years she played the concerto often with the conductor and orchestra; this performance is from January 13, 1983. Stereo sound on all of these recordings is excellent.

Once again Pierian provides a fascinating CD for the discerning collector! The focus on this latest release is Ottorino Respighi, as composer, pianist and accompanist, all very rare recordings. Of particular interest is the recording of Fountains of Rome made in New York in 1925, an arrangement for two pianos by the composer here played by Respighi and his countryman, Alfredo Casella. Three years later, Respighi signed a contract with Gramophon Company to record some of his symphonic poems, but this never came to be, so this Fountains is of particular importance. CD notes state the two pianists also recorded Respighi's two-piano arrangement of Pines of Rome, which apparently was never issued and the masters cannot be found. Alfredo Cassella (1883-1947) also is heard on this CD playing music of Debussy, Granados, Albeniz, Scarlatti, and some of his own pieces. Pianist Richard Singer (1879?-1940) is heard in a 1924 recording of excerpts from Respighi's own arrangement for piano of excerpts from his Ancient Airs and Dances for the Lute, and Carlo Zecchi (1903-1984), well-known as a conductor, is heard here as pianist in a brief contradance by Cassella. Ending the CD we have very rare recordings made in Brazil in 1927 with the composer accompaning his wife, Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo (1894-1996) in 7 of his brief songs as well as two anonymous Italian folk songs. With the exception of the songs, all of these were transferred from Welte Mignon originals with the greatest expertise by Kenneth Caswell, with results that please the ear. The Pathé and Odeon recordings of songs are 78 rpm disks from the private collection of Swiss composer-conductor Adriano who has made many superb recordings of unusual repertory for Marco Polo/Naxos. Extensive CD notes are provided.

EMI Classics has issued a series of mid-price reissues called "The Karajan Collection," all generous compilations in fine new remasterings. One of the finest is this Wagner collection, all recordings made in 1974 reviewed on this site when they appeared on an EMI DVD audio disk (REVIEW). The overly-resonant surround sound version was disappointing sonically, but in regular stereo these performances sound just fine, and we surely do have the sound of a superb orchestra under a master conductor.

R.E.B. (September 2005)