DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World." Carnival Overture, Op. 92. SMETANA: The Bartered Bride Overture. WEINBERGER: Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper.
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 66376 (3/2 tracks) TT: 64:09

DVORÁK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. WALTON: Cello Concerto.
Gregor Piatigorsky, cellist; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 66375 (3 track) TT: 71:22

GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue. Piano Concerto in F. An American in Paris. Variations on "I Got Rhythm." Cuban Overture.
Earl Wild, pianist; Boston "Pops" Orch/Arthur Fiedler, cond.
RCA SACD 61393 (3 track) TT: 79:22

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15.
Artur Rubinstein, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 66378 (2 track) TT: 46:20

BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5.
Léopold Simoneau, tenor; New England Conservatory Chorus; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 66373 (2 disks) (3 track) TT: 38:13 & 45:31

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade, Op . 35. STRAVINSKY: Song of the Nightingale.
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 66377 (3 track) TT: 66:51

OFFENBACH: Gaite Parisienne. ROSSINI-RESPIGHI: La boutique fantasque.
Boston "Pops" Orch/Arthur Fiedler, cond.
RCA SACD 66419 (2 track) TT: 63:43

SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (Chicago Symphony Orch/Walter Hendl, cond.). PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.). GLAZUNOV: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82 (RCA Victor Symphony Orch/Walter Hendl, cond.)
Jascha Heifetz, violinist
RCA SACD 66372 (3 track) TT: 68:55

RAVEL: Boléro. La valse. Rapsodie espagnole DEBUSSY: Images for Orchestra.
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 66374 (3/2 track) TT: 73:37

Marches by Sousa, Gould, Goldman, Bagley, Emmett, Meachem, and traditional marches
Morton Gould and his Symphonic Band
RCA SACD 66371 (3/2 track) TT: 78:04

The second batch of RCA SACD Living Stereo reissues continues the high quality of remastering heard on the first batch several months ago. The problem with some recordings in the new set is the fact that some of the recordings, even though labeled Living Stereo, weren't very good to begin with. Foremost among these is the Munch/Boston Symphony Ravel/Debussy coupling. The Ravel is a two-track recording from 1955, the Debussy a three-track from 1957. About the time the Ravel was recorded, RCA had developed its ill-advised Dynagroove process for mastering LPs, which leveled dynamic range and boosted high frequencies in an attempt to make recordings sound better on less-expensive equipment (of course they sounded dreadful on quality hi-fi sets). These Ravel performances almost sound like the Dynagroove LP releases, with a pallid, brassy sound, limited bass, and little of the warm Symphony Hall acoustic. Munch's 1968 EMI recordings of Bolero and Rapsodie with the Orchestra of Paris are far superior in sound as well as interpretation (the RCA Bolero is a rushed 13:49, the Paris recording about 17:00). The Debussy is slightly better sonically, but neither accurately represent the splendid sound of the Boston orchestra. I'm certain John Newton of Soundmirror and his staff did what could be done with master tapes for these SACD reissues, but these surely are not sonic showpieces. However, the BSO sound can be heard on the 1959 recording of the massive Berlioz Requiem, a specialty of Munch which he would later record with Bavarian forces. This originally was issued in the Deluxe RCA Soria series and remains one of the best performances ever recorded of the Berlioz masterpiece. The original recording was made with three front tracks only, and while the big brass moments are impressive, they would, of course, be more effective if rear channels were available. To hear this effect, try the Utah Symphony recording (REVIEW) or the more recent Atlanta version (REVIEW). Munch's performance takes about 84 minutes and wouldn't fit onto a single disk so it has been spread out over two, surprisingly with no filler. They easily could have included the conductor's Symphonie fantastique. I had heard rumors that this 2-disk set sells for the the price of one, but apparently this is not the case.

The two Gregor Piatigorsky performances are welcome; considering his prominence on the musical scene the master cellist made relatively few recordings. The Dvorák was recorded Feb. 22, 1960, the Walton, dedicated to Piatigorsky who gave the premiere Jan. 25, 1957 in Boston was recorded three days later. Both of these are three track, close-up, and very clear. It's appropriate to have original issue program notes, but they should be corrected when necessary. SACD notes by John Burk for the original issue of the Walton incorrectly state he wrote only one symphony—not true, a second was written 1959-1960. Arthur Fiedler's dynamic performances of Gaite Parisienne and La Boutique Fantastique are two track recordings made June 18, 1954 and June 21-22, 1956, examples of RCA's earliest ventures into stereophonic recording. The sound is very bright with much left/right effect, surprisingly dry for Symphony Hall. The sound of the venerable hall is perfectly captured on the Gershwin SACD, a winner in every way. Earl Wild's performances of Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F and Variations on "I Got Rhythm" could not be bettered, Fiedler and the "Pops" are in great form, and the recorded sound, three-tracks for all, is vibrant, wide in dynamic range and perfectly balanced—and playing time is 79:22. What is heard here is very different from the Ravel/Debussy SACD mentioned above.

Now we come to the Chicago Symphony recordings, and there are some true classics here all sounding sensationally good, headed by Reiner's famous Scheherazade recorded February 8, 1960. It's fascinating to read producer Richard Mohr's comments on the recording sessions. Rimsky-Korsakov's colorful score is appropriately coupled with Reiner's November 3, 1956 recording of Stravinsky's exotic Song of the Nightingale, extracted by the composer from his score for the opera Le rossignol. Some of RCA's blockbuster top artists recorded with the Chicago Symphony including Jascha Heifetz playing the Sibelius concerto with Walter Hendl conducting, and Artur Rubinstein the Brahms Concerto No. 1 with Reiner. Heifetz is perfection in the Sibelius, Rubinstein powerful in the Brahms. Reiner was to have conducted the Sibelius, but a heart attack made it impossible for him to do so, and Hendl, who conducted many of the indisposed Reiner's Chicago concerts that season, did the recording. Heifetz and Hendl had a warm association; they had worked before in Dallas, and in June 1964 would record, with a fine pick-up orchestra in California, the Glazunov concerto also included on this SACD. The Brahms concerto with Rubinstein was recorded April 17, 1954, a two-track recording, a memento of happier days of Reiner/Rubinstein collaboration which reportedly disintegrated in 1956 when they recorded Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 and Paganini Rhapsody, sessions marked by disagreements between the two. It's surprising RCA didn't include some of Rubinstein's solo piano recordings as fillers. Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 was recorded November 9, 1957, the Carnival Overture January 7, 1956. I remember the first CD issue of the symphony, memorable because of an editing error that omitted two bars of the last movement; it's all here, of course, on this splendid new transfer, sounding better than ever. Bartered Bride Overture, recorded December 12, 1955, is a welcome inclusion. This transfer of the powerful Polka and Fugue from Schwanda is the only disappointment on this disc; it sounds rather thin—perhaps the original tapes weren't in the best shape. Reiner holds back a bit for the opening of the Fugue, but this makes the final conclusion—with its massive organ—all the more impressive.

Finally, we have this reissue of Morton Gould's October 1956 recording of a collection of 17 marches including his own Parade for percussion in which the performers march from left to right, the highly-descriptive Fireworks, and his 12-minute major concert band piece Jericho with its many brass fanfares and very vivid depiction of "the walls came tumblin' down." In addition we have a number of marches recorded in January 1959, including the conductor's lengthy (12:23) Jericho. This was recorded in January 1959 along with 9 other marches that complete this SACD. The bright remastering seems to eliminate a bit of resonance heard on LP and previous CD issues, but it has plenty of punch.

RCA/BMG is to be congratulated for this entire series - the highest quality at a very reasonable price. I look forward to future issues!

R.E.B. (February 2005)