LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C# minor. ENESCU: Rumanian
Rhapsody No. 1 in A, Op. 11. SMETANA: The Moldau. Overture The
to Act III of Tristan and Isolde. Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg
STRAUSS: Elektra's Soliloquy, Recognition Scene and Finale
from Elektra. Dance of the Seven Veils and Final Scene from Salome.
Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 67896 (M) (ADD) TT: 64:16
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G.
Lisa Della Casa, soprano; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 67901 (M) (ADD) TT: 53:39
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RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. PROKOFIEV: Piano
Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26.
Boston "Pops Orch/Arthur Fiedler, cond. RCA SACD 67895 (M) (ADD) TT: 69:40
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21.
Arthur Rubinstein, pianist; New Symphony Orchestra of London/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski; Symphony of the Air/Alfred Wallenstein (Concerto 2).
RCA SACD 67902 (M) (ADD) TT: 70:45
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON FRANCK: Symphony in D minor. STRAVINSKY: Petrushka.
Chicago Symphony Orch (Franck); Boston Symphony Orch (Stravinsky); Pierre Monteux, cond.
RCA SACD 67897 (M) (ADD) TT: 74:08
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 67898 (M) (ADD) TT: 68:45
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ANNA MOFFO sings arias from Faust, La Bohème, Dinorah,
Carmen, Semiramide, Turandot and Lakmé, with the Rome
Opera Orch/Tullio Serafin, cond.
RCA Red Seal continues their series of SACD reissues of famous recordings from the past all superbly remastered under the direction of John Newton of Soundmirror, Inc.All are from original two- and three-track tapes As with the first batch of reissues (see REVIEW), it seems we can be sure we are hearing what was on the original tapes. If there are sonic problems, they are in the master tapes, as in a few of these issues. The best sound is to be heard on the Chicago Symphony recordings, either two or three tracks, doubtless because of the superb acoustics of pre-renovation Orchestra Hall. The Brahms violin concerto was recorded February 21 and 22, 1955 in two-tracks, the Tchaikovsky concerto April 19, 1957, in three-tracks. The balance between soloist and orchestra favors the violinist, particularly in the Tchaikovsky where the center channel emphasizes his sound. Mahler's Symphony No. 4 was recorded December 6 and 8, 1958 in three-tracks, and this RCA release has the advantage of the separate center channel which is heard only as blended into two channels on the fine JVC issue of the same recording—and this release costs about one third as much. It's strange that RCA didn't add a filler; there are many Reiner/.CSO recordings they could have added for longer playing time. The Richard Strauss set is stunning in every way. Reiner was the Strauss conductor of the era, and here we have excerpts from his concert performances of Elektra recorded April 14 and 16, 1956, along with the Dance of the Seven Veils and final scene from Salome recorded March 6, 1954, and December 10, 1955 (the Dance originally was issued as a coupling for Reiner's first Also sprach Zarathustra). All of these are two-track recordings that contain rich orchestral sonorities and magnificent orchestral playing. The violent orchestral interlude in the Recognition Scene (8:54 in track 2) is the finest performance of that music I've ever heard. Inge Borkh is a better Elektra than Salome, but her artistry is constant and she is in fine vocal condition in this music that she has sung and recorded so often.
The Chicago Symphony can also be heard in Pierre Monteux's stunning recording of Franck's Symphony in D minor recorded January 7, 1961 which still shows some slight traces of overloading but sounds better than ever; Richard Mohr's production superbly captures the warm acoustics of Orchestra Hall. The rather odd coupling, Stravinsky'sPetrushka (spelled on the CD Pétrouchka, the Russian equivalent), is of particular interest as Monteux conducted the 1910 Paris premiere of this music. This was recorded January 25, 26 and 28, 1959, a performance of extreme clarity and rather placid tempi, beautifully played. The recording (in three channels as is the Franck) doesn't have very much bass; even in the Dance of the Coachmen there's not much impact to the bass, and overly bright, close-up recording is not without traces of distortion. Still, this is a generous coupling of enormous historic interest, and at mid-price. Charles Munch's 1955 two-track recordings of Beethoven's Symphonies 5 and 6 are coupled together, but are hardly major additions to the Beethoven SACD catalog. The Sixth has a surprisingly tame storm sequence, and the Gallic sound of the BSO under Munch's direction doesn't suite the composer's music. Symphony No. 5 was just issued by JVC coupled with Schubert's Symphony No. 8 (REVIEW)—at almost three times the price.
It was a grand occasion May 19, 1958 when Van Cliburn gave his triumphant Carnegie Hall concert after winning the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia earlier that year. Now we have on SACD his fine performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. It's not quite note-perfect, but a grand conception of a concerto that later would become standard repertory for pianists. The three-channel sound is excellent if not the widest in dynamic range. Sonics are better for Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 recorded with Walter Hendl and the Chicago Symphony October 22 and 24, 1960. Arthur Rubinstein's last recordings of Chopin's piano concertos is a welcome addition to the SACD catalog. He recorded Concerto No. 1 in 1937 with Barbirolli and the London Symphony, Concerto No. 2 in 1931 with the same orchestra and conductor. His second recordings of each were in 1953 (No. 1) with Wallenstein and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and in 1946 with William Steinberg and the NBC Symphony. This Concerto No. 1 was recorded June 8 and 9, 1961 with Kenneth Wilkinson as engineer, a two-track recording with splendid sonics; Concerto No. 2, recorded January 20, 1958, surprisingly is a three-track recording even though made three years before Concerto No. 1. These masterful performances have never sounded better.
Leopold Stokowski's 1960 Rhapsodies recordings of Liszt, Enesco and Smetana have been issued often before, most recently on JVC (REVIEW). RCA has considerately added two of Stokowski's Wagner recordings from the following year: a luminous Prelude to Act III of Tristan which features some of the most gorgeous string sound you'll ever hear, and the Overture and Venusberg Music from Tännhäuser. All of these were recorded in three channels in the resonant acoustics of Manhattan Center. A terrific SACD! The last chord of the Enescu is missing, as it was in the conductor's 1947 and 1953 recordings of the work, so obviously the omission is not an editing mistake. Arthur Fiedler's SACD was recorded 1956, 1958 and 1960, all three-track recordings produced by Richard Mohr with Lewis Layton as engineer. This issue doesn't quite live up to its title Hi-Fi Fiedler. Like many Boston recordings of the time, the sound is very bright and close-up, sometimes just on the verge of distortion, and there is a lack of low bass.
Anna Moffo's operatic recital shows the American soprano at her best in varied repertory. The three-channel recordings were made in 1960 in the Rome Opera House. Produced by the Mohr-Leyton team, the sound picture is broad and resonant with the soloist in fine perspective. The problem here is the limited playing time; this SACD contains only what was included on the original LP. Moffo made many other RCA recordings, particularly a superb Verdi 2-LP set that has never been issued on CD; RCA easily could have filled out this SACD with performances from this set.
R.E.B. (July 2005)