COPLAND: Suite and Waltz from Billy the Kid. Suite from Rodeo. GROFÉ: Grand Canyon Suite.
Morton Gould and his Orchestra
RCA SACD 67904 TT: 78:09
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RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome. The Fountains of Rome. DEBUSSY: La Mer.
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 71614 TT: 62:12
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JOHANN STRAUSS, JR: Morning Papers Waltz, Op. 279. Emperor Waltz, Op. 437. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314. Vienna Blood, Op. 354. Roses from the South, Op. 388. Treasure Waltz, Op. 418. Thunder and Lightning Polka, Op. 314. JOSEF STRAUSS: Village Swallows, Op. 164. WEBER: Invitation to the Dance. RICHARD STRAUSS: Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier.
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 71615 TT: 78:03
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique." Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor, Op. 27 No. 2 "Moonlight." Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata." Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat, Op. 81.a "Les Adieux."
Arthur Rubinstein, pianist
RCA SACD 71619 TT: 75:42
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MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 "Italian." Symphony No. 5 in D, Op. 107 "Reformation" Scherzo from Octet, Op. 20.
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 71616 TT: 57:59
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BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14. Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 67899 TT: 60:11
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BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia. Overture and Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. RIMSKY-KOVSAKOV: Russian Easter Overture. Flight of the Bumble Bee. KHACHATURIAN: Excerpts from Gayne Ballet. Galop from Masquerade Suite. TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin.
Boston Pops Orch/Arthur Fiedler, cond.
RCA SACD 67161 TT: 69:40.
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BACH: Fugue in C minor "Little." Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Trio Sonata No. 6 in G. Now Thank We All Our God. Air on the G String. HANDEL: Allegro from Concerto No. 4 in F. Concerto No. 1 for Strings: Aria. BOYCE: Ye Sweet Retreat. MULET: Thou Art the Rock. PURELL: Trumpet Voluntary. SCHUMANN: Canon in B minor. WIDOR: Toccata from Symphony No. 5. ELGAR: Pomp and Circumstance March.
Virgil Fox, organist
RCA SACD 711626 TT: 51:12
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Popular Italian Songs. Highlights from The Vagabond King.
Mario Lanza, tenor; Chorus and Orch. conducted by Franco Ferrara and Constantine Callinicos
RCA SACD 71625 TT: 79:15
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BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26. Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46. VIEUXTEMPS: Violin Concerto No. 5, Op. 37.
Jascha Heifetz, violinist; New Symphony Orchestsra of London/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond.
RCA SACD 71622 TT: 65:20
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The fourth batch of RCA Living Stereo remasterings contains many treasures. Most of these issues are original three-track recordings heard here in that format; when masters were recorded only in stereo, we hear just the two channels—these exceptions are mentioned below. Fritz Reiner's Viennese collection offers the Maestro in top form in a collection featuring familiar waltzes. Orchestra Hall's superb acoustics are captured to perfection here, with a wide dynamic range and sizzling high frequencies. These recordings were made in April 1957 and April 1960. Less successful is Pines of Rome, recorded Oct. 24, 1959. I remember seeing a photo of recording sessions for Pines—multiple microphones, obviously too many. The warmth of Orchestra Hall only occasionally is present, and the crescendo at the conclusion of Pines of the Appian Way doesn't quite work because the beginning is so loud. There's still a touch of distortion in high percussion, but not as much as in previous issues of this recording. Fortunately Fountains doesn't have these sonic problems, nor does Reiner's superlative, highly defined La Mer, recorded Feb, 27, 1960.

A gem in this collection is Morton Gould's Copland/Grofé disc. The Copland ballet suites were recorded Oct. 1-2, 1957, the Grofé Feb. 19, 1960. All were done in Manhattan Center produced by John Pfeiffer and Joseph Habig (Grofé). Habig's comments about recording Grand Canyon state they wanted to take full advantage of the stereophonic medium, moved horns from side to side, added some reverb for effect, and had the trombones in On The Trail playing through megaphones. He calls this a "sonic spectacular" and indeed it is. Jascha Heifetz's superb Bruch/Vieuxtemps recordings were made in London in 1962 and 1961 in two-track stereo with the solo violin perhaps too prominent—but a pleasure to hear. These are immaculate, perfect performances showing the master violinist at his best. Arthur Rubinstein's 1962-63 recordings of four familiar Beethoven sonatas, beautifully engineered by Max Wilcox, are a welcome addition to the SACD library.

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston "Pops" offer a generous program of "Pops Caviar," highlighted by vivid readings of ballet music of Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. Recorded 1957-1959, the sound is some of the finest RCA achieved in Boston, which cannot be said of the two Boston Symphony SACDs led by Charles Munch. The Mendelssohn collection has somewhat veiled sound, the Berlioz symphony disappoints both musically and sonically. This is a two-track recording made in the early days of stereo (1954), with surprisingly scrappy orchestral playing, a harsh quality to the strings and brass, and a decided lack of Symphony Hall warmth. The excerpt from Romeo and Juliet, recorded three-track in 1961, has better sound. To hear Munch at his best in the fantastique try any of his other recordings, particularly the 1962 Video International release.

Virgil Fox Encores offers the famous organist in a broad-ranging collection of favorites recorded in 1958 at Riverside Church in New York, produced by John Pfeiffer, engineered by John Crawford. Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March was never released previously, perhaps because Fox's playing is a bit blurred on a few occasions, but it's a dynamic performance. The rich reeds of the organ have been well-captured by the engineers, but, with the exception of the Elgar, there's surprisingly little deep low bass. Mario Lanza at his Best is a rather odd compilation offering a dozen Italian songs in big-scale arrangements, some with chorus, and another dozen selections from Rudolf Friml's The Vagabond King. I imagine most Lanza fans would have preferred operatic arias instead of the latter.In the excerpts from King, Lanza is joined by American soprano Judith Raskin who later would record Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in Cleveland with George Szell conducting. All of the Lanza recordings are three-track with the tenor heard in the center channel. Sometimes the chorus is heard only from the right channel, but overall the sound is rich and satisfying. One song—Love Me Tonight—existed only in two-track format and is heard that way on this SACD.

R.E.B. (February 2006)