BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 55 "Emperor." SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.
Van Cliburn, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 08283 TT: 68:59
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MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde
Maureen Forrester, contralto; Richard Lewis, tenor; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 08281 TT: 63:12
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BERLIOZ: Harold in Italy, Op. 16. Beatrice and Benedict Overture. The Corsair Overture, Op. 21. Benvenuto Cellini Overture, Op. 23. Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
William Primrose, violist; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 08280 TT: 72:12
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STRAUSS: Symphonia domestica, Op. 53. Le bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60.
Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 08272 TT: 74:09
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SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. FRANCK: Symphonic Variations. LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat.
Arthur Rubinstein, pianist; Symphony of the Air; RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra (Liszt)/Alfred Wallenstein, cond.
RCA SACD 08279 TT: 54:18
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Five more important releases in RCA's SACD Living Stereo series! The format offers the original three-track recordings of all works except Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and the Liszt concerto which were two-track. No question, the most important of these is Reiner's Das Lied von der Erde. Mastering Engineer Mark Donahue discovered that on the first day of the 1959 original recording sessions one channel of the three-track master was recorded out of phase and much of it was edited into the final tape. It was necessary to check each edit, reverse the phasing when necessary, and produce a new final version with proper phrasing—very successfully accomplished. It does seem odd that CD notes indicate the recording was made on one day: November 9, 1959, so Donahue's mention of a second day is rather puzzling. But this really doesn't matter: now Reiner's superb performance can be heard in pristine sonics. Van Cliburn was at his peak in 1960-61 when the Schumann and Beethoven concertos were recorded, Arthur Rubinstein had been concertizing more than a half-century when he made these recordings in 1956 (Liszt) and 1958 (Saint-Saëns and Franck); the venerable pianist had played the Saint-Saëns concerto in the presence of the composer! Both of these Reiner Strauss recordings were made in 1956; Bourgeois in April in two-track, Symphonia domestica seven months later in three-track. How unfortunate he didn't also record Death and Transfiguration, and An Alpine Symphony in Chicago! These Berlioz recordings were made about the same time as the Munch/Boston Requiem, Op. 5. As with the choral masterpiece, this new remastering and the SACD process, enable us to hear these brilliant performances of Harold in Italy and four overtures in a new sonic perspective. These mid-price superb reissues belong in every collection. Thanks, RCA!

R.E.B. (August 2007)