BEETHOVEN: Overtures to The Consecration of the House,
Fidelio, Coriolan, Egmont, and Leonore No. 3
ROSSINI: Overtures to La Gazza Ladra, William Tell, Semiramide,
La Scala di Seta. MUSSORGSKY: Night at the Bare Mountain.
BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia. DEBUSSY: Prelude
to The Afternoon of a Faun. DUKAS: The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ." ELGAR: Enigma
Variations, Op. 36.
SIBELIUS: Incidental Music to Pelléas et Mélisande, Op.
46. The Oceanides, Op. 73. Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 105. Tapiola,
Bearac Reissues is to be commended for their resurrection of literally hundreds of recordings that never before appeared on CD, making them available in the best possible transfers. Three of these are listed above. In 1949 Eduard van Beinum recorded 5 Beethoven overtures with the London Philharmonic (he was their music director from 1947-1949). These are typical strong, propulsive Beinum readings with the LPO in fine shape. The recordings were made in Kingsway Hall in England, an ideal venue. Some of the Beinum/LPO recordings have excellent mono sound; but, for whatever reason, this is not one of them. There is a stringency to string tone that even Bearac's masterful engineering could not eliminate. The four Rossini overtures were recorded in the Concertgebouw in May 1952, and the sound is excellent. Decca issued the Rossini overtures on CD, but this disk is long out-of-print. The Rossini CD is completed with Jean Fournet conducting the Concertgebouw recorded in June 1959. These performances of music listed above are surprisingly prosaic, although stereo sound is excellent. The Van Otterloo/Hague Philharmonic Orchestra performances were recorded in the Concertgebouw in August 1972. These also are rather unimaginative performances, but hearing them might bring back memories for those who collected early stereo LPs (these originally were issued on Epic). Serious collectors should check out the huge catalog of digitally-remastered important recordings only available on Bearac: http://www.bearacreissues.com
Promotion for Opus Kura's new Toscanini disc suggests these memorable performances sound better than on any earlier releases. Have they listened to it? There is a rather loud hum throughout! Toscanini's performance of the Saint-Saëns' symphony, recorded in 1952, is direct and quite exciting, but the electric organ doesn't begin to provide sound essential for this work. The two pianos are brittle, overall sound dry and rather harsh, with virtually no low bass. Enigma, recorded in 1951 in Carnegie Hall, always was considered to be one of Toscanini's finest recordings, and surely sonically is superior to the Saint-Saëns symphony—but the hum on this reissue makes listening impossible. If you wish to hear these performanes get the ArkivMusic reissues.
Finally, true historic recordings of Sibelius with Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic recorded in Abbey Road Studios in London in 1955 and 1956. These have often been issued before, and now they make this welcome appearance in EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series.
R.E.B. (May 2008)