This is a valuable
disc of live Koussevitzky-Boston
material with which collectors may already
be familiar. The Concerto for Orchestra
has been issued by the Boston Symphony
in its Centennial Celebration edition
and it’s also been on Naxos. The world
premiere took place with these forces
on 1 December 1944 and this preserved
performance was given just under a month
later. It remains one of Koussevitzky’s
most outstanding commissions and the
performance enshrines at least something
of the frisson that must have been generated
at that premiere.
The performance is,
it’s true, subject to aural limitations.
The sound is constricted and in this
of all scores that’s a decided problem.
Nevertheless textually it’s valuable
for allowing us to hear a performance
very abrupt ending. As a performance
it has sweep and power – especially
in the finale – but also, and this is
rather surprising, there are paragraphs
that seem to fall somewhat flat, as
if they had not yet been properly assimilated.
Don Juan isn’t, judged
by the stopwatch, that much quicker
than many other performances. But it’s
the internal rhythms and attacks that
distinguish this galvanizing and energetic
performance. And it certainly starts
as it means to go on, with memorable
dynamism and power. The silken solo
violin – it has to be Richard Burgin,
surely – is another adornment as are
the wind principals. One of the great
virtues of a performance such as this
– it sounds banal but it remains true
– is that wind principals have the freedom
and flexibility to phrase within a brisk
basic pulse without any sense of disjunction
or a feeling of impeded direction. It
all sounds wonderfully natural.
The Stravinsky Ode
is a world premiere performance given
on 8 October 1943. It was dedicated
to Natalie Koussevitzky who had died
the previous year and in whose memory
the conductor established a Foundation.
Orthodox Church depth and gravity is
balanced by the affirmative optimism
of the central Eclogue. Audience applause
is rightly retained. We end with an
overture. Not the usual piece of programming
but when the Weber is played as excitingly
as this convention tends to be of little
significance. There’s a touch of "rumble"
here on this 1947 tape but it’s otherwise
Both notes and programming
are first class; transfers too, inherent
defects being as noted. This is the
first volume in what promises to be
a very collectable series from Guild.