Koussevitsky (1874-1951) was born at Tver near Moscow.
He was from his earliest days as a conductor a champion for the then
new music of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Scriabin. When the Revolution
left him bereft of wealth and estates he endured several years under
the new regime and then decamped to London, Paris and finally the USA
and in the early 1940s became a US citizen. He guarded his Boston orchestra
enfolding it to himself and in general not permitting guest conductors.
With the exception of a handful of recordings (LPO and BBCSO) he recorded
only with the Bostonians. He indubitably built a dual reputation for
himself and his orchestra over his 25 year reign. That he commissioned
so much from US composers and that his Foundation continued such patronage
long after his death is a matter for praise. He helped shape and sustain
US classical music both before and after his death.
These are each first across the line recordings so
show familiar works still being discovered by the players and therefore
still with the greatest power to shock and delight. Of course these
are historical and historic recordings. The Copland dates from 2 years
after it was written, Prokofiev 3 years, 30 years, 41 years. Copland
is at his brasher but Koussevitsky is nowhere near as abandoned as Bernstein
on Sony. As with his exemplary poetic approach to the 1945 recording
of Appalachian Spring conductor and orchestra are caring and
gentle bringing out qualities often eclipsed by the rodomontade of the
piece. The Strauss seems quick and this is one work where I felt that
the lack of modern recording for a spectacular undermined the attractions
of the music making. I had no such reservations about the red-blooded
yet very precise approach adopted for the Prokofiev and the Sibelius.
The Sibelius in particular shows exceptional dramatic power, intelligence
and superb playing. Not a first choice then - none of these pieces are.
For me the first choice for the Sibelius is the Suisse Romande/Horst
Stein Decca recording. Dutton have done recuperative and restorational
miracles to get the music to beam as freshly as it does so if you are
at all curious about the Boston SO in its greatest glory days there
is no excuse for passing by this disc.
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