> Koussevitzky Gramophone Premieres CDAX8015 [RB]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
Books posted the day the order is received

Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
El salón México (1936) [11.01]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Lieutenant Kijé Suite (1934) [21.35]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Pohjola’s Daughter (1906) [12.13]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Also sprach Zarathustra (1894) [31.11]
Boston SO/Serge Koussevitzky.
Rec Symphony Hall, Boston, 1 Dec 1938 (Copland); 22 Dec 1937 (Prokofiev); 6 May 1936 (Sibelius); 22 Jan 1935 (Strauss).
mono ADD


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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.

Rob Barnett

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