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Haydn House
P.O. Box 608
Dennis, MA 02638-0608
Tel: (508) 385-0805

Walter PISTON Symphony No. 6 [23:57]
Ernest BLOCH Schelomo (1916) [21:58]
Igor STRAVINSKY Jeu de Cartes [21:57]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
rec. transferred from RCA Victor LPs, 1956 (Piston); 1957 (Bloch); 1960 (Stravinsky)
HAYDN HOUSE CD SDA 2001-270 [68:32]

Once again Haydn House produce an audio revival that is acoustic triumph even if the packaging is unimpressive. However do not get too fixated on the appearance of these releases. In any event they are more colourful and polished than some who operate in the third party reissuer sphere.

Piston's stern and grave manner predominated in the symphonies and there was more of it as the years went by. The Sixth is past the midway point in his symphonic mountain range yet there is enough lyric liberation to draw the listener in. The first movement lightens for a winsome and sensitive vulnerability. The Leggerissimo second movement is playful with violins skittering from left to right in this early stereo recording. Has anyone since Munch delivered the brilliance he did with the Bostonians. Cellist, Samuel Mayes takes centre-stage for the Adagio sereno (III) which he plays, languishing in ease, both at the start of the movement and as it closes. The lyrical singer in Piston is to the fore here but the open-hearted and guileless singer of the second and fourth symphonies is not quite present. The oboe in the third movement at 2.43 recalls the characteristic sounds of Munch's orchestra in their classic version of Ibert's Escales. The Allegro energico snaps into action attacca after the peace of the preceding movement. With a long suave melody, rhythmic punch from percussion balanced very close and the crisp clatter of the tambourine this sounds at times like Shostakovich. However the raucous fair-time recalled from the explosive finale of Pistonís Second Symphony is also present. An invaluable premiere recording lent new life.

The Schelomo of Piatigorsky and Munch is a thing of twilight and darkness accentuated by the bass-emphatic recording. Indubitably this is raw and savage stuff - the most barbarously exciting I have heard (try the woodwind maelstrom at 8:04). Solo lines emerge with gripping close-up impact. Try the oboe's soliloquy at 9.31 onwards. However the hothouse quality of the recording, which sometimes sounds muffled when the textures and dynamics are piled high, militates against an overwhelming recommendation.

Jeu de Cartes is in Stravinsky's stripped-down, cut-glass neo-classical style. It is memorable for the brusque fanfare gesture that opens each of the three movements or 'deals'. This score provides ample opportunity for the Boston woodwind players to dazzle ... and they do. Listen for example to the woodwind flicker and flitter at the close of the second movement.

These recordings are resurrections from 1950s LPs. From an audio viewpoint these transfers have been accomplished with great skill by Pierre Paquin and Wilfrid Biscaye Pryckre. Haydn House have done some extremely high quality work from secondary material and the results are astonishingly good. Their work on the Menotti Violin Concerto and the Ormandyís 1950s Sibelius is a triumph. You have to forgive the lack of programme notes. You would be denying yourself some fine musical experiences if you let the lack of an essay prevent you buying this.

Rob Barnett



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