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Clarion

Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879 - 1936)
Lauda per la nativitá del Signor (1930) [22.20]
Text by Jacopone da Todi, 13th c. (Sung in English as "Laud to the Nativity")
Marie Gibson, soprano; Marilyn Horne, soprano; Charles Bressler, tenor.
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)

Vespro della Beata Virgine (1610): Magnificat [23.37]
Sung in Latin. Ed. Ghedini.
Anita Priest, organ
Roger Wagner Chorale and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein.
Recorded in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1961 [date and name of hall not given]. Previously issued on Capitol LP SP 8572. [ADD]
Notes in English. Texts including translation of the Latin text.
HDCD* playable on all CD players, offering improved resolution on HDCD capable players.

CLARION CLR914CD [45:57]

Although many of the great analogue recordings of the past are now available on CD issues of the recordings made in Los Angeles by Capitol records (now part of EMI) just at the beginning of the stereo LP era form a large and regrettable gap. Many featured conducting by Felix Slatkin (father of Leonard), the Roger Wagner Chorale and excellent performances by Hollywood studio orchestral musicians playing frequently as the "Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra." This recording is a very welcome addition to the CD catalogue and we can only hope it is the first of many.

To a music lover who lived in Los Angeles at the time of these recordings the name Wallenstein was never spoken politely. Although on this and other recordings of the time he turns in a respectable job of work, he was notorious for abysmally poor live performances. The orchestral musicians could make so much more money playing soundtracks for films that they would rarely bother to make rehearsals, sending a student to sit in as a substitute, and Wallenstein put up with this. Hence, the orchestra would frequently sight-read a whole concert, even for noted guest conductors. One evening when Bruno Walter conducted the Prokofiev Classical Symphony the violin section entered nearly a quarter-tone flat. I recall that I angrily yelled out something impolite. When the orchestra’s patron, Mrs. Norman Chandler, wife of the publisher of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, decided to raise the salaries, many of these same players became star performers in the new orchestra under Wallenstein’s successors Eduard van Beinum and Zubin Mehta, and made many recordings which are still wonders of brilliance and precision.

At any rate, everyone turns in a first-rate job on this recording and the soloists are all in exceptional voice. You probably didn’t know Marilyn Horne could sing with such bright agility or that tenor Bressler, famous also as a counter-tenor on many early music recordings, had such a resonant mid range. Those who know Respighi only as the composer of loud brilliant works for large orchestra will be charmed by this work which is one of his "archaic" compositions, like the Trittico Boticelliano. The text is, not surprisingly, a conversation among the Christmas Angel, Mary, Shepherds, and a chorus of angels, beginning with "Fear not ye shepherds..." and ending with "...For born is the promised Messiah! Amen!" No credit is given for the English translation. The original LP cover art has been used.

The Monteverdi may be the first stereo recording of this excerpt from the Vespers. I have always found it one of the most convincing and enjoyable. The Roger Wagner Chorale sing with beauty, precision, and enthusiasm, and the recording is close, wide-range, and detailed. However, the letter of OI/OPP** is not observed (indeed, had not been invented yet): the orchestral instruments are modern, the sopranos are not boys, the organ is small and electronic, and the soloists use some vibrato.


*HDCD is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Any computer running Windows XP and Windows Media Player 9 can play an HDCD CD.

**Original Instrument, Original Performance Practice.

Paul Shoemaker

 



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