MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Not available in the USA.

CD: AmazonUK
Download: Classicsonline


Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Peter and the Wolf, op.67 (1936) [25:27]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D major, op.43 (1902) [41:30]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
The Last Spring (Elegiac Melody, op.34, no.2) (1881) [5:44]
Eleanor Roosevelt (narrator) (Prokofiev)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Serge Koussevitzky
rec. Theatre-Concert Hall, Tanglewood (Prokofiev) and Symphony Hall, Boston (Sibelius and Grieg); 11 August 1950 (Prokofiev), 29 November 1950 (Sibelius and Grieg)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111290 [72:42]
Experience Classicsonline

In the midst of the economic depression of the 1930s US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was famous for broadcasting comforting “fireside chats” to a worried nation.  But, on the basis of this recording, it is fair to say that his widow Eleanor was probably quite incapable of anything resembling a “fireside chat”.  Instead she addresses the “dear children” listening to Prokofiev’s piece as if they are a rather hard of hearing audience at a public meeting.
As one brought up on the somewhat similar presentational style of the BBC Home Service’s Listen with Mother (“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…”), I have to say that Mrs Roosevelt’s delivery didn’t worry me too much at all.  But it’s something that would probably sound very odd indeed to today’s touchy-feely younger generation. 
Even then, though, it need not have been done that dry way, as demonstrated by an even older recording from 1941 with Basil Rathbone narrating and Leopold Stokowski conducting the All-American Orchestra (on Avid AMSC 601).  Rathbone’s delivery is both dramatic and sensitive to the meaning of the words, as well as delivered with the benefit of an actor’s professional training.  As such, it has not dated nearly as much as the recording under consideration here and it engages the listener far more effectively.  I can only presume that Mrs Roosevelt was chosen to narrate - or, in this instance, declaim! - Prokofiev’s tale not for her presentational skills but rather because of her celebrity as the country’s previous First Lady.  Probable confirmation of that hypothesis is the fact that RCA chose not to release her recording outside the USA at all.
Koussevitzky’s contribution is notably weighty and authoritative, an impression reinforced by the reverberant acoustic.  Did he perhaps feel that Eleanor Roosevelt’s status deserved nothing less than his Boston Orchestra in its plushest mode?  Certainly, Stokowski, recorded in a dryer acoustic, is sharper and edgier – though not necessarily preferable.  There is, I think, easily room for both approaches, even in such a superficially straightforward piece as this.
Koussevitzky was one of Sibelius’s greatest champions between the two world wars and his recording of the second symphony will be, I suspect, of greatest interest to most listeners.  It was set down during the 76 year old maestro’s final recording session and, unlike some conductors, Koussevitzky definitely stands down on a high.  It must have been very tempting to consider utilising this great Romantic warhorse to go out with a bang but, as Colin Anderson’s useful booklet notes suggest, this is instead an expertly graded and controlled performance that, while certainly exciting, holds in check any inclination to play to the gallery.   Long admired as an interpreter of Sibelius’s later symphonies – his live BBC Symphony Orchestra recording of the seventh (on Naxos Historical 8.110168) is still very highly rated – Koussevitzky demonstrates on this occasion an equal affinity with the composer’s earlier sound-world with its strong flavour of Tchaikovsky. 
An earlier recording of the second symphony from the same forces, made in 1935, is also available as a Naxos Historical release (8.110170) but there is little to choose between the two musical interpretations.  Moreover, given that the earlier recording was inexplicably made using equipment that was actually obsolete at the time, the far superior sound of the 1950 version is likely to decide the issue for most listeners.
After setting down the Sibelius symphony there was, it seems, time left for one more (short) recording – and this time Koussevitzky did indulge himself.  Appropriately enough, he directs a rich, mellow and clearly valedictory interpretation of Grieg’s Elegiac Melody no.2 it pulls out all the emotional stops.  With a timing of 5:54 it is, indeed, more than a full minute longer than an earlier Koussevitzky recording from 1940 that had clocked in at 4:42 (also to be found on Naxos Historical 8.110168).  On this very special and no doubt highly emotional occasion, the Boston Symphony’s famous strings – memorably once described as “one of the hedonistic delights of Western civilization” – play their considerable hearts out for their departing maestro who was, sadly, to die within less than a year.
Once again, Mark Obert-Thorn has made a superb job of rehabilitating the sound from a wide variety of sources - at this transitional period, many recordings were being issued simultaneously on 78 rpm, LP and 45 rpm formats. 
As I have already indicated, Colin Anderson’s booklet notes are once again a wise guide to the music, although his assertion that those final 1950 recordings took place on 29 September conflicts with the 29 November date given twice elsewhere in the documentation.  He is also a somewhat shaky guide to US politics, repeating the schoolboy howler that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the country’s 32nd President, was the son of 26th President Theodore Roosevelt – whereas he was actually no more than a fifth cousin.  That slip would certainly have earned a stern reproof from First Lady Eleanor and ought to be corrected in any future printings. 
Rob Maynard


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.