This is a most welcome issue of a complete concert, one of the
Sunday afternoon NYPO broadcast shows, I suppose, to judge by
the duration. Live recordings of Mitropoulos are appearing from
various sources these days and this one is most welcome in that
the sound is quite fierce at the start of the Borodin by the
time we reach the concerto it has settled down. It is very
good, considering the source material used - second generation
transcription discs, digitally remastered - and there is some
fine music-making on offer.
musical picture is a delicate flower, a single tune going
round and round in a languorous way - if one can be languorous
whilst in the steppes of central Asia. Absolutely nothing
is happening: the music simply seems to hang in the air. This
performance is straightforward and without incident, just
as it should be, but there is a feeling of detachment about
the interpretation. Perhaps conductor and orchestra hadn’t
warmed up sufficiently.
certainly had by the time Rubinstein joined them for the Concerto.
I have long enjoyed Rubinstein’s 1958 recording of this work
with the Symphony
of the Air conducted by Alfred Wallenstein (RCA Victor
Red Seal 63053, coupled with the Schumann and Liszt No.1)
but this performance, and interpretation, is better, due to
the fact that it is live … and very alive! The opening solo
fantasia is more baroque in feel, surely exactly what the
composer wanted, and the short orchestral interjections are
less forced. The middle movement dance is a delight, some
lovely use of rubato, sparkling runs and never over-emphasised
phrasing of the chordal passages. It’s easy to understand
why the audience bursts into spontaneous applause at the end.
The finale is taken at breakneck speed but neither soloist
nor orchestra puts a finger wrong. It’s a wonderful performance
and it’s well worth buying this disk purely for this performance.
Incidentally, whilst the opening was all baroque filigree
this finale is pure Beethovenian frenzy.
Franck’s Symphonic Variations receives a big performance,
Rubinstein treating it as a real Concerto movement, and it
works very well because so often, in other hands, this work
can sound rather sad and forlorn – simply because it isn’t
a Concerto movement! In this performance it’s bright and breezy,
a bit hard-driven perhaps but it’s none the worse for that.
There’s poetry when necessary and a lovely light feel to the
Poème de l’Extase receives a hothouse performance
from Mitropoulos and his band. They go all out to make this
something special and in the hall it must have been overwhelming.
It’s incredible that this recording contains the sound as
well as it does, but with the orchestral image somewhat recessed
the big climaxes, and this work has a few, never overpower
the microphones and thus we get a fair representation of the
performance. The work cannot have been well known to the players
but they rise to the challenge and give a fine performance.
disk is a valuable document containing, as it does, a complete
concert in good sound. Guild has really taken a lead in reissues
of older material – think of their marvellous light music
series – and it is to be thanked for making available to us
such fine music-making. Making this a special event is a fine
note by Robert Matthew–Walker in the booklet. I do not see
that this is just for the collector with an interest in historical
performance, for it is too good to be consigned to the shelf
of the few. Everybody should hear these great artists working
together for the sake of their musical souls.