Reiner Rarities - Volume 2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Ein musikalischer Spass (A Musical Joke) K522 (1787) [21:14]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Alto Rhapsody Op.53 (1869) [14:42] ¹
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Petite Suite (1886-89) – orchestrated Henri Busser [14:05]
Rolf LIEBERMANN (1910-99)
Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra (1954) [18:12] ²
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Marian Anderson (contralto)
Robert Shaw Chorale of Men’s Voices/RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra¹
Sauter-Finegan Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra ²
rec. October 1950, Manhattan Centre, NYC (Brahms); January 1952, Carnegie Hall (Debussy); September 1954, Manhattan Centre, NYC (Mozart); December 1954, Orchestra Hall, Chicago (Liebermann)

‘Rarities’ is correct. These are the sole recordings of each of these works made by Fritz Reiner. In addition, according to the disc note, none has yet received ‘official’ release from RCA. So this series proceeds on the sound grounds that the more Reiner that is unearthed, the better things will be. If a programme as quixotic as this is the corollary then I can’t say I am disappointed. Mozart and Liebermann are not natural bedfellows, but perhaps that adds a frisson to the venture.

The Mozart is his Musical Joke, and it’s played by the NBC Symphony in 1954. The performance is certainly robust, and the horns enjoy their moments of glory to the full. The violin soloist is Daniel Guilet, who was at almost exactly this very time preparing to form the Beaux Arts Trio with Bernard Greenhouse and Menahem Pressler. Guilet threads his way through the slow movement and its cadential passage with great elegance.

Marian Anderson recorded Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody three times. Of the three, RCA has re-released on CD only the version by Pierre Monteux; the Eugene Ormandy and this Reiner version were previously not so fortunate. Anderson sings with distinction and Reiner has the additional advantage of Robert Shaw’s Chorale. Quite why this 1952 recording has been bypassed is something of a mystery. One doesn’t especially associate Reiner with Debussy but the Henri Busser orchestration of the Petite Suite works well. Reiner enjoys the clarity as much as the warmth of the music’s coloration and Carnegie Hall is a more-than-acceptable location for the recording.

For Rolf Liebermann’s Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra Reiner turned to the Chicago Symphony in collaboration with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Reiner, hooded of visage, did have something of a soft spot for jazz, and this work must have appealed to him given its analytical freedoms. It’s cast in eight sections, all brief. The opening is terse, restless, uneasy, flirting with 12 tone, and we then follow a Jump section, a Scherzo – brusque percussion to the fore – and a slow Blues in which the alto and trombone of the Sauter-Finegan band cross figures. There’s a splashily off-kilter Boogie and a percussion-punctuated Interludium, before the concluding festive Mambo send everyone off happy.

This is certainly the most unusual music in the disc, but it’s a disc worth having if you’re a Reiner convert. Well transferred, minimally annotated, it’s a snug fit in the Reiner discography.

Jonathan Woolf

A disc worth having if you’re a Reiner convert. A snug fit in the Reiner discography.