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


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos 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



CD & Download: Pristine Classical

Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Ruslan and Ludmila: Overture (1) [4:24]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Golden Cockerel: Suite (2) [22:02]
The Snow Maiden: Dance of the Tumblers (3) [3:20]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Firebird: Suite (1911 version with small cuts) (4) [18:28]
Anatole LIADOV (1855-1914)
Kikimora (5) [4:02]
Claude DEBUSSY(1862-1918)
Children’s Corner: Golliwog’s Cakewalk (6) [3:46]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Ma Mère l’Oye: Suite (7) [14:17]
Symphony Orchestra/Albert Coates
rec. 5 May 1922 (1), 10 May, 14 July 1922 (2), 14 July 1922 (3), 24, 29 October 1924 (4), 28 October 1921 (5), 25 April 192 (6),29 November 1921, 25 April 1922 (6)
Transfers by Ward Marston

Experience Classicsonline

I have been unhappy with Pristine Audio’s attempts to make early LPs sound like digital CDs, but here we have a collection of acoustic recordings and the transfer engineer is Ward Marston. I have not been able to compare any other transfers of these same recordings – the various sites offering early recordings for free download, such as Shellackophile and Damian’s 78s, have not so far branched into Coates very much. My impression is that we hear these ancient recordings about as well as we are ever likely to. Readers who came to music in the 1960s will remember that in those days the typical LP player also had provisions for playing 78s. They invariably reproduced the discs with a high level of scratchy hiss. On the rare occasions that I actually heard some 78s played by a collector with an old player and a stock of fibre needles, the hiss was gentler, more of a swish, and the music somehow emerged from it remarkably well. That’s about how we get it here, but with more detail than most of those old players could ever extract. When the textures are relatively spare, as in the Ravel, it’s amazing how much nuance and timbre comes across. But there’s no denying that climaxes get strident, often confused, and the lack of depth is tiring to the ear.

There are historical recordings where one can still be caught up in an enthralling experience. There are others where the musical lessons to be gleaned are so great that it is worth persevering. But there are also some where one says “so that’s what it sounded like” and passes on to other things.

These considerations were particularly aroused by the Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov items. This is the sort of music that thrives on modern sound. Nor does it call for the sort of interpretative insight reserved for the few. One can note that Coates’s “Symphony Orchestra”, whatever it was, was a crack band. In fast string passages he gets the sort of brilliant articulation generally associated, in recordings from that period, with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw. Given that fast tempi go at a real lick, anyone who expects to find slack orchestral standards in London of the 1920s is in for a surprise. All the same, brilliant playing and high energy levels are not unknown in more recent times, so one would need some further reason for listening again. Not only do I not find this, I began to feel, particularly in the Golden Cockerel music, that Coates’s relentlessly up-front approach has its limits. It was interesting to turn to a little-remembered version of this suite set down, I think for Pye in the 1960s, by the London Philharmonic under Hugo Rignold - you can download this from Rediscovery Paperbacks if you’re interested. The LPO was not a virtuoso band at that time but there is a strong feeling of affectionate enjoyment of the music by all concerned and a welcome reminder that Rignold was a dab hand at music with a strong story-telling content. This is important with music that risks seeming the fruit of the drawing-board more than of inspiration.

Against all odds, the performance that gave me most pleasure here was that of the Stravinsky. With the music only thirteen years old, one rather expects to find a bemused orchestra treading warily and none too unanimously through the music on a note-by-note basis. Such early recordings of Stravinsky certainly exist – some of them under the composer’s own baton – but Coates’s band seems to have known the music all its life. The score is not played as an extravagant piece of noisy modernism but as a refined successor to Debussy, colourful, euphoric and above all, musical.

It’s interesting to have this followed by Kikimora, since Diaghilev had initially asked Liadov to compose the Firebird ballet. Stravinsky himself is down as saying that Liadov would never have had the energy to write a score like that. Strangely, in Coates’s super-energetic hands the two composers’ styles seem remarkably similar!

The Debussy is a slightly unsettled performance, though Coates, a noted Wagnerian, makes the most of the Tristan quote. In the Ravel we may note his skill in realizing every detail of the orchestration but we may also note a pervasively heavy, over-regular beat. How much more flexible is the 1949 Cluytens version, included in an Andante compilation of historical Ravel performances, “Le jardin fëerique” caressed and built up lovingly where Coates is almost perfunctory. Was he at his best only in music that is fast and noisy?

This compilation was sent to me in tandem with another containing Coates’s performances, from the same period, of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony and Francesca da Rimini and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. For a rounded picture, the reader should now read my review of the companion disc.

Christopher Howell






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

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.