Reiner Rarities
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – incidental music Op.21 and 61 (1826/1842) [29:58] ¹
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice – Dance of the Blessed Spirits (1762) [7:11]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Totentanz (Dance of death or Dance macabre), Paraphrase on the Dies irae’ for piano and orchestra, S.126, R.457, (1839-49, rev. 1853, 1859) [15:38]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.5 in E minor Op.64 – Valse; Allegro moderato [6:27]
Eugene Onegin – Waltz [5:04]
Swan Lake – Waltz [5:08]
Sleeping Beauty – Waltz [3:51]
Nutcracker – Waltz of the Flowers [5:25]
Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia/Fritz Reiner¹
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner

As producer Mark Obert-Thorn makes plain, the rarity of these performances resides in the fact that, apart from the Totentanz and the Waltz of the Flowers, they are Reiner’s only inscriptions of these works. Also, there has been what he carefully describes as no ‘official’ reissue from RCA on CD, or before that on LP either. The reason for the absence of the Totentanz is obvious; the Byron Janis Chicago remake, which many will know. But that doesn’t devalue the disinterment of this earlier performance by Brailowsky or indeed the rest of the selection. It doesn’t make for an especially, how shall I put this, intellectually demanding programme, but then it’s not been selected for that reason. Rarity is invariably a boon for the specialist collector.

Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music was recorded in June 1951 in Philadelphia. The orchestra was the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia, a mighty mouthful much beloved by collectors, composed largely but not exclusively of members of the city’s august principal orchestra. The performance lacks, perhaps, both the panache and the pathos of the finest readings but Reiner’s scowling, jowly visage, glimpsed in the photo art of the cover, is not necessarily reflected in the performance. Two leading orchestral principals can be heard; flautist Burnett F. Atkinson and horn-player Mason Jones. The Wedding March is certainly a brisk, no-nonsense affair. Two years later Reiner and the RCA Victor Symphony, with the fine flautist Julius Baker, set down a rather lugubrious and dogged Dance of the Blessed Spirits. The Tchaikovsky Waltz selection, with the same orchestra but recorded in 1950, is much better in this regard, though it’s still rather odd to find that the Valse from the Fifth Symphony is here alongside its ballet confrères.

Brailowsky is a suitably powerful presence for the Liszt which is a ripe example of 1951 engineering. Janis was more accurate still and the recording quality is improved in that later recording, but I think Reiner-watchers will want to acquaint themselves with this performance if they don’t otherwise have it.

The provenance of the source material is, as ever, well dealt with and Obert-Thorn’s engineering is unproblematic. I note however that Andrew Rose has added ‘ambient stereo encoding’. This is qualified by a bracketed ‘(where applicable)’. It’s subtly done, but should be pointed out to prospective purchasers, who may not approve.

Jonathan Woolf

Not an especially intellectually demanding programme but rarity is invariably a boon for the specialist collector.