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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) 
The Four Seasons 
Concerto in E (Spring) Op. 8, No. 1, RV269 [9:03]
Concerto in g minor (Summer) Op. 8, No. 2, RV315 [10:20]
Concerto in F (Autumn) Op. 8, No. 3, RV293 [10:32]
Concerto in f minor (Winter) Op. 8, No. 4, RV297 [8:24]
Joseph Silverstein (violin)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
rec. 10 October 1981, Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, USA
180g vinyl, 33 rpm
TELARC TEL00004 LP [38:19]
 
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
‘1812’ Overture, Op. 49 [15:34]
Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 [15:20]
Cossack Dance from Mazeppa [4:17]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
rec. 1978
180g vinyl, 33 rpm
TELARC TEL00009 LP [35:11]
 
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Firebird (Suite 1919 Version) [20:39]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Music from Prince Igor
Overture [10:30]
Polovtsian Dances [11:38]
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Robert Shaw
rec. 19 & 20 June, 1978
180g vinyl, 33 rpm
TELARC TEL00005 LP [43:17]
 
Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
Carmina Burana [60:29]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphonic Metamorphosis Of Themes by Carl Maria Von Weber [20:13]
Judith Blegen (soprano)
Hakan Hagegard (baritone)
William Brown (tenor)
Atlanta Boys’ Choir
Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Robert Shaw
rec. 16-18 November 1980, Symphony Hall, Atlanta
180g vinyl, 33 rpm
TELARC TEL00006 [2 LPs: 60:29]

These four LP reissues from Telarc will be welcomed with open arms by vinyl enthusiasts.

The catalogue is saturated with recordings of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and the potential purchaser is literally spoiled for choice. If you prefer non-period instrument performances, then this 1981 recording of Vivaldi’s perennial masterpiece with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa, should fit the bill just fine. The soloist is the late Joseph Silverstein, the orchestra’s legendary concertmaster from 1962 to 1984. Playing his 1742 Guarneri del Gesł, his elegant, smooth and expressively sweet tone is sharply profiled in this first vinyl pressing since the title’s initial release in 1982. This performance, for me, ticks all the boxes. Tempi seem just right, dynamics are sensitively varied, and the infectious enthusiasm of the players is vividly conveyed. They certainly inject plenty of personality into their playing, and they fully capture the essence and character of each season.  The acoustic of Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College is warm and reverberant, and the soloist is nicely balanced in the mix.

Billed as a sonic spectacular, the Tchaikovsky LP, showcasing the ‘1812 blockbuster’, will be an audiophile’s dream. It does carry a warning. The canon effects in the Overture should be approached with extreme caution until a safe playback level can be established. It is interesting to read in the sleeve how the recording evolved, with the canon and bells recorded separately then added later. It’s a terrific recording, certainly the best 1812 I've ever heard. The drama, tension and rhythmic bite are compelling. The Cincinnati strings radiate burnished warmth. Kunzel went in to record it twenty years later with the same forces, but this time employed a children’s choir for the opening Russian theme. The Capriccio Italien is every bit as vigorous and exciting as Leonard Slatkin's version with the St. Louis Symphony. The ‘Mazeppa Dances’ are a pleasing addition.

If I could take just one of these four LPs, it would be the Stravinsky Firebird Suite. This is the first vinyl pressing since 1978. Apparently, the recording won many accolades when it first appeared. The sound is demonstration class, and the composer gives many solo instruments the chance to have their moment in the sun. I was also very impressed by the wide dynamic range. The scoring is imaginative and colourful and employs a panoply of percussion. The Telarc engineers have worked wonders in revealing detail. It certainly doesn't get much better than this. The LP includes Borodin’s Overture and Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. The latter are seductively sung by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra chorus.

I’ve never heard the CD incarnation of Robert Shaw's recording of Carmina Burana, but I am mightily impressed. The performance is agreeably paced and fully captures the drama of Orff’s impressive score. The three soloists are excellent, the baritone Hakan Hagegard especially so. The ensemble of the choir is faultless and they bring life and energy to the performance. However, this version will never topple my favorite from its pedestal, namely the Ozawa recording with the Berlin Philharmonic on Philips which offers just that extra ounce of exuberance and orgasmic energy, but it certainly follows not far behind. A booklet of Latin texts and English translation is provided. The Telarc engineers have done a sterling job in balancing orchestra, chorus and soloists, and achieved a wonderful ambience of depth and perspective. For vinyl lovers this gets my wholehearted recommendation. Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis Of Themes by Carl Maria Von Weber provides a welcome filler for the 4th side. Shaw coaxes some fine virtuosic playing from the Atlanta Symphony in this riveting reading. He certainly underlines the wry wit of the opening movement, and the ‘Turandot Scherzo’ is exotically flecked. There’s some exquisite woodwind playing in the Andantino, with the March rhythmically taut. All in all, an enjoyable performance which puts paid to the notion of Hindemith’s music being dry and academic.

I didn’t detect any imperfections in any of my LP copies, which were noiseless, with silent surfaces. Neither was there any pre-echo at the beginning of tracks. Each is beautifully presented in a sturdy gatefold, and documentation in each case is as it should be.

Stephen Greenbank
 



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