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Voices of the Past
By Brian Wilson

Regular readers may recall that my round-ups used to include frequent reviews of recordings from Beulah and Naxos Archives, made from 78s and LPs up to the European copyright date of 1962. In addition to download-only material from those and other sources, it is still possible to obtain recordings deleted on CD, not just as downloads, but, in some cases, as specially licensed CDRs from Presto, while Chandos and Hyperion also offer special CDRs (and downloads) of their deleted CDs.

Index:

BARBER Essence of – Beulah
BRAHMS Symphony No.3 – Schuricht (rec. live 1963) – Legendary Archives
BRUCKNER Symphony No.3; Richard STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung – Knappertsbsuch (rec live 1964) – Legendary Archives
GAY Beggar’s Opera – Sargent – Beulah
GOMBERT Music from the Court of Charles V – Sony/Presto
HANDEL Arias – Ferrier, McKellar – Beulah
JONES Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 – Thomson – Lyrita
MAHLER Symphony No.5 – Konwitschny (live 1960) – Legendary Archives
- Symphony No.7 – Kubelík (live 1960) – Legendary Archives
PROKOFIEV Cinderella – Pletnev – DG/Presto
RODRIGO Concierto de Aranjuez – Yepes/Argenta (with solo guitar music – John Williams) – Beulah
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 5 – Ormandy (live 1958) – Legendary Archives
- Symphony No.8 – Haitink – Decca/Presto CD; Silvestri (live 1958) – Legendary Archives.
- Symphony No.12 – Ivanov (live 1961) – Legendary Archives
SIMPSON Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 – Davis, Groves – Lyrita
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS – Tallis Fantasia; Symphony No.5 – Bush (1953, 1955) – Legendary Archives

Adagio – 10 Slow Movements – Beulah
Brendel – Early Recordings (vols. 1-3) – Beulah
Elijah Rock – Mahalia Jackson – Beulah
Organ of the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool – Dixon - Beulah

***
Beulah

I have quite a bit of catching up to do since my last survey of Beulah reissues in November 2020.

I imagine that more people will have heard of at least some of the music from the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil Dreigroschenoper, or Threepenny Opera (‘Mack the Knife’ ring a bell?) than of its model, John GAY’s Beggar’s Opera, put together in 1728 with music by Johann Christoph Pepusch, largely arranged from ballad songs and snatches. It doesn’t get too many outings, though, by coincidence, I see that a DVD/blu-ray recording, featuring Les Arts Florissants and William Christie, has just been released on the Opus Arte label. I haven’t seen that, so my benchmark remains the 2-CD 1991 Hyperion recording directed by Jeremy Barlow (CDA66591/2 – Archive Service or download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk).

From an earlier period comes the Beulah reissue of the 1955 recording conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, with the Pro Arte Chorus and Orchestra and an almost predictable cast for the time: Elsie Morison, Constance Shacklock, Anna Pollak, Monica Sinclair, Alexander Young, John Cameron, Owen Brannigan and Ian Wallace (10PD13 [1:27:20]). The Hogarth painting on the cover, predictably, features on both recordings, but they part company in that Sargent uses the Austin edition while Barlow returns to the earthier original, with the Bowdlerised bits un-Bowdlerised.

Unlike the Italian-texted operas of Handel, the Beggar’s Opera relies on spoken text in the vernacular, much of it replete with satire and humour that meant a great deal to the audiences of the time, but now requires footnotes, like Pope’s Dunciad, which makes it less immediately accessible to a modern audience. (I nearly said ‘boring’, but that would have given away the reason why my C18 paper earned me the lowest mark in finals.) We can listen to and enjoy Judas Maccabæus without knowing that the conquering hero was inspired by the Duke of Cumberland and his role in putting down the 1745, but to hear the Beggar’s Opera in its original form is as if listeners 300 years hence were to listen to an opera while scratching their heads over references to Donald Trump, QAnon, Boris Johnson and the pandemic.

So, the Hyperion is more authentic and better recorded, in stereo, contains an hour more of the work, and comes with a pdf booklet containing the text, but I suspect that most modern listeners would prefer the much livelier older Sargent recording, as well transferred as it is by Beulah. Among the virtues of the older recording are the occasional interventions, as if from the original audience. The Hyperion download costs £16.99 (link above), the Beulah £11.99 in lossless sound from Qobuz or £7.99 in mp3 from AmazonUK.

There’s a good deal of Kathleen Ferrier on an album of HANDEL Arias (1PS89 [69:48]): Samson – ‘Return, O God of Hosts’; Messiah – ‘O thou that tellest’; ‘He was despised’; Judas Maccabæus – ‘Father of Heaven’, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Adrian Boult. This is plain singing, without any of the modern attempts to reproduce the ornamentation of Handel’s day, the Messiah just as printed in the old Ebenezer Prout edition. I don’t normally warm to Ferrier’s voice, for reasons which I’ve gone into many times, but this was one of the recordings where the engineers caught her at her best, so popular on LP that Decca later re-recorded the accompaniment in stereo, but this (1952, mono) original is preferable. Her work as a telephonist would already have ironed the Lancashire vowels out of her voice, but there’s still a hint of her native Walton-le-Dale in ‘behold your God’.

For all that I find this a better representation of Ferrier, the opening track, the aria from Giulio Cesare – ‘Piangero la sorte mia’, sung by Teresa Berganza (rec. c.1960, stereo), is more impressive.

The rest of the recital concentrates on Kenneth McKellar, with Boult again conducting: ‘Ombra mai fu’ (Serse); ‘Love in her eyes sits playing’ (Acis and Galatea); ‘Did you not hear my lady’ (a modern confection after music from Ptolemy); ‘Where’er you walk’ (Semele), three extracts from Judas Maccabæus and three from Jephtha. A fine voice, not helped by its employment in the more popular repertoire with which McKellar was associated, which perhaps explains some of the occasional strain on the longer-held top notes. These recordings date from 1959 or 1960 and are in decent stereo. Lossless sound from Qobuz.

Reginald Dixon at the Wurlitzer Organ of Tower Ballroom Blackpool will bring back many memories for those who, like me as a child, regarded a trip to Blackpool as a real treat, and a visit to the people’s palace of the Tower Ballroom to see the mighty organ rise from below the floor an absolute delight. Later, I came to prefer the more genteel Lytham St Anne’s with its second-hand bookshops, but this Beulah recording of popular classics and middle-of-the-road music made between 1935 and 1961, is real trip down memory lane, which I seem to have missed when it was released in December 2019.

(1PS55, mp3 from AmazonUK; lossless sound from Qobuz).

The Essence of Samuel BARBER on 1PS87 [75:29] – mp3 from AmazonUK; lossless sound from Qobuz – contains some familiar music and some unfamiliar. The short opening Commando March [3:10] comes from the Eastman Wind Ensemble and Frederick Fennell, whose recordings are to be found on several Beulah reissues.

Knoxville – Summer of 1915 [13:59] is much more familiar, though I don’t recall hearing this recording from Eleanor Steber (soprano), the Dumbarton Oaks Orchestra and William Strickland before. This beautiful 1947 evocation of small-town life before the US entered WWI was commissioned by Steber, and this recording, from US Columbia, apparently dates from 1950 – if so, it has come up extremely well in this transfer. There are more recent performances with more beautiful solo singing, notably from Dawn Upshaw, and in better sound, but this performance by the soprano who commissioned the work is special. I don’t think it was issued in the UK until it appeared on a now defunct CBS Masterworks Portrait CD in 1991.

The Cello Concerto (1946) – Zara Nelsova (cello), New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by the composer [27:25] – is also fairly familiar Barber territory, as is this recording, which also dates from 1950, this time for Decca and released on a 10” LP. With a soloist who was already associated with the work, the composer conducting, and a good transfer of the recording, this is the highlight of the reissue. As released on Ace of Clubs in 1966, with Symphony No.2, this was my introduction to the work, even at a time when I was turning my nose up at mono reissues; Decca were already reissuing some of their prime stereo recordings on Ace of Diamonds by then.

The album is rounded off with a powerful performance of Andromache’s Farewell, Op.39 [12:09] – Martina Arroyo (soprano), New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Thomas Schippers (1963, but not released in the UK at the time, perhaps a little too much like film music) – and the least familiar item (to me) the Souvenirs Suite, Op.28 [18:44] (Philharmonia Orchestra/Efrem Kurtz). Like Knoxville, the original Souvenirs ballet inhabits a pre-WWI world, this time in grand society. There is no other current generally available recording, so this reissue of one side of a 1956 HMV 10” LP is welcome, though I can’t claim that this is music of the same quality as the two central works; it’s a bit like Ravel’s la Valse without the irony. Though mostly of somewhat venerable origin, these transfers really are worth purchasing from Qobuz in lossless sound, though they are also available from AmazonUK in mp3: both cost the same (£7.99).

I know there is a ready market for snippet recordings; much as I would like to think them a stepping stone to full symphonies, concertos or operas, that’s as far as many are prepared to go. Designed to appeal to that market is Adagio: 10 slow movements on 1PS90 [72:41]. Only the opening Samuel BARBER Adagio [7:44] was composed as a stand-alone item. The cover doesn’t specify the provenance of any of these recordings, but this is the idiomatic recording made by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy – the information is in the codec if your player can display it. (The free MusicBee programme can.)

The closing Aram KHACHATURIAN Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia [9:07], from the Spartacus ballet, also developed a life of its own when it was used as the theme music for a TV programme about a shipping family, The Onedin Line. The music actually has nothing to do with a ship under full sail, but it seemed to fit perfectly, in this recording made by the composer with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, still available on the MVE label, download only, and short value with just 23 minutes from the ballet. Better to choose the Beulah.

The slow movement of the GRIEG Piano Concerto [6:00] in one of my favourite recordings, from Clifford Curzon, the LSO and Øivind Fjeldstad (1959), is another highlight of the collection, but it also serves to point the listener to their complete recording, with the Schumann Piano Concerto and Franck Symphonic Variations (Decca 4336282) or on a Presto special CD with Peer Gynt Suites (4485992). And who could fail to enjoy Sir Thomas Beecham’s special magic with the Adagio from the Faust ballet music on the next track [4:16]?

Another old favourite, Maurice Gendron and Pablo Casals in the slow movement of the HAYDN Cello Concerto in D, now known as No.2 since the discovery of the concerto in C, also points to the complete recording on another Beulah release, Great Cello Concertos. mp3 from AmazonUK; lossless sound from Qobuz

Among the recent highlights from this label are three recordings made by the young Alfred Brendel. What they lack in maturity and recording quality, they more than make up for in sheer vitality:

1PS86 contains BEETHOVEN Fantasy in g minor, LISZT Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (with Vienna Pro Musica/Michael Gielen) and MOZART Quintet for piano and winds, K452 (with Hungarian Wind Quintet), rec. 1957-62. Download from AmazonUK (mp3) or Qobuz (lossless).

We have just been reminded of the power of a young pianist’s Liszt in a recital by Benjamin Grosvenor which includes the Piano Sonata (Decca). Ian Julier has given that a Recommended accolade (pending), and I’m very happy to concur with his very high opinion, but I’m equally happy to agree with another new recruit to our team, David McDade, who thought these Liszt concertos superb and the Mozart formidable – review. And, though I’ve mentioned the recording quality of the Vox recordings, the sound has come up very well in this Beulah transfer.

2PS86: This is less familiar Brendel territory – MUSSORGSKY Pictures from an Exhibition, STRAVINSKY Three Movements from Petrushka, BALAKIREV Islamey andLISZT Harmonies poétiques et réligieuses: Invocation and Pensée des Morts, all recorded in 1955. Download from AmazonUK (mp3) or Qobuz (lossless).

Like most listeners, I find the Mussorgsky in the original piano version something of a let-down after the Ravel and other orchestrations, but Brendel does his best to add colour to the playing, both here and in the Stravinsky, where orchestral music is re-imagined for the piano. Once again, my colleague David McDade puts his finger on the matter – review pending – by noting that Brendel looks carefully at each piece and penetrates its meaning. Islamey is more of a show piece, and doesn’t bring out the best in Brendel, but the Liszt finds him at home again. These are older than the recordings on Volume 1 and, inevitably, sound a little dry, but the transfer has, again, been judiciously made.

3PS86: BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.5 in E-flat, Op.73, ‘Emperor’ (rec. 1961, with Vienna Pro Musica and Zubin Mehta),LISZT Harmonies No.10 Cantique, and MOZART Concerto No.10 for two pianos and orchestra, K365 (with Walter Klien, VSOO and Paul Angerer). Download from AmazonUK (mp3) or Qobuz (lossless).

This recording of the Emperor has been through several transmogrifications since it was first released on Vox STGBY512050. The ever-reliable Trevor Harvey deemed the (1968) Turnabout reissue the work of ‘a very fine pianist who is also intelligent to a high degree’. I’m not about to disagree with that, except to note that the recording is a little on the dry side.

Brendel and Klien between them recorded several of the Mozart Piano Concertos for Vox, so it’s appropriate that they paired up for K365. Another of the reliable old reviewers, Jeremy Noble, dubbed this recording ‘astonishing and delightful … music making’. (It’s a sad indication of my age that I remember reading the original review in 1961.) Once again, I’m not likely to disagree with that summary. I praised the Beulah reissue of Klien’s Mozart Piano Concerto No.14 when it was released separately in 2013 – review – and it’s equally worth having on Great Piano Concertos (with Beethoven No.4, Backhaus, and Chopin No.2, Askenase – download or stream from Qobuz). Though Brendel received better recording quality when he was taken up by Vanguard – see my review of Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 14 – the Vox recording of K365 is more than tolerable in this transfer.

An anthology entitled Classical Guitar (1PS88 [71:57]) just had to include the RODRIGO Concierto de Aranjuez, here offered in one of the classic recordings, by Narciso Yepes, Orquesta Nacional de España and Ataulfo Argenta (DG, stereo, 1957). That’s a recording which has stood the test of time well – it’s still one of my versions of choice. Here it sits well in the company of solo guitar music recorded by John Williams in 1958: Albeniz, Ponce, Villa-Lobos, Sor, Segovia, Granados and others. It’s also available on a budget Alto CD, ALC1379, with Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (Yepes again, with Frühbeck de Burgos) and the Concierto serenata for harp and orchestra (Zabaleta and Märzendorfer). This recording of Aranjuez has also appeared on an earlier Beulah release, Guitar Concerto DL News 2014/2. Choose the coupling according to your preference. Download from AmazonUK (mp3) or Qobuz (lossless).

One of Beulah’s specialities, military music, is represented here only by the opening work in the Barber anthology, but another speciality, jazz, is here in force in the form of 1PS92: Mahalia Jackson – Elijah Rock. As well as the title work, the collection includes He’s got the whole World in His Hands, When the Saints go marching in (even livelier than Louis Armstrong), What a Friend we have in Jesus, Amazing Grace and Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho. Recorded between 1937 and 1959, mostly live, the sound is inevitably variable, but the vivid Beulah transfers make it all eminently listenable.

My next project is an article on recordings for Passiontide and Easter, new releases for 2021 and older favourites, including a new version for Alpha of Handel’s Brockes Passion. The spiritual power of this Mahaliah Jackson collection could easily merit a place in that collection. It wasn’t yet available at the time of reviewing it; watch out for its appearance on the Beulah webpage, and choose the Qobuz lossless download for preference.

***
Lyrita


For some time, in addition to their new recordings and very valuable reissues from the LP age, a treasure trove mainly of British music, Lyrita have been bringing us excellent transfers from radio broadcasts made by their founder, Richard Itter, and other broadcast recordings by arrangement with the BBC. Two recent additions to those off-air refurbishments are especially well worth getting to know, on CD or as downloads.

Daniel JONES (1922-1993) Symphony No.3 (1951), rec. 26 January 1990 [28:29] and Symphony No.5 (1958), rec. 9 February 1990 [39:33]: BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/Bryden Thomson, ADD/stereo. LYRITA SRCD.390 [68:03]. Reviewed as downloaded from lossless press preview. CD from Presto or Amazon UK.

I closed my review of SRCD.364 – Symphonies Nos. 2 and 11 – with the hope that there was more in the pipeline. Here it is, and it’s very welcome: music immediate in appeal, yet powerful and genuinely symphonic in scope. Lyrita already had recordings of some of the other symphonies: as well as the album referred to above there’s Nos. 1 and 10, another BBC recording, on SRCD.358, Nos. 4, 7 and 8 on SRCD.329, and 6 and 9 on SRCD.326.

Robert SIMPSON (1921-1977) Symphony No.5 (1972): LSO/Andrew Davis, rec. 3 May 1973 [38:53] and Symphony No.6. (1977): LPO/Charles Groves, rec. 8 April 1980 [33:12], both ADD/stereo. LYRITA SRCD.389 [72:05] Reviewed as downloaded from lossless press preview. CD from AmazonUK.

I’ve never quite come to terms with Robert Simpson, though I’ve listened to and enjoyed the Hyperion series of his symphonies (CDS44191/7, 7 CDs or download, and separately as downloads) and chamber music, so I was pleased that David McDade volunteered to review this release (review pending). He was so impressed with No.5 that he has awarded Recommended status, though he felt that No.6 had not received enough rehearsal time. So, a challenge to the Hyperion No.5 (Vernon Handley with the RPO), though Handley, with the RLPO, reigns supreme in No.6.

***
Presto CDR


From modest beginnings, Presto’s range of CDRs, licensed from the major manufacturers, has grown to be considerable. Although most of the albums are also available as downloads or for streaming, which is how I have reviewed them, I know that many music lovers like to have the physical CD with its booklet, the latter sadly all too often missing from the download. You’ll find reviews of many of these Presto specials on our main review pages, but I wanted to draw attention to the series and pick out a few here that we seem to have missed.

I haven’t reviewed many of these Presto CDRs in physical form, but I did very much appreciate the reissue of a Sony recording of the music of GOMBERT – Music from the Court of Charles V (SK48249 review). As with many of these Presto reissues, the inclusion of the booklet, with texts and translations, identical to the original, and absent from any download that I could find, is especially valuable.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Summer Night: Suite from The Duenna, Op.123 [20:13]
Cinderella, Op.87 [1:56:49]
Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev
rec. 13 April 1994, Great Hall, State Conservatory, Moscow. DDD
Presto CD or download
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4762233 [2 CDs - 2:16:44]

A complete recording of Cinderella, as opposed to the suites, is rare, and the Summer Night Suite almost as rare. Add the fact that Presto have given us two CDs for their regular price of £12.75, when the lossless download costs more than that, bear in mind that this is a ‘Rosette Collection’ album, a 3-star Penguin Classics recommendation, and you are looking at a genuine bargain. The only rival comes from Vladimir Ashkenazy with the Cleveland Orchestra (1983) on a Double Decca, with Glazunov The Seasons, a slightly less expensive proposition on CD at around £11.50 and significantly less expensive as a download for around £10 (4553492).

Even when it was at full price, the Pletnev had an edge on other recordings. At the price of the Presto CD, it’s unbeatable – unless you must have the Glazunov, which, I must admit, is music that I turn to often. You could download that separately from the Double Decca for around £4.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No.8 in c minor, Op.65 (1943) [61:42]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
rec. 1982.
Presto CD or download
DECCA 4116162 [61:42]

I’ve written (below – Legendary Archives) about the great disappointment that this symphony caused in 1943. The authorities, who had been hoping for something optimistic as the war was beginning to turn, made the best of a bad job and dubbed it a memorial for the victims of Stalingrad – it’s more likely to be for the victims of Stalin himself, but you dare not even think that in Russia in 1943.

This Haitink recording has been through several metamorphoses on CD; the Presto CDR restores the catalogue number and cover of the first of them. At one time it was a budget-price offering on the Eloquence label, and it’s still available at mid-price on Decca Virtuoso, but that’s advertised as out of stock at the UK distributors, and the lossless download, at £11.11, is more expensive than the CD, leaving the Presto CD your best option. It’s a safe option, too, with a fine performance from all concerned, and well recorded, and I found myself preferring it to Ashkenazy in his complete Shostakovich set – review – now download only. It’s just a little tame, however, by comparison with Mravinsky on budget-price Alto and the live Silvestri recording from Legendary Archives (details of both below).

I’ve mentioned some Presto Britten-conducts-Britten recordings in my recent overview of Decca and DG releases:

English Music for Strings:
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Ciacona in g minor, Z.730 (arr. Britten) [6:59]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Introduction and Allegro for strings, Op.47 (1905)1 [14:09]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Prelude & Fugue for 18 strings, Op.29 [9:12]
Simple Symphony, Op.4 [17:16]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) (orch. Eric Fenby) Two Aquarelles (1917.1932) [5:14]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Christmas Dance ‘Sir Roger de Coverley’ [4:27]
Cecil Aronowitz (viola), Emanuel Hurwitz (violin), José Luis Garcia (violin), Bernard Richards (cello)1
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
rec. May and December 1968, September 1971, Maltings, Snape. ADD
Reviewed as streamed in 16-bit lossless sound.
Presto CD or download
DECCA 4761641 [57:19]

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op.341 [16:34]
Peter Grimes (1945): Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia, Op.33a2 [23:21]
Soirées musicales (after Rossini), Op.93 [9:34]
Matinées musicales (after Rossini), Op.243 [13:15]
London Symphony Orchestra/Benjamin Britten1; Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Benjamin Britten2; National Philharmonic Orchestra/Richard Bonynge3
rec. May 1963, Kingsway Hall, London, ADD1; December 1958, Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, ADD2; March 1981, Kingsway Hall London, DDD3
Presto CD or download
DECCA 4256592 [62:44]

See the Decca and DG Article for details (link above).

***
Legendary Archives



The raison d’être of this label, which I have only just encountered, is rather different. Most of the albums which they offer are not reissues of commercial releases but previously unpublished live recordings. As with Beulah, there are no booklets, only the information carried on the cover. My review copies were in flac format, but at a low bit-rate, not much higher than mp3, which is probably fair enough for recordings of this provenance: no bit-rate, however high, can add what isn’t there.

Three very interesting recordings of Shostakovich are among the best of the offerings.

LA003: SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No.8: Constantin Silvestri conducting the USSR State Symphony Orchestra live at the Moscow Conservatory on 22 October 1958 [61:59]. ADD mono from Legendary Archives. Very little is left of Silvestri conducting Shostakovich; apart from this Legendary Archives download, I’ve been able to locate only one download-only offering on the BnF label: Symphony No.5 with the VPO (1962), which was not well received. The Vienna orchestra can’t have been too familiar with Shostakovich at that time, but Silvestri conducting his Eighth in Moscow with the USSR State Symphony must have been akin to carrying coals to Newcastle.

It’s in mono, with a few coughs and splutters, and sounds a bit growly below and thin on top, but that’s not inappropriate for the music’s often bleak tone – this really was not the work that Stalin had been hoping to raise spirits as the war was finally turning in the Allies’ favour. Hoping that the Ninth would be celebratory – it wasn’t – the authorities made the best of it by calling the Eighth the ‘Stalingrad’ Symphony.

Dan Morgan thought the Mravinsky recording of this symphony ‘a mandatory purchase’ (Alto ALC1150 – Spring 2017/2) but Shostakovich lovers should have this Silvestri recording, too. (See above for Presto CD reissue of the Haitink recording).

LA004: SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No.12 in d minor, Op.112, ‘The Year 1917’ [36:59]: the Moscow premiere broadcast from Konstantin Ivanov with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live in the Moscow Conservatory on 15 October 1961, and never previously released, is even more special, especially as it comes with a commentary on the music by the composer, briefly and in Russian, of course. Recorded off-air, with two short dropouts in the broadcast, it requires even more tolerance than most of this series. It sounds as if the broadcast was in AM, rather than FM; where many of these releases are shrill and a bit papery, this is muddy at first, but it improves, and it’s worth persevering. ADD mono from Legendary Archives.

The only other generally available recording of Ivanov’s Shostakovich comes in the form of his account of the ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, also with the USSR State Orchestra (Alto ALC1241, budget price, or Complete Symphonies: Legendary Russian Composers ALC3143, 12 CDs, around £40). Rob Barnett described Ivanov on another Shostakovich recording as ‘ringingly authentic’ – review – and this performance of No.12 must be regarded as definitive.

That complete set includes Rudolf Barshai’s highly-regarded WDR recording of No.12. Ivanov outpaces him in three of the movements, making the climaxes even more climactic, but he gives much more weight to the second movement, unfortunately punctuated by the occasional cough, but it was a live performance and the Moscow Autumn had set in. Even Mark Wigglesworth, on a well-liked recording with the Netherlands Philharmonic, sounds a little tame by comparison, though the SACD or 24-bit download is obviously much more truthful (BIS-1563, with No.9 – review).

I’ve never really subscribed to the idea that the Twelfth is the weakest of the Shostakovich symphonies, especially having heard the Rozhdestvensky recording with the USSSR Ministry of Culture Orchestra (1983), which used to be available from Olympia (OCD200). I’m even less inclined to that opinion after hearing this Russian recording.

LA033: Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Bordeaux Festival on 17 May 1958 must have been quite an occasion. It’s an interesting programme, too:BEETHOVEN Egmont Overture, Op.84, SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No.5 in d minor, Op.47,Virgil Thomson Suite from Louisiana Story,STRAVINSKY Firebird Suite (1919 version) and BERLIOZ Hungarian March. [98:51] The sound is resolutely mono; like most of these releases, it requires a deal of tolerance and, of course, there are more recent recordings of Ormandy in much of this music – the Shostakovich, for example, in a budget-price 3-CD set (Sony 19439704792: Symphonies 1, 4, 5 and 10, Cello Concerto No.1 and Polka from The Golden Age). Better still, Dutton have recently released Ormandy’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 15 and other music on SACD – review – but these live performances are special. ADD mono from Legendary Archives.

[As I was completing this review, I learned that this recording is no longer on offer. I do hope it will be possible to release it again in future, so I’ve left the review in place to emphasise that hope.]

LA025: MAHLER Symphony No.7 in e minor, live from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Rafael Kubelík in the Musikverein, Vienna, on 19 and 20 November 1960. ADD/mono from Legendary Archives. [75:06] Apparently, this was the first time the VPO had performed this symphony, now frequently to be heard in the concert hall or on record, for almost 30 years, and only the fourth time it had been given by them. That’s not to say that the orchestra was anti-Mahler: they had recorded Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter as early as 1937 – complete on seven 12” 78 rpm records, costing the princely sum of two guineas (£2.10, but multiply that by at least 50 for today’s equivalent).

This recording is taken from the two performances that Kubelík gave on subsequent days. Kubelík’s Mahler has always appealed to me – his recording of the First Symphony is still my version of choice (DG Originals 4497352, download only). His complete DG set of the Mahler symphonies remains available on 4637382, 10 CDs.

The sound of the 1960 performance is dry and a little fragile, but tolerable, and the performance brings the extra frisson of a live performance. Good as the Bavarian Radio Orchestra is on the DG set, and rusty though the VPO may have been in this symphony, there is something special about their playing – if only the recording quality could convey it more fully.

LA039 brings a recording of BRAHMS Symphony No.3 from Carl Schuricht, very late in his career, conducting the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (live, Herkulessaal, Munich, May 19, 1963). There are a few extant recordings of Schuricht’s Brahms, especially of Symphony No.2, but the only other way to find him conducting the Third is, I believe, via the complete SWR 30-CD set.

This account is as rough-hewn where it matters as Klemperer’s (Warner 4043382, 4 CDs), still my go-to conductor in this symphony. Both open in a way that lets us know that they (and Brahms) mean business, with Schuricht more expeditious than Klemperer, but there’s tenderness, too, especially in the second movement – taken, like the other movements, at much the same well-paced tempo as Klemperer. The recording needs a good deal more tolerance than the Klemperer, which was recorded commercially by EMI, but the ear soon adjusts and I enjoyed hearing this vigorous performance. Being recorded live, it avoids the clicks and bumps which accompany the BNF transfer of Schuricht’s Brahms Symphony No.2.

At 32:13, it’s rather short value, but the price of 10 Euros (more if you can afford to assist what is, after all, a good cause) is not excessive. In mp3, flac and other formats from Legendary Archives. Those who hate applause should be warned that there is a (very brief) segment from an otherwise quiet audience.

LA043: Richard STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung, Op.24 [23:07], and BRUCKNER Symphony No.3 in d minor [58:42]: Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Hans Knappertsbusch, recorded live in the Herkulessaal, Munich, 16 January, 1964. Here is Kna conducting the work of two composers with whom he had long been associated, and with an orchestra whom he had worked with for decades. Like the Schuricht Brahms, the recording preserves the veteran conductor near the end of his career, so even later than the late-50s Wagner with the VPO and Birgit Nilsson (Decca 4842404, download only, with the Kirsten Flagstad, Set Svanholm and SoltiTodesverkündigung from Walküre) or the 1956 Wesendonck Lieder with Kirsten Flagstad and the VPO (Decca 4684862, with Flagstad and Boult in Mahler).

The recording is more secure than the Schuricht Brahms, though no match for a commercial recording of this date, or even the 1954 Decca recording of the Bruckner Third with the VPO (Eloquence 4828800, 4 CDs, with Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 8 – review). Like the 1954 recording, the ‘Wagner’ symphony is presented with the cuts which were customary at the time, but the performance shows no sign of flagging, so, with tolerable, albeit congested sound, and a significant and powerful filler in the Strauss, this is one of my picks from my limited initial exploration of the Legendary Archives catalogue.

LA045: MAHLER Symphony No.5 in c-sharp minor: Staatskapelle Berlin/Franz Konwitschny – rec. Live, Berlin State Opera, 14 October 1960 [68:56]. ADD/mono. Very little remains available of Konwitschny’s commercial recordings, so this live recording of Mahler’s Fifth from late in his career is of special interest. As if to prove the thesis that performances of the fourth movement, adagietto, have become slower over the years, Konwitschny takes just over eight minutes, where the recent Vänskä Minnesota recording lasts 12:39 (BIS-2226 SACD). I thought the BIS far too slow, and verging on the lethargic – review – and John Quinn thought it a major disappointment – review – while Konwitschny gets all the emotion out of the movement without milking it. (Dan Morgan was even more forthright about the Vänskä adagietto: ‘unforgiveable sluggish … stops this performance in its tracks’ – review).

As with the other recordings which I have tried from Legendary Archives, the recording requires a degree of tolerance, but the ear adjusts. There’s brief applause fore and aft, which will put off those who dislike it.


LA047 from Legendary Archives [48:36] brings the biggest and most pleasant surprise of these releases: Alan Bush conducting the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra in studio recordings of VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis [13:24] (16 September 1953) and Symphony No.5 in D [35:09] (7 February 1955). All ADD/mono. I didn’t think that VW’s music had made an impression in East Germany as early as that, or that the Leipzig players would have latched onto the idiom. It no doubt helped that they had an English conductor, directing music by a friend and colleague. The playing is not of the very finest, but Bush seems to have rehearsed them thoroughly, and his commitment to the music makes this release eminently worth hearing. The recording may be rather thin and dry, but not much more so than the classic Boult recording of the Fifth for Decca. I’m amazed to find this recording of the symphony almost as idiomatic as the Boult, less at peace with itself, more prescient of the mood of the Sixth Symphony, and in very tolerable sound for its age.



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piano music Vol 4


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Songs of Love and Sorrow


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Linda BUCKLEY
From Ocean’s Floor