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Artur Rodziński - Complete Chicago Symphony Recordings
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tristan und Isolde (1859): Prelude to Act 1 [10:29], Liebestod (Act 3) [6:08], Prelude to Act 3 [4:18]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (1896) [30:11]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Gayaneh (1942) Suite; Dance of Aysha [4:02], Dance of the Rose Maidens [2:19], Lullaby [4:37], Sabre Dance [2:18]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 “Scottish” ‎(1829–42) [33:45]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (1800) [23:05]
Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a (1806) [13:35]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tonkünstler Orchester (Beethoven)/
rec. 1947, Symphony Hall, Chicago; March 1952, Schubert-Saal, Konzerthaus, Vienna (Beethoven)
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC569 [64:27 + 70:33]

Artur Rodziński’s tenure as the fourth music director of the Chicago Symphony was brief but in that time he managed to record the music in this latest Pristine release. He had arrived in the Windy City direct from a decade in Cleveland, taking over from Nikolai Sokoloff – whose recordings, incidentally, have also been restored by Pristine. As Mark Obert-Thorn makes clear in his page-long note, Chicago had been interested in the conductor before his 1947 appointment; they’d thought of the on the death of the veteran Frederick Stock in 1942 but by then Rodziński was off to New York. After his bruising experiences in Chicago he was never again to be a music director.

These RCA Victor recordings offer two major projects. Rodziński’s Also sprach Zarathustra was a repeat performance of the Chicago’s recording of the work with Stock for Columbia in January 1940. Not every orchestra got the chance to record a Strauss blockbuster twice within seven years but a new record label, a new music director and a virtuoso ensemble led to the contract. Rodziński’s reading is marvelously vivid - listen to the clipped ritards, the string weight, brass power, legato lyricism, and John Weicher as a notably nimble solo violinist – but Stock’s was magnificent in its own way (Biddulph WHL 021-22). It’s a measure of the buoyancy of the American market, and the technical superiority of its orchestras, that the domestic market could supply both Chicago interpretations plus those of Koussevitzky in Boston and later on Reiner – once again in Chicago, that Zarathustran town.

Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony offers much instrumental and collective finesse, and it’s not the charged kind of performance one might have expected; rather there’s an unexpectedly languid element to the first half of the symphonic argument though the drive in the first movement to the agitato section is well manoeuvred. The most appealing playing comes in the finale and whilst Mitropoulos probably conducted the work better, he had a poorer recording than RCA Victor’s. The Tristan extracts reflect the conductor’s wish to engage Kirsten Flagstad for a performance of the work, part of a forward-looking programme – one that proved too forward-looking for the orchestra’s board and led to tensions. The suite from Gayaneh naturally includes the Sabre Dance and is characterful, though there are only four numbers extracted from the first suite. It would have been pleasant had Victor allowed him to record both suites, as Columbia allowed Efrem Kurtz in New York, though this would, admittedly, have bulked up the bill of fare somewhat.
The complete Chicago recordings extend only thus far but the bonus is his Remington recordings, also ‘complete’ – though they consist of just a Beethoven brace; the First Symphony and the Leonore overture No.3, recorded in Vienna with the Tonkünstler Orchester. The sinewy tough Symphony goes well – I’m not sure about the wind tuning – though I prefer his earlier reading of the symphony back in Cleveland. In fact, of the two Viennese undertakings I prefer the overture, where the winds play better and the ‘off-stage’ calls are well judged.

The transfers are excellent throughout.

Jonathan Woolf

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