Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mozart a Paris -- is it worth it?

Okay, I've been hearing a lot of press about the Electric Record Company and their high quality vinyl reproductions of Johanna Martzy's Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin as well as this 7 LP boxed set entitled "Mozart a Paris".  This boxed set, in its original release from the 1950s, is apparently one of the most collectable and expensive classical records ever.  Has anyone heard the ERC reissue?  I realize that the recordings are in mono, just like the Martzy, but are they that incredible? 



Columbia SAX 2380

Columbia SAX 2380

Tchaikovsky:  Piano Concerto No. 1; Weber: Konzertstueck


Claudio Arrau, piano
Alceo Galiera, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra
  
Pressing:  UK, ED1, blue/silver


Condition:  VG+

Stampers: 

YAX 577-5
YAX 578-2
 
Performance:  6
/10
Sound:  6/10


Price range:  $31-132, mean $65 on popsike


Comments:  A nice recording and not one of the more expensive SAXes.  Majestic and somewhat stern pose of Claudio Arrau on the cover.  Like many of the Columbia SAX orchestral recordings I've heard, the sound places you a little further back in the concert hall.  Interestingly, when I compare the LP to the digital remaster (which is included in EMI's Icon boxed set), the digital remaster sounds like you are a little closer to the orchestra and soloist.  I found the balance between soloist and orchestra to be pretty good; the piano does not overpower its accompaniment and vice versa.  Bass is okay but could be better, though the repertoire is not particularly bass heavy.  Nevertheless, I could appreciate the bass pizzicato in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky as well as the timpani roll in the third movement.  Interpretation didn't leave me in awe, and I'd have to say that I prefer Van Cliburn's famous recording with Kiril Kondrashin on RCA Living Stereo or Byron Janis with Herbert Menges and the LSO.  These have just a little more pizzazz, especially in the third movement.






Columbia SAX 2393 A Midsummer for mid-summer

SAX 2393

Mendelssohn:  A Midsummer Night's Dream

Otto Klemperer, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
  
Pressing:  ED2
Condition:  EX

Stampers: 

YAX 539-6 
YAX 540-8
 

Performance:  7/10

Sound:  7/10

Price range:  $24-450, mean $168 on popsike

Comments: I think that many vinyl classical audiophiles would say that the analog reference recording of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the London/Decca recording with Peter Maag and the LSO.  Considered one of the best Deccas and with original copies priced accordingly, it's pretty hard to beat.  However, this Columbia SAX recording with Otto Klemperer is definitely one worth considering, not to mention that it is also one of the rarer Columbia SAX recordings, especially in its turquoise/silver incarnation.  I have the semi-circle second pressing and a magic notes third pressing; both are very nice sounding.  Tempos didn't sound sluggish upon first listening but when I did a comparison to the timings on the Maag recording, the differences were quite astonishing.  Here are the numbers:


Introduction -- Maag 11:55, Klemperer 13:20
Scherzo -- Maag 4:27, Klemperer 5:35
Ye Spotted Snakes -- Maag 4:23, Klemperer 4:48
Intermezzo -- Maag 3:31, Klemperer 4:03
Nocturne -- Maag 6:25, Klemperer 7:10
Wedding March -- Maag 4:37, Klemperer 5:06
Dance of the Clowns -- Maag 1:46, Klemperer 1:55
Finale -- Maag 4:00, Klemperer 5:03

So Klemperer is quite a bit slower on most of the movements.  Nevertheless, I still found the recording to be quite enjoyable.  Textures (particularly with the winds) are quite clear, something for which Klemperer was well known.  I liked the crisp playing of both winds and strings in the Scherzo movement.  You also get Heather Harper and Janet Baker on vocals, who sing beautifully in "Ye Spotted Snakes" and are backed nicely by the Philharmonia Chorus.  If you are willing to settle for a second or third pressing while paying less, I don't think you'll be disappointed.  This recording is also available on CD, and you can pick it up in the recent Klemperer boxed set entitled "Otto Klemperer:  Romantic Symphonies". 









Thursday, July 25, 2013

Question of the Day


If you put the two legendary Hungarian conductors, Fritz Reiner and George Szell, in a boxing ring, who would win?





Album of the Day: Mozart Serenades with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne

Playing right now in my office is the first of four CDs in the Mozart Serenades boxed set with Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducting the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.  There are many recordings of these works, but these have somehow been "under the radar", as Dave Hurwitz would put it.  They were all released on the Cascavelle label in the late 1990s to early 2000s.  I purchased this from Presto Classical in the UK over a year ago when I was interested in finding the perfect recording of the Serenata Notturna and have come back to it time and again.  These are crisp interpretations, nicely recorded.  I am a fan of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.  Their recordings with Christian Zacharias of the Mozart Piano Concertos on MDG are quite beautiful.

Track listing:

CD1:
Serenade No.  7 in D major, KV 250 "Haffner"
Serenade No. 1 in D major, KV 100

CD2:
Serenade No. 10 in B major, KV 361 "Gran Partita"
Serenade No. 13 in G major, KV 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"

CD3:
Serenade No. 9 in D major, KV 320 "Posthorn"
Serenade No. 6 in D major, KV 239 "Notturna"

CD4:
Serenade No. 3 in D major, KV 185 "Pour les noces d'Andretter"

My Latest Favorite Downloads

Okay, trust me, I haven't abandoned LPs, CDs, or SACDs for musical media, but I have recently jumped on the digital download bandwagon.  Why?  Two reasons ... 1) sometimes I just don't want to wait to receive my CDs in the mail, and 2) I'm interested in the prospect of listening to studio masters.  There appears to be some debate in the audiophile community as to whether 24-bit, 192 kHz studio masters are worth the money and extra hard drive space, but I'm willing to consider them.  They are, though, quite expensive compared to downloading the standard 320 kbs mp3 or even the 16-bit FLAC files.

In any case, I just thought I'd share with you some of the more interesting downloads I've purchased in recent days.  Some of these were purchased out of curiosity (www.theclassicalshop.net has a 50% off album download each hour, if you are willing to keep refreshing your screen hourly), some by recommendation (www.classicstoday.com or www.musicweb-international.com).  If you have some recommended downloads, I'd love to hear from you.


Faure:  The Complete Barcarolles, Trois Romances sans paroles.  Charles Owen, piano.  Avie Records. 
www.theclassicalshop.net
This is a lovely solo piano album.  Charles Owen plays these works with such a beautiful touch, the music really sings.  I wasn't familiar with these works before purchasing this recording, but they will make for enjoyable listening in the future.  It will be interesting to compare this Faure album to one which Angela Hewitt will release this fall on Hyperion.  This album came highly recommended in Fanfare.

Franz von Suppe:  Overtures and Marches.  Neeme Jarvi, Royal Scottish National Orchestra.  Chandos.
www.theclassicalshop.net
Recommended by Fanfare, BBC Music, Gramophone, Musicweb International.  I don't normally listen to a lot of Suppe, but this is a fun album.  It starts off with the Light Cavalry Overture, which almost everyone will recognize if they don't already by name.  Neeme Jarvi has put out a number of fantastic sounding orchestral albums on the Chandos label in the last couple of years.  If you like this, try his Saint-Saens Orchestral Works album on Chandos which came out last year.  This Suppe album is one to turn up the volume ... 

Rachmaninov:  The "Elegiac" Piano Trios.  The Borodin Trio.  Chandos.
www.theclassicalshop.net 
Found it 50% off and went for it.  I like the Rachmaninov Trios, even if they are not considered to be his finest works.  I've been looking for a good recording of these works and decided on this one.  The only version I have is one included in the Brilliant Classics boxed set of Historical Russian Archives of Leonid Kogan.  Hyperion will re-release the Moscow Trio's recording on its Helios label later this summer.  Any of you have a recommendation?

Debussy, Poulenc, Ravel, Francaix:  Piano Concertos.  Florian Uhlig, piano.  Pablo Gonzalez, conductor.  Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken Kaiserlautern.  Hanssler Classic.
www.prestoclassical.co.uk
I recently read a very positive review of this album on Classicstoday.com (rated 9/9) and was curious to give it a shot.  I guess everyone has their favorite recordings of these works, particularly the Ravel Piano Concerto and the Poulenc, but this is one of the first times (if not the first) that I've seen them grouped together like this.  It makes for some very interesting listening!  I really enjoyed this album.  The performances were excellent, and the sound was superb.  Very clear, very dynamic, nicely balanced.  This stands up there with the Bavouzet French piano concertos album on Chandos.

Ravel:  Complete Works for Piano and Violin.  Lena Neudauer, violin.  Paul Rivinius, piano.  Julian Steckel, cello.  Hanssler Classic.
www.prestoclassical.co.uk
Got this based on a positive review in Gramophone.  I had not heard of Lena Neudauer before this album, but based on my impressions of it I might be interested in her future recordings.  I've only listened to this album once so far, but it's growing on me.  Would be interesting to do a comparison with the recent Hyperion release with Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien. 

In the Mists.  Janacek, Schubert, Liszt, Rachmaninov.  Ivana Gavric.  Champs Hill Records.
www.theclassicalshop.net
I've read some positive articles and reviews about this pianist but thought I'd use the 50% off sale to take the opportunity to explore her work.   Will comment more later.

Ravel:  Daphnis et Chloe, Bolero, Pavane.  Valery Gergiev, London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  LSO Live.
www.theclassicalshop.net
I find it hard to turn down recordings of Ravel's orchestral music, since he is one of my favorite composers, and it's even harder if recorded in excellent sound.  I'm giving this one a shot.

Vivaldi:  The Four Seasons, La Tempesta di Mare, Il Piacere.  Cho-Liang Lin, violin.  Sejong.  Anthony Newman, harpsichord and organ.  Naxos.
www.prestoclassical.co.uk
Another recording of the Four Seasons???  Well, yes.  I happen to really like Cho-Liang Lin's playing, and I wanted to check out his performance of these concertos.  Haven't gotten through all of them yet, but they are so far delightful.  La tempesta di mare is one of my favorite Vivaldi violin concertos, so its presence on this album is a nice bonus for me.






















]









Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Question of the Day

For those of you who are kind enough to read this blog, here's the survey question of the day:




What is your favorite recording of the Schumann symphonies?

Please respond by replying to this post!

Columbia SAX 2355 Great Russian from Andre Cluytens

SAX 2355
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Ravel: La Valse

Andre Cluytens, conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra
  
Pressing:  ED1
Condition:  EX

Stampers: YAX 362-5,

YAX 363-2

Performance:  8/10

Sound:  7/10



Price range:  $88-750, mean $360 on popsike

Comments:  Andre Cluytens was a highly gifted Belgan conductor who sadly passed away too young.  He left a treasure of wonderful recordings on the EMI and Columbia labels, many of which are in mono but some of the best of which are in early stereo.  Take, for instance, his 4 LP series of Ravel's orchestral works (SAX 2476-2479), which are some of the most beautiful renditions of these works on record.  Try to find those for less than top dollar, and you might be searching for the rest of your life.  As single LPs or in the coveted boxed set, these generally sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay.  If you aren't a die hard originals collector, you may find just as must satisfaction -- if not more -- from the EMI Testament reissue of the complete boxed set, which can be purchased from Acoustic Sounds for less than $150.  I got it used but in like new condition for $100, and I haven't regretted the purchase since.  Very quiet surfaces with very dynamic music.  I am a huge Ravel fan, and this set is glorious.  Jean Martinon's Ravel, also on EMI, is a strong competitor.  Another example is Cluytens recording with Samson Francois of the Ravel Piano Concertos -- a benchmark recording which also fetches hundreds of dollars on the collectors' market (but also available remastered as a Great Recordings of the Century EMI CD for less than $10).

This is one of the recordings Cluytens did of Russian orchestral music, and it works.  The track listing includes one of my all-time favorites (which we played in high school as well as college orchestra), Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain, Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia, and the single non-Russian work, Ravel's La Valse.  The performances are lively and dynamic.  Capriccio Espagnol and Night on Bare Mountain are exciting.  The sound on this record, at least on my system, puts us further back in the concert hall.  Dynamic range is pretty good though not the final word, since I would've liked a little more bass. 


Also available on CD on EMI's budget label.

Mo' records!

Mo' records!
(or What my son has been asking to listen to on the turntable)

My son is just about to turn two.  Since I first mentioned him in this blog (he was 7 months), he has taken a passionate liking to my record collection, which happens to be shelved in the living room of our condo and well within his reach.  Until only about a couple of months ago, I had to make it clear to him that the records were off limits.  "No touch!" I would say.  His hand would quickly dart away from the plastic sleeve which he had just touched.  A mean daddy?  Well, I had to take defense shortly after he became intelligent enough to pull dozens of records off the shelf and I'd find them littered across the floor.  He's a little older now and knows that records belong to Papa, but now since he loves to listen to and dance to music, I let him play a game in which he gets to pick out records that we listen to.  This game begins upon awakening and ends right before his bedtime.  I joked with my wife the other day that this boy may love his Mama more than anything on this planet, but even his love occasionally gets trumped by his joy of picking out a record from the shelf.  She wasn't a big fan of that, but I think she knows that I'm right.

So ... what has my son been picking out from the shelf?  I thought he'd enjoy the ability to select from several hundred LPs, but somehow he always seems to gravitate toward the same four records.  Here they are:

I'm pretty sure I bought this at Joe's Record Paradise in Silver Spring, MD in 2001.  I just checked the internet, and thankfully, this store is still in business!  When I first got into collecting records in 2001, I started with jazz, and this was one of the places I'd go to find reasonably priced albums.  They had a bunch of albums selling for less than $10 a piece in their jazz racks, and this was one of them.  The "more collectable" jazz albums were kept in a stack behind the cashier.

Ray Bryant was a really soulful, bluesy jazz pianist.  While his early Prestige mono LPs sell for hundreds of dollars in mint condition, I actually have taken a greater liking to these later live albums on the Pablo label.  Bryant did some great work in live performance, and this record captures the essence of that.  The recording is up close, so you can really feel the weight of the piano keys.  Bass is quite good for solo piano, in my opinion.  All in all, this is a very enjoyable album, and it's not surprising that my boy appreciates it.

I must've picked up this record at either a used record show or at one of the record shops in Chicago in the early 2000's.  The ones I would frequent on my weekends off in med school were Hi-Fi Records in Lincoln Park (now closed), Dave's Records in Lincoln Park, just a block away from Hi-Fi (YES!  Still open!), and the few chains of Second Hand Tunes.  I remember that I once had the opportunity to scour the basement of Hi-Fi which was where they dumped all the classical LPs which were not shelved in their racks.  There were thousands of 'em.  I must've spent a least a couple of hours down there sifting through them, but sadly, there were few gems. Mostly late label Philips, DG, etc.  I may not have known as much about labels then, though, so perhaps I passed up some which I might've picked up now.  When I later returned, they had disposed of all of them.  What a loss.

In any case, this live Oscar Peterson album is one of several which he recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977.  In fact, there are several recordings from that festival year, and many of them are very enjoyable.  That must've been one helluva festival year.  Oscar Peterson could really work some keyboard magic, and his collaborations with his trio bassists Ray Brown and Niels Pedersen were some of the most fruitful.  This is a downright fun album.  A variety of tunes with fast and slower tempos, all played with that characteristic Oscar Peterson sound.  His flying fingerwork is off the charts.  It always blows my mind how he could play all those 16th to 32nd note runs in parallel with both hands.

Now if there was a pianist who could swing, that was Wynton Kelly.  Too short of a life, but what this cat recorded was incredible.  He was one of Miles Davis' favorite pianists, and if you listen to any of his recordings as a sideman on the Blue Note label (just try Hank Mobley's Soul Station or Roll Call), you will see why.  His groovin' 8th note runs just made you want to tap your feet, get up, and dance.  No joke.  Wynton Kelly went on to record for the Verve label, and this is one of his later albums.  The cover is both artistic and hilarious.  I don't know if I've ever seen another jazz LP cover with a comic strip on its front. 

The tunes swing and have downright soul.  Add Candido on the congas, and you have some groovy beats.  My son pulled this out for me to play tonight for the umpteenth time, and as soon as I dropped the needle on the first track, he was dancin'.

Okay, maybe it's not pure coincidence that the three jazz albums all have red, white, and blue covers.  They stand out among the sea of cream or white colored LP spines, so maybe that's another reason why he gravitates to them.  I think it's more than that, though, since he seems to really dig Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly.











Then one day, my son goes through the classical shelf and pulls out this!  "Man!" he says repeatedly, pointing to the picture of Haydn on the front cover.  To this day, this album is called "Man!!".  This is to distinguish it from the adjacent Dean Martin Latin album, which he calls "Cha-Cha Man!".

Eugen Jochum had already recorded the 12 London Symphonies with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon when he re-recorded four of them with the Dresden Staatskapelle for Philips.  These recordings were highly praised by David Hurwitz on Classics Today for their vitality and energy.  There is a CD reissue which is damn near impossible to find (at an affordable price at least) on the Berlin Classics label.  I managed to find this $3.99 LP at Store 54 in Allston, MA.  It's not in perfect shape and has a couple very small scratches which click, but my son and I can still enjoy the album.  Actually, I think he is just fascinated by the picture of Haydn on the front cover.

I almost forgot to mention that there are threee others he always pulls out but are not pictured here.  One is the boxed set of Karajan's recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic (Vienna Philharmonic Festival), an RCA shaded dog set with symphonies by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, as well as an LP of Strauss.  The second is the Soria box set of Antonio Janigro and Fritz Reiner performing Don Quixote on RCA.  The third is the Classic Records reissue of the Mercury boxed set of Janos Starker performing the Bach Cello Suites.  What taste!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The 4 K's of EMI

While there are indeed several highly sought after stereo recordings in the EMI ASD catalog, I like to categorize some of the most valuable ones as the "4 K's".  The 4 K's represent the conductors whose recordings are not only some of the finest in terms of interpretation and sound quality on the early EMI stereo label but also some of the priciest.  Here they are (list of albums may not be complete):

1. Paul Kletzki



ASD 296:  Schubert "Unfinished" Symphony, Incidental Music to "Rosamunde"
ASD 343:  Tchaikovsky:  Capriccio Italien, Andante Cantabile; Glinka:  Jota Aragonesa; Rimsky-Korsakov:  Tsar Sultan Suite
ASD 351:  Mahler:  Das Lied von der Erde w/ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
ASD 370:  Chopin:  Piano Concerto No. 1 w/ Maurizio Pollini
ASD 483:  Mahler:  Symphony No. 1
ASD 578:  Prokofiev:  Symphony No. 5
ASD 584:  Bloch:  Violin Concerto w/ Yehudi Menuhin

2. Efrem Kurtz

ASD 263:  Prokofiev "Classical Symphony", Shostakovich Symphony No. 1
ASD 273:  Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
ASD 289:  Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker
ASD 299:  Prokofiev:  Peter and the Wolf, Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals
ASD 371:  Tchaikovsky:  Sleeping Beauty
ASD 376:  Famous Marches
ASD 513:  Russian and French Ballet Music
ASD 532:  Rimsky-Korsakov:  Le Coq D'Or Suite, Kabalesky:  The Comedians
ASD 582:  Rimsky-Korsakov:  Tsar Sultan Suite, The Snow Maiden Suite, Dubinushka; Khachaturian:  Masquerade Waltz and Galop


3. Rafael Kubelik

ASD 325:  Schubert:  Symphony in C Major "The Great"
ASD 347:  Brahms:  Hungarian Dances
ASD 349:  Beethoven:  Pastoral Symphony
ASD 398:  Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 4
ASD 422:  Borodin:  Symphony No. 2, Polovtsian Dances
ASD 428:  Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 5
ASD 451:  Mozart:  Symphonies No 38, 36
ASD 462:  Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No 6
ASD 514:  Mozart:  Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Schubert:  "Unfinished" Symphony
ASD 617:  Mozart:  Haffner Symphony, Jupiter Symphony

4. Rudolf Kempe


ASD 264:  Brahms Violin Concerto w/ Yehudi Menuhin
ASD 279:  Nights in Vienna
ASD 326:  Richard Strauss:  Don Quixote w/ Paul Tortelier
ASD 330:  Overtures
ASD 336:  Beethoven Overtures
ASD 379:  Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 5
ASD 380:  Dvorak:  New World Symphony
ASD 406:  Brahms:  Symphony No. 3
ASD 426:  Beethoven:  Symphony No. 3
ASD 431:  Viennese Bonbons
ASD 449:  Music from Bohemia
ASD 460:  Humperdinck:  Hansel and Gretel Suite, Mendelssohn:  A Midsummer Night's Dream Incidental Music
ASD 461:  Brahms:  Symphony No. 4
ASD 478:  Schubert:  Incidental Music to "Rosamunde", Gluck-Mottl:  Ballet Suite
ASD 491:  Kodaly:  Haros Janos Suite, Tchaikovsky:  Theme and Variations from Suite No. 3, Gotovac:  Kolo from Ero, Der Schelm
ASD 525:  Vienna Philharmonic on Holiday





A Boxed Set to Own

This 15 CD boxed set is one of the most recent issues in EMI's Icon series and is outstanding in every way.  I picked this up based on a review by Dave Hurwitz on Classicstoday.com and have not been disappointed.  For a mere $30-35 dollars (and maybe even less), you can have nearly all of the major orchestral recordings that Silvestri did for EMI in the 1950s-1960s.  Let me tell you how amazing of a deal this is.  These are the recordings you get:

Disc 1:
Glinka:  Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture
Borodin:  Prince Igor Overture
Borodin:  Prince Igor Polovtsian Dances
Borodin:  In the Steppes of Central Asia
Tchaikovsky:  Eugene Onegin, Op. 24 -- Polonaise
Tchaikovsky:  Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 
Tchaikovsky:  1812 Oveture, Op. 49

Disc 2:
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 (movements 1-2)

Disc 3:
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 (movements 3-4)
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6
Rimsky-Korsakov:  May Night Overture

Disc 4:
Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony
Rimsky-Korsakov:  Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34

Disc 5:
Mussorgsky:  A Night on the Bare Mountain
Rimsky-Korsakov:  Scheherazade, Op. 35
Stravinsky:  Le Chant du Rossignol

Disc 6:
Stravinsky:  A Symphony in 3 Movements
Bartok:  Divertimento for Strings
Hindemith:  Mathis der Mahler Symphony

Disc 7: 
Prokofiev:  The Love for Three Oranges
Khachaturian:  Gayaneh Suite No. 1
Shostakovich:  Symphony no. 5

Disc 8:
Dvorak:  Symphony No. 9 in E minor "From the New World"
Dvorak:  Symphony No. 8 in G

Disc 9:
Dvorak:  Symphony No. 7 in D minor
Dvorak:  Carnival Overture
Dvorak:  Slavonic Dances 1-2
Brahms:  Hungarian Dances 5-6

Disc 10:
Berlioz:  Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14
De Falla:  Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo
De Falla:  Interlude & Danza No. 1 from La Vida Breve

Disc 11:
Franck:  Symphony in D minor
Saint-Saens:  Dance macabre
Dukas:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Ravel:  Pavane pour une infant defunte
Ravel:  Rapsodie espagnole

Disc 12:
Debussy:  Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune
Debussy:  Nocturnes
Debussy:  La Mer
Ravel:  Bolero

Disc 13:
Weber:  Overture:  Der Freischutz
Mendelssohn:  Overture:  A Midsummer Night's Dream
Liszt:  Les Preludes
Liszt:  Tasso
Liszt:  Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4
Humperdinck:  Hansel und Gretel Overture

Disc 14:
Enescu:  Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
Sibelius:  Finlandia
Elgar:  In the South -- Concert Overture
Vaughan Williams:  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Vaughan Williams:  The Wasps Overture

Disc 15:
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (mono)
Saint-Saens:  Dance macabre (mono)
Dukas:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice (mono)

Many of these recordings were newly remastered for this issue and have not been released on CD before.  Sound quality is, in my humble opinion, quite excellent.

How can you beat this boxed set in terms of sheer interest and variety?  Not to mention that the performances are outstanding, full of vitality and excitement.  Silvestri conducts the Philharmonia, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, French National Radio Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, and Paris Conservatoire Orchestra.  Now that I've given you the contents of the boxed set, let me show you what you are getting in terms of the LPs:


ALP 1684 (Discs 12, 15)
$38 at Classical Vinyl
ALP 1689 (Disc 12)
$31 at Classical Vinyl  


ASD 261 (Disc 2, 3)
Mean price on popsike:  $78 

ASD 253 (Disc 2)
Mean price on popsike:  $79







 










ASD 338 (Discs 1, 13)
$362 on Ebay

ASD 273 (Disc 3)
$50-130 on Ebay








 




 

ASD 400 (Discs 4, 7)
$70-448 on Ebay

ASD 401 (Discs 5, 6)
$260-394 on Ebay




   
ASD 408 (Disc 11)
$50-270 on Ebay
ASD 417 (Discs 11, 13, 14)
$79-406 on Ebay












 



ASD 455 (Disc 7)
$66-403 on Ebay
ASD 470 (Discs 8, 9)
$105-374 on Ebay









 




 
ASD 519 (Discs 1, 9)
$48-338 on Ebay
 

ST 966 (Disc 9)
ST 543 (Disc 1)










 






You can see that you get some of the most valuable EMI white/gold ASD recordings with this CD boxed set.  Okay, perhaps you don't get that warm vinyl analog sound, but unless you find these LPs in a garage sale (the chances that you will find all of them in excellent condition at an affordable price are slim to none), this is the most economical way to be able to truly enjoy the fine recordings of this incredible conductor.


 

Beecham Goes French on EMI Mono

EMI HMV ALP 1843


French Romantic Music

Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor
French National Radio Orchestra
  
Pressing:  1st semi-circle red
Condition:  NM

Stampers:

2XLA 71-1N
2XLA 72-1N


Performance:  8/10

Sound:  6/10

Comments:  Sir Thomas Beecham knew how to conduct French music, and he has a number of mono and stereo EMI recordings with French orchestras as testimony.  Some of his well known stereo EMI ASDs include: 


ASD 252:  Bizet L'Arlesienne Suites
ASD 399:  Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
ASD 458:  Franck Symphony in D minor

Most if not all of these have all been reissued on CD in EMI's Great Recordings of the Century, and in fact, you can now buy a budget boxed set of Beecham's French music recordings.  In my honest opinion, I believe that some of the CD transfers sound better than their analog counterparts.  One observation I've made about some of Beecham's stereo recordings (for me, specifically, ASD 252 and ASD 458) is that dynamic range suffers from distortion and lack of clarity at the high end.  I don't know if this is strictly a pressing issue, but from my conversations with some dealers, this may be an issue with the recording in general and not the pressing.  I have not heard this problem on the digital transfers.


This album I'm posting today, in spite of being a mono recording, is actually quite enjoyable.  Most of these mono LPs can be acquired for not too much money either on Ebay or from the UK classical record dealer circuit.  Mine I found relatively recently on Ebay, and I paid no more than $15 for a near mint copy of it.  I listened to it again tonight and was charmed.  There is a wide variety of French music, from Bizet's Carmen Suite #1 to Faure's Dolly Suite to Chabrier's Gwendolyn Overture.  It goes from lovely to dramatic and is played with the flair of the French National Radio Orchestra.  You can hear the special sound of the brass which were apparently characteristic of French orchestras of the time but have been lost over time.  While I generally prefer to hear these orchestral recordings in stereo, I actually didn't mind the mono that much today (perhaps because I was listening while cleaning the room) and would put it on the turntable again.  The problem with dynamic range that I've experienced with Beecham's stereo recordings was absent, which was a plus.  Clarity wasn't the best but was appreciable.  If you want to sample this album, you can also find it reissued and remastered on CD:


http://www.allmusic.com/album/french-orchestral-music-mw0001855910

Monday, July 1, 2013

What's Playing in My Car ...

After a recent trip to one of my favorite shops in Boston, Orpheus Classics, I walked out with two used CDs which have been playing in my car for the last couple of days.

1) Mieczyslaw Horszowki and members of the Budapest String Quartet performing Mozart's Piano Quartets.  This is a CBS Masterworks Portrait reissue from the late 1980s that has been long out of print.  As a child, this was one of my favorites in my father's LP collection and would later get plenty of more use on the turntable when I studied and performed the G minor quartet with members of my high school orchestra during high school.  So, naturally, I was pretty happy to find a copy of this for less than 10 bucks.  Sound quality is okay, not superb, considering that they didn't have the finest remastering technology at the time of this reissue.  I find the vinyl to sound much warmer and less harsh, but this CD copy will still do quite nicely when I'm driving to and from work.

2) Mitsuko Uchida performing Debussy's 12 Etudes.  This is one of the highly praised interpretations of this set of piano works by one of my all-time favorite composers and may be the modern edition to own, though I'd put Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's right up there on the pedestal as well.  Beautiful playing with what I believe is top-notch recording.  For $5.99, it was an easy decision to buy this one!