Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Ravel: La Valse
Andre Cluytens, conductor
Stampers: YAX 362-5,
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.