Sunday, June 5, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Weekend Roundup for June 4-5th, 2016

Well, it's been busy these past several weeks, and this was the first weekend in a while that I was able to take the lid off my turntable and enjoy some vinyl.  Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the listening highlights:


Columbia SAX 2526
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor
Leon Fleisher, piano
George Szell, conductor
Cleveland Orchestra
(BC 1003 A-1E/B-1E)
Performance: 10/10
Sound: 7.5/10

I picked up this semi-circle label first pressing from Spiral Classics a few years ago. This recording may not have demonstration quality sound, but  the sonics are still very good and capture the spirit of the performance, which is outstanding. Fleisher's recordings with Szell and the CO of the Brahms (and Beethoven) piano concertos have long been praised and considered by many to be some of the finest performances of these works. On this LP, the piano is clearly and warmly presented and slightly more forward relative to the orchestra, which otherwise provides a well-balanced and fitting accompaniment. One small reservation I have is the drier-sounding orchestral string tone that is often the case on CBS recordings of the era. I have not heard the original US Epic release of this title (which should be acquirable at a fraction of the cost of the SAX), but I would wager that this UK pressing boasts slightly quieter vinyl surfaces and may be the better sounding pressing overall. I'm not entirely sure what additional remastering work if any was done by EMI for this UK release, but there are two matrix numbers on each side. For instance, side A has BC 1003 A-1E as well as XXSB-43706-1L; side B has BC 1003 B-1E and XXSB-43707-1AJ. The latter numbers look like Epic/CBS matrix numbers. This recording was digitally remastered in the late 1990s by Sony and can be purchased as part of a Fleisher budget boxed with the Beethoven concertos or with the recent Fleisher complete album collection with mini-LP sleeves with the original cover art. 


Lyrita SCRS 150
Moeran: Violin Concerto
John Georgiadis, violin
Vernon Handley, conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
(ZLY 5209-1A, 5210-1A)
Performance: 8.5/10
Sound: 9/10

I'm a big fan of the Moeran violin concerto, with its beautiful sweeping melodies and pastoral nature. I believe this LP was the very first commercial recording of this work. John Georgiadis gives a passionate, lyrical performance and is suitably backed by conductor Vernon Handley and the LSO. As with so many of the Lyrita releases, the sound quality here is superb, with excellent clarity and dynamics (marvelous brass), expansive soundstaging, and deep and taut bass.  Interestingly, I discovered through Google that John Georgiadis, from the age of 26, was the LSO leader for 11 years and then went on to pursue a career as a conductor (he's been musical director of the London Virtuosi, Bristol Sinfonia, and Bangkok Symphony). 

If you like the Moeran concerto, I'd also highly recommended the digital recordings from Lydia Mordkovitch (Vernon Handley/Ulster Orchestra) and Tasmin Little (Sir Andrew Davis/BBC Philharmonic), both on the Chandos label.


London CS 6337
Bruch: Scottish Fantasia
Hindemith: Violin Concerto
David Oistrakh, violin
Jascha Horenstein, Paul Hindemith, conductors
London Symphony Orchestra
(3W/3W)
Performance: 10/10
Sound: 9/10

A long-time TAS Harry Pearson Super LP List recording, this LP is worth its accolades. Oistrakh's performance of the Bruch Scottish Fantasia is probably my "desert island" recording of the work -- I find it a little warmer than the Heifetz/Sargent RCA recording of around the same time -- and the Hindemith is a classic with the composer as conductor.  The dynamics on this recording are quite powerful, and Oistrakh's violin is just beautifully captured.  I've never owned a blueback FFSS copy of this album, but this narrow band FFRR that I picked up for $8 on E-bay is a bargain and still packs a punch. Also worthy is the Speakers Corner 180g reissue, which I used to own and can still be purchased new for around $35. The Decca is in a different league in terms of cost, with an average E-bay price of $257 according to popsike.com. Two days ago, a wide-band ED1 copy just sold for $1034!  My two cents: you can't go wrong with the London.

Well, that wraps things up for this weekend.  Happy listening, and as always, your thoughts, insights, perspectives, and comments are always welcome.