Record Reviews


CHRISTMAS is icumen in, and records are icumen out, in such profusion as to make systematic reviewing impossible. Herewith are some brief, highly subjective shopping suggestions.

Perhaps the safest, all-round gift record of the season is \ anguard s 20 Country Dances of Mozart, a true masterpiece ol gaiety irresistibly set forth by Franz Litschauer, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and some inspired engineers. Next we would rate a swoon-inducing job by London: Anthony Collins and the New Symphony Orchestra in Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and Fantasia on Greensleeves, backed by Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Serenade for Si rings. Westminster gets double rating, i with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti ‘ Nos. 2 and 4, played with ancienl instruments by Karl Haas and the London Baroque Ensemble, and with delightful duplicate performances by Paul Badura-Skoda of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major and Fantasy and Fugue in C Major, one on a 178.3 Anton Walter piano, the other on a modern instrument (two separate records). Consider also Decca’s wonderful Andres Segovia Guitar Concert (L)L 9638; there are more than one). And any of the Haydn Society’s magnificent Schneider Quartet playings of ihe Haydn Quartets (our first choice: Opus 17, Nos. 1 and ;i). And Capitol’s cry stalline Serenade for Strings, by Suk, paired with a selection of Smetana’s Bohemian Dances, performed in (quote) Full Dimensional Sound by Harold By rns and his fine chamber orchestra.

For more ambitious buyers, there are two tremendous two-LP versions of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, one by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony, on Victor, and one by Scherchen and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, on Westminster, each with a fine chorus and soloists. Scherchen has the finer sound, Toscanini the greater musical excitement. Each offers, on the fourlli LP side, Beethoven’s First, wherein Scherchen’s guy verve gives him the advantage. And Atlantic Records, an erstwhile jazz outfit, suddenly and unaccountably has launched what it calls a Living Shakespeare Series with a fine IwoLP performance of Borneo and Juliet by E\ ;i Le Gallienne, Dennis King, Richard Waring, and the Margaret W ebster players.

For people interested chiefly in recorded fidelity , ihcre are three new Mercury Olympian Series disks: Anlal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade; Stravinsky’s Firebird and Borodin’s Second Symphony; and orchestral short works by Ravel, Berlioz, and Debussy . There is an imposingly rich Tehaikowsky Palhetique by Ormandy and the Philadelphians, on Columbia. There is Westminster’s aurally overpowering three-LP album of Les Troyens it Carthage, an opera lie poem by Berlioz, magnificent in its ornate Victorian neurotieism, gorgeously put over by Hermann Scherchen and various French performers.

In the so-called “standard repertoire” department, there is the Columbia Primrose-Beecham playing of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, for which every one has been wail ing. There is also a London version, by van Beirunn and the Amsterdam Concertgobouxv Orchestra (with Margaret Ritchie, soprano), of Mahler’s most songful symphony, his Fourth.

For song fanciers, Deeca has reprinted, on two separate Id’s, the melting beauty of the late Ileinrich Schlusnus’s baritone, in songs of Schubert, Wolf, Brahms, and Richard Strauss; seldom since lias such tenderness been voiced.

In the field of chamber music, there are rich pickings. F’irsf must be rated Westminster’s first vent ure into American recording, a performance by the Curtis String Quartet of the Brahms Quartets, Opus ol. No. 2, and Opus 67. Quite probablv, this is the best quartet sound yet recorded and embodies the longest (in minutes) musical performance on one LP record. Apart. from this, it presents, very tastefully, some wonderfully sunny autumnal music. From London comes a companion piece, the Brahms Opus 51, 1 No. /, by the highly polished Vegh Quartet. For Westminster, the Vienna Konzorthaus Quartet has made the Beethoven Opus 75, “The Harp,” and, more impressively, the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Opus 115, with Leopold Which, clarinet. The latter is a marvel, almost symphonic in its richness, literally enchanting in its tonal impact.

Also on Westminster is the major keyboard offering of the season, Paul Badura-Skoda’s inimitably Viennese two-disk performance of the Schubert Sonata in A Major and Impromptus, Opus 90 and Opus 152, a heart-warming wonder. (All are so good it seems a sin not to say more about them, but space does not permit.)

For the eclectics — and only eclectics (see Webster) read this column with attention — there is an excellent variety of recordings hardly subject to pigeonholing. For Capitol, Franz Andre and the INK Symphony of Brussels have made a superbly sonorous record of Liszt’s corny but compelling Les Preludes, backed by Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Waltzes. On IIM\ LP, Sir John Barbirolli and the Ilalle Orchestra have recorded the Sibelius Seventh Symphony, admirably exposing its affinity to the late Beethoven quartets, and backing it up with the forthright modern British Symphony No. 5 of Edmund Rubbra, which somehow evokes thoughts of Housman. In the same vein, Walter Goehr, who is not English, has produced for Concert llall Society a very English performance of Flgar’s Enigma Variations, backed by the same composer’s Serenade for Strings (see above: Collins).

For the modernists, Columbia’s redoubtable Goddard Lieberson has produced Alban Berg’s opera Lulu on three spectacularly engineered LPs, with Herbert I Iafner conducting the V ienna Symphony and members of the A ienna State Opera (this time with complete libretto).

Finally, for other tastes, there is I some fine new sound on “pops” records. Try Columbia’s 5f itch Miller with, I fonts, which includes (he fabulous Tzena-Tzena-Tzena, and RCA Victor’s new arranger-corn poser-conductor team, Sauter and Finnegan, wit h their w onderful Doodletown Lifers and four additional 43 rpm releases, not combined as vet in an album.