Record Reviews


Americana for Solo Winds and String Orchestra (Howard Hanson conducting Eastman-Rochoster Symphony Orchestra; Mercury: 12″ LP). The composers represented are Wayne Barlow, Bernard Rogers, Aaron Copland, Kent Kennan, Homer Keller, and Howard Hanson, all at their most listenable in these brief, atmospheric concert pieces. Most immediately appealing are Barlow ‘s Winter’s Past, based largely on “ Black Is the Color, and Copland’s haunting Quid City. The recording is close-to, brightedged, arresting.

Beethoven: Concertos for Piano and Orchestra (Wilhelm Kempff, piano; Paul van Kempen conducting Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Decca: three 12″ LPs in album). Professor Kempff is certainly an excellent Beethoven man, and this set could have been a marvel. However, in transfer from the Deutsche Grammophon 78 rpm masters to Decca LPs, some richness was lost and some unwanted buzz added. What remains is an authoritative cut-rate version of the Beethoven concertos — all five for $18! Listen before buying.

Beethoven: Concerto No. 4 (Artur Schnabel, piano; Issay Dobrowen conducting Philharmonia Orchestra; RCA Victor; 12″ “Treasury” LP). This wartime or early post-war British 78 set (never released in America) has been re-recorded with exemplary skill. And it is going out on no very dangerous limb to call Schnabel the greatest Beethovenian among pianists of our time. For all Beethoven collectors, a necessity.

Brahms and Schumann: Chamber Works (Casals, Hess, Horszowski, Mannes, Schneider, Stern, Szigeti; Columbia: three 12″ LPs in album). The works include Brahms’s Trios No. 1 and No. 2, Schumann’s Trio No. 1 and Five Folk Pieces, Op. 102, for cello and piano. This comprises Volume III of the 1932 Casals Festival at Prades. (Volume II, Schubert chamber works, arrived inopportunely for review here, but is excellent, too.) The recordings are unmarred by Festival urgency, and the performances only a little less inspired than the marvelous outpourings in the first volume.

Distinguished Concerti for Wind instruments, Vol. II (Leon Goossens, oboe; Sir Malcolm Sargent, Basil Cameron, and Walter Süsskind conducting Philharmonia and Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras; Columbia; 12″ LP). A beautifully recorded, beautifully played bouquet of concertos by Bach, Handel, Cimarosa, and Marcello, some originally for oboe, some arranged, all delightful. This is a treasury of pleasure. Volumes I and III of Columbia ‘s “Distinguished Concerti" (corny title, but the idea is good) offer works of Strauss and Nielsen. However, the closest companion-disk is the same company’s Philadelphia Orchestra “First Chair" record. Your cue.

Falla: El Retablo de Maese Pedro; El Amor Brujo (Ernesto Halffter conducting soloists and Orchestre du Theéâte des Champs ÉlYsées; Pedro dE Freitas Branco conducting Madrid Symphony Orchestra; Westminster: 12″ LP with libretto). Falla’s setting of Don Quixote’s misadventure with the puppet show is performed even better here than on the SPA record reviewed in December, and El Amor Brujo occupies the other side as a bonus. Faultless recording.

Fauré:Requiem (Roger Wagner conducting Patricia Beams, soprano, Theodore Uppman, baritone; Roger Wagner Chorale and Concert Arts Orchestra; Capitol: 12″ LP). With little drive and less drama, Fauré conquers by pure beauty. This tender and devout Mass here has drawn a devout and tender treatment from both performers and engineers, yielding to us a sweet and deeply moving record.

Grieg: Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 and No. 2 (Willem van Otterloo conducting Hague Philharmonic Orchestra ; Erna Spoorenberg, soprano; Epic: 12″ LP). Of six pairs of Peers on disks, this has by all odds the best sound. Indeed, the bass in the Mountain King is truly cavernous. And Solveig’s song is sung by a soprano, for once, instead of a violin, and beautifully.

Italian Classical Symphonists (Newell Jenkins conducting Italian Chamber Orchestra; Haydn Society: six 12″ LPs, boxed or separately). Boccherini, Corelli, and Pergolesi are likely to be the only familiar names among these Italians who bridged the gap between Vivaldi and Haydn — Viotti, Albenoni, Sammartini, and others. However, all are interesting, courtly, and happy. The recording is a little edgy, not bad.

Milanov Sings (Zinka Milanov, soprano; Ronato Cellini conducting RCA Victor Orchestra; RCA Victor: 12″ EP). Zinka Milanov, before passing into the “old pro” division, decided to put on record what she could do in her prime. This is really it! She picked the most exacting arias from Forza del Destino, Gioconda, Aïda, Trovatore, and Cavalleria, and here delivers them as perhaps no one else living could. The result is hair-raising. No alert opera-lover will pass this one up.

Purcell: Trio Sonatas 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 of Book II (Giorgi Ciompi and Werncr Torkanowsky, violins; (ioorge Koutzen, cello; Herman Chassid, harpsichord; Period: 12” LP). It is odd that these deep and lovely works have not been available earlier on LP. The performance and recording both are excellent. It would be pleasant if this group would do all 22 sonatas.

Schönberg: Complete String Quartets with Berg: Quartet Op. 3 and Webern: Five Quartet Movements (Juilliard String Quartet; Columbia: three 12″ LPs in album). Like Beethoven, Schböberg devised a new musical idiom but, unlike Beethoven, not because he himself needed it. (Other composers did.) There is no great urgency in these writings, but there are endless invention and interesting sound-effects, gorgeously reproduced.

Sibelius: Four Lemminkäinen Legends (Thomas Jensen conducting Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra; London: 12” LP). Sixten Ehrling (Mercury) and Eugene Ormandy (Columbia) are very authoritative, but no one makes Sibelius so exciting as Jensen does. All admirers of the great Finn owe themselves this.

Tchaikovsky: Fantasy-Overture: Romeo and Juliet; Overture ”1812”; Capriccio Italian (Paul van Kempen conducting Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra; Epic; 12” LP). Owners of mighty hi-fi machines and big, big living rooms cannot let this go by. It’s what they’ve been living for. Strictly stupendous.

Thomson, Virgil: Ten Etudes (Maxim Schapiro, piano; Decca: 10" LP). In its low-price “4000” series, Decca has been turning out some delightful novelties — Haydn’s “St. Anthony” divertimento, for instance. Here’s another. These etudes really are piano studies, but fascinating to listen to. As a sampler, try the very last band, Ragtime Bass — and keep in mind that the price is but $2.50

BorodinWright-Forrest:Kismet (Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow, and other members of the Brondway oast; Columbia: 12” LP). The dour wise boys of Broadway find this show trite (“Bagdad’s a drag. Dad”— Down Beat Magazine) but the record’s a lot of fun, particularly because of Borodin and Alfred Drake. Robert Wright and George Forrest have done with Borodin’s music exactly what they did with Grieg’s in Song of Norway, and have done it just as fetchingly.