Record Reviews


Bach, J. S.: Concertos No. 1 and No. 2 for Three Harpsichords and Orchestra; Concerto (after Vivaldi) for Four Harpsichords and Orchestra (soloists; Rolf Reinhardt conducting Stuttgart Pro Musica Orchestra; Vox PL 8670: 12" LP). The last two of these have been available on a vintage Haydn Society disk, and several piano versions exist. The music fits harpsichords much better, however, and the new Vox performances are highly adequate and very well recorded.

Berlioz:Symphonie Fantastique (Hermann Scherehen conducting London Symphony Orchestra; Westminster WL 5268: 12″ LP). Here is Fantastic No. 7, with perhaps the loudestroaring drums of all. Apart from that, the versions by Monteux, Ormandv, and Van Beinum easily match it, each in its own way. The work is well served on records.

Chausson:Poem of Love and the Sea,with a French Art-Song recital (Gladys Swart bout, mezzosoprano; Pierre Monteux conducting RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra; George Trovillo at the piano in the songs; RCA Victor LM 1793: 12″ LP). Listeners first guess that the Poem is by Grieg, then (could it be?) Ravel. Or Fa tire? And that describes it well enough, except to say that it is very beautiful and nostalgic. Swarthout sounds mature, intelligent, and delightful; Monteux is a benign wizard; the art-songs (by Berlioz, Hahn, Duparc, and others) are lovely, and the RCA engineers have contributed a rich and comfortable sound. No one will be unhappy with this,

Debussy: Fifteen Piano Pieces (Walter Gieseking, piano; Angel 35026: 12″ LP). Nothing said here could either convey or clarify Gicseking’s unmistakable oneness with the musical spirit of Debussy. Here we hear Debussy himself, and that is that. People who want Debussy must own this, sooner or later. And this goes even more strongly, if possible, lor the subsequent Angel release (35066) of the first 12 of the 24 preludes (the entire piano works are scheduled). This first offering, the 15 “pieces,“ ranges from 1870 to 1910 and includes such items as the Rêverie. L’Île Joyeuse, and Berceuse Héroïque. The fi is hi to medium.

Dvoõák: Quintet in A Major (Clifford Curzon, piano; Budapest String Quartet; Columbia ML 4825: 12″ LP). Now here is some real magic. When you put this on your turntable, the players move bodily into your living room; there is no other way to describe it. The Budapests, belying their un-Romantic reputation, give a roseate glow to Dvorak’s vital autobiographical melodies. Curzon is at one with them, and the result is something entrancing.

Handel:The Messiah (Jennifer Vyvyan, Norma Proctor, George Martin, Owen Brannigan, soloists; Sir Adrian Boult conducting London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir; London LLA 19: four 12″ LPs in album, completely documented). Score for 1954: two Messiahs better than any on records before. (There is one more to come, by Sir Malcolm Sargent for Angel.) London’s is just as “authentick” as the Scherchen-Westminster, and many will prefer it for its larger choral forces and conservative pacing. The soloists have somewhat better voices, too, though I think Scherehen s have more devotion and better understanding. Between the two albums sonically, as recordings, there is nothing to choose; both are superb.

Honegger:Pacific 231, with Dehussy-Ravel:Danse and Barber: Adagio for Strings (Willis Page conducting New Orchestral Society of Boston; Cook/Sounds of Our Times 1068: 10″ LP). Honegger’s railroad saga really fils Emory Cook’s virtuosity as a sound engineer: this truly tingles. Mr. Page’s playing of the other works is a little staid, but the fi is exciting throughout.

Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana (Mario del Monaco, tenor; Fiona Nicolai, soprano; other soloists; Franco Gliione conducting Milan Symphony Orchestra and chorus; London LL 990/991: two 12″ LPs in album with libretto), Great operatic recordings seem almost to be standard fare this year. Here’s another: No. 8 in the roster of Cavallerias on disks. Few Cavallerias have been bad, but none approaches this in its blazing dramatic intensity and sonic realism. By the time Alfio finally chops down Turiddu, your hair will have a permanent curl. As a bonus, record-side 4 has some fine, uninhibited arias (warhorse variety) by Mr. Del Monaco, who is always worth listening to.

Orff, Carl:Catulli Carmina (Heinrich Hollreiser conducting vocal soloists, four pianos, Vienna Kammerchor and percussion hand: Vox PL 8640: 12″ LP). Anyone already acquainted with Orff and his exciting combinations of massed human voices and rhythm instruments will want Catulli Carmina, a dramatic cantata, based on the love poems of Catullus. People for whom the thrilling discovery of Orff is still in the future, however, had best begin with Carmina Burana (Decca 9706). The two are part of a trilogy, still incomplete on disks.

Prokofieff: Chout Ballet Suite with Falla: Dances fromThe Three-Cornered Hat (Vladimir Golschmann conducting St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Capitol P 8257: 12″ LP). At once, when this came out, audiophiles began using it as a lest record, which testifies to some of its merits. Among other claims to note: the only Arctic Circle folk themes to appear in current, ballet-writing. Fetching, too. The Falla is adequate.

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (Geza Anda, piano; Alcco Galliera conducting Philharmonia Orchestra: Angel 35093: 12″ LP). Perhaps this would have been the perfect No. 2, long overdue, but fora slight wooden ness in the sound. The sent iment is w ell-felt, the pianism is there, the orchestra plays with ihe proper throb, but the sound has a hollowness which defeats most tone controls.

Stein-Thomson :Four Saints in Three Arts (Beatrice Wayne-Robinson, soprano; Edward Mali hews, baritone; Inez Mat!hews, soprano; other soloists; Virgil Thomson conducting chorus and orchestra; RCA Victor LCT 1139: 12″ LP; no taxt). This is, of course, a reprint (but a fine one) of the original 78 rpm version of Gertrude Stein’s and Virgil Thomson’s irresistible impressionist patter-opera, one of the liveliest, loveliest, leasingest musical works ever written by Americans. It is something close to a crime on Victor’s part not to have furnished a printed text, for Stein makes sense (yes, she does) best when her verses are heard and read simultaneously. Here, though, the extraordinary diction of the magnificent Negro cast makes up for the lack 80 per cent of the time, and the captivating Thomson score holds you through the incomprehensible parts. If you have a sense of humor and a flair for semantics, this is for you. It will not be performed better hereafter. For one thing, the irreplaceable Saint Ignatius (Edward Matthews) was killed last winter in an automobile accident.

Vivaldi: Concertos in D Minor, B Flat Major, C Major, and D Minor (Virtuosi di Roma, Renato Fasano conducting; members of the ensemble as soloists; Decca DL 9679: 12″ LP). This famous Roman group can produce at will the soft, warm luminosity Vivaldi loved and the pace and phrasing that go with it. This recording of their efforts is better than any heretofore, though it still leaves something to be desired.