Record Reviews


Bach: Brandenburg Concertos, Nos. 1-6 (Two versions. Felix Prohaska conducting Chamber Orchestra of the Vienna Slate Opera; Vanguard 540/542: three 12" LPs in album. Jascha Horenstcin conducting Viennese instrumentalists; Vox DL 122: three 12" LPs in album with score). The Vox set is a particularly splendid production, with its authentic scoring and copious notes by Emanuel Winternitz; the Vanguard is an outstanding bargain, offering three records for the price of two. However, the music is the main thing, and by this criterion 1 prefer the Vanguard to the Vox, but like neither quite so well us London’s Münchinger series (two 12", one 10”).

Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 in C Major (Rudolf Serkin, piano; Eugene Ormandy conducting Philadelphia Orchestra; Columbia ML 4914: 12" LP). A virile, thoughtful performance; no vagaries or surprises; fine, solid sound; easily the peer of any other recorded version - - perhaps the best.

Beethoven:Fidelio (Arturo Toscanini conducting Rose Bampton, Jan Peerce, Eleanor Steber, Sidor Belarsky, other soloists; NBC Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM 6025: two 12" LPs in album with libretto). The engineers have done a fantastic job in processing this from the disk transcriptions of the 1944 broadcasts; the sound is highly acceptable. The performance, of course, is good all around, and in spots thrilling (listen to the grave-digging duet, side 3), but it is not, despite the jacket note, “complete.” Two overtures — Fidelio and Leonore No. 3 — are supplied, but nearly all of the spoken dialogue has been left out (as it was in the broadcast, and apparently it could not he dubbed in convincingly), and this takes away much of the excitement of the Act II climax. Still, I wouldn’t he without the set.

Brahms: Concerto No. 1 in D Minor (Artur Rubinstein, piano; Fritz Reiner conducting Chicago Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM 1831: 12" LP). There is splendor in Rubinstein’s playing, Reiner’s conception, and the orchestra’s sound in their wonderfully phonogenic hall. People who don’t want so much splendor in their Brahms are urged to sample the grave lyricism of Backhaus and Böhm on London LL 911.

Brahms: Ballades, Capricci, Intermezzi, Rhapsodies (Wilhelm Kempff, piano; London LL 959, LL 960, LS 961: two 12" LPs and one 10”). The records are titled Brahms Recitals — No. 1. (Op. 10 and 76), No. 2 (Op. 116 and 119), and No. 3 (Op. 79 and 117), and from their excellent sound they are all new, not reprints of earlier London Kempff-Brahms. To hear them all at once is like drinking a bucket of benedictine, but taken a little at a time they yield a melting, luscious beauty — equaled by almost no other music I know of.

Dvorák:Bihlische Lieder, Op. 99; Zigeiinermelodien, Op. 55; Liebeslieder, Op. 83 (Hildegard Roessel-Majdan, contralto; Franz Jloletsehek, piano; Westminster WL 5324: 12" LP). Sweet and devout, direct and touching, the Biblical Songs are the chief treasure in this treasury. They are psalm settings, very simple and singable, and it is hard to think of anyone who might do them better than Miss RoesselMajdan. Holetsehek and the engineers are good, too; so arc the Gypsy and Love Songs.

Haydn: Quartets, Op, 76 (Budapest String Quartet; Columbia SL 203: three 12" LPs). Here are Haydn’s six greatest quartets—including the “Emperor" and the “Sunrise" — a tremendous creation, in near-perfect performance by the most eminent and self-critical players of our day, and there should be no rivalry. However, for Haydn Society, the Schneider Quartet (led by a former Budapest second violin) has produced a version which plays Fabius to the Budapest’s Hannibal, enticing where the other commands, presenting poise against tension, and relaxation against precision, so that, after at least ten hours’ listening, I cannot decide between them. I doubt that anyone will go wrong with either. You’re on your own.

Milhaud: Suite for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano with Bartók: Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano (Reginald Kell, clarinet; Melvin Ritter, violin; Joel Rosen, piano; Decca DL 9740: 12" LP). Milhaud’s Suite, like nearly all his works, bespeaks an ebullience which goes down deep and never flags, a wonderfully refreshing phenomenon in this day and age; the performers quite obviously enjoy it, too. The Bartók was written, I believe, for Benny Goodman; it exploits beautifully if bitterly the sound of the clarinet. Both pieces are extraordinarily well recorded.

Mozart: Oboe Concerto, K.314 with J. C. Bach: Andante and J. S. Bach: Arioso and Adagio (Mitchell Miller, oboe; Daniel Saidenberg conducting Saidenberg Little Symphony; Columbia ML 4916: 12" LP). Mr. Miller is “Mitch,” boss of Columbia Records’ “pop” department, preceptor of Rosemary Clooney, Johnnie Ray, and others, and one of the country’s best oboists. His Mozart is exemplary, and magnificently recorded; but why didn’t he give us a complete J. S. or J. C. Bach concerto on the other side, instead of these three sweet samplings?

Prokofieff: Flute Sonata with Roussel: Trio for Flute, Viola, and Cello (Doriot Anthony Dwyer, flute; Jesus Maria Sanroma, piano; Joseph de Pasquale, viola; Samuel Mayes, cello; Boston B-208: 12" LP). Doriot Dwyer is the young first-flute lady of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, up to her usual enchanting ways in this first authentic flute version of the Prokofieff sonata, a work that proves delightfully durable. The Roussel trio is less striking, but very pleasant.

Rossini-Respighi:La Boutique Fantasque (Robert Irving conducting Philharmonia Orchestra; RCA Victor-Bluebird LBC 1080: 12" LP). Twice this has happened now. On a cut-rate Bluebird record, RCA Victor has presented Robert Irving conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in ballet music with such irresistible verve and rhythm, in such brilliantly coruscant sound, that staid and aging listeners feel they want to get up and dance. The first occasion was his Swan Lake recording. Jocularity aside, this is something out of ordinary experience; here is a conductor really to pay attention to.

Schubert: Symphonies No. 1 in D, No. 2 in B Flat (Sir Thomas Beecham conducting Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Columbia ML 4903: 12" LP). It was a long wait, but worth it. There are real substance and impetus in this early Schubert, and the buoyant bearded baronet dclivers it with joyous conviction. The recorded sound is rich and faithful—and, indeed, I can think of no reason not to own this one.

Sibelius: Symphonies No. 3 and No. 7 (Anthony Collins conducting London Symphony Orchestra; London LL 1008: 12" LP). Sibelius will be ninety next year, and London apparently has commissioned Collins to record all his symphonies (his toughest competition may well be Thomas Jensen, conducting the Fifth Symphony— for London). Those two, in scintillanl ffrr sound, arc beauties, especially t he Third.

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto (David Oistrakh, violin; Franz Konwitschny conducting Saxon State Orchestra; Decca DL 9755: 12" LP). Slowly but surely, Oistrakh is taking over the violin concerto literature. Here goes the Tchaikovsky. You can’t beat this, neither can you resist, it. The recording, though nothing unusual, is adequate, and Oistrakh needs no more to assert primacy.

Verdi: Manzoni Requiem (Ferenc Fricsav conducting soloists, choir of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin; Decca DX 118: two 12" LPs in album with text). The competition here consists of Toscanini and the NBC and a new Angel album featuring Victor de Sabata. Either of these Italian-trained giants should be able to outpoint Fricsay left-handed, but they don’t. In fact, only in the tremendous excitement of the Dies Irae does he lose the lead, to Toscanini and the almost superhuman NBC orchestra. Throughout the rest of the work, Verdi’s intent is best served by the Hungarian and his Germans, who give us a real requiem, full of longing, reverent and lovely.

La Groupe des Six (Georges Tzipine conducting Orchestre de la Societc ties Concerts du Conservatoire; Angel 3515-B: two 12" LPs). The Frenchmen called Les Six (five men, one woman) are Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francois Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre, who joined forces in 1920 to prevent post-war stagnation in composition, and probably succeeded. This 35th-year celebration album pays them tribute with a recording apiece (good ones, too) and a spoken introduction by Jean Cocteau. It is fascinating. Major item probably is Milhaud’s Symphony No. 2, but everything is listenable. Try it.