Record Reviews

by JOHN M. CONLY

Bach: Fifteen Two-Part Inventions; Concerto in D Minor (Wanda Landowska, harpsichord; Eugene Bigot conducting string ensemble in the Concerto; RCA Viclor LM-1974: 12”). The reprint of the 1938 recording of the Concerto can be ignored; it is almost unlistenable. The side containing the Inventions is still worth my $3.98, and any other Bach-lover’s. The sudden twinkling logic of these brief masterpieces never has been set forth better; they it re irresistible. The recording is nothing spectacular, but that is of small account here.

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra (Fritz Reiner conducting Chicago Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM-1934: 12”). All five LP versions of the Concerto for Orchestra are excellent— something almost unprecedented. My favorites are Dorati’s Mercury performance, for its verve and sonic brilliance, and this one, for its jewel-like clarity and analytic precision. Not that it lacks life; it has plenty, conveyed in sound of rich luster.

Bartók: Quartets No. 1 and No. 2 (Vegh Quartet; Angel 35240: 12”). Bartbk always has seemed to me the successor to Beethoven in his use of the string quartet as an almost autobiographical device, an instrument of introspection. In the Bartbk quartets there are beauty, bite, sometimes a wrenching sadness, never prettiness. The Veghs, who know them truly by heart, aim to record all six. The first sample is splendid.

Chopin: Nocturnes (Guiomar Novaes, piano; Vox PL-9632: two 12”). Asa rule, Artur Rubinstein is the I man for me in Chopin, but in theNoc1 turnes I think I would have 1o take Mine. Novaes — not that she is hard ' lo take, though twenty Nocturnes in quick succession may be. There is a sweet songful sanity in her playing of these that convinces me beyond cavil that this is how they should be done. The piano has been given exactly the right perspective by the Vox engineers.

Mozart: The Magic Flute (Ferenc Friesay conducting Maria Stader, Rita Streich, Ernst Rudiger, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Josef Grcindl, other singers; Berlin Motet Choir, RIAS Choir and Symphony Orchestra; Decca DX-134: three 12" with libretto). Rita Streich is a thin, if accurate, Queen of the Night, and FischerDieskau a very restrained Papageno. Nevertheless, this is my favorite Magic Flute, partly because of Fricsay’s astute pacing, partly because 11nspoken dialogue has been included, which adds ini measurably (for me) to the continuity. People who want tinwork as an excerpt collection should stick to the old Beecham in RCA Victor reprint.

Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Franck: Symphonic Variations (Monique de la Bruchollerie, piano; Jonel Perlea conducting Concerts Colo line Orchestra; Vox PL-9750: 12”). Of latter-day recordings of the Rachmaninoif, this is the most delicate and, I think, the loveliest, though Kutchon’s performance (London) is more like that of Rachmaninoff himself. The choice may hang on whether you’d rather have the Franck Variations or those by Dohnanyi on his favorite nursery rhyme. I find the Franck as it is played here more to my taste than any other version even Gieseking’s performance. The sound, too, has a marvelous transparency that is winningly appropriate.

Rossini: Overtures toThe Siege of Corinth, William Tell, Tancredi, II Signor liruschino, Conerent ola; (Pierino Gamba conducting London Symphony Orchestra; London LL-1366: 12”). I hardly like to risk saying that an eight eon-year-old boy conductor (that’s right) reminds me of Toscanini, but I will say that no one else around now reminds me more of Toscanini, There are little clumsinesses here and there in these performances, but on the whole they have a fresh, driving excitement (in gorgeous “ffrr” recording) that rekindles my old love for Rossini. Watch this boy and, meanwhile, buy this record.

Tchaikovsky: Festival Overture “1812”; Capriccio Italien (Antal Dorati conducting Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra; Lniversity of Minnesota Brass Band; bronze cannon — Strasbourg, 1701; chimes of the Darkness Memorial Tower, Vale Tniversitv; spoken commentary by Deems Taylor; Mercury MG-50054: 12”). This “1812” Overture is some kind of landmark, both in recording and in the art called high fidelity. The record is largely a creation of the audio engineers that worked on it, who dubbed in, rhythmically and unerringly, the sound of an antique brass cannon, lent by the U.S. Military Academy, and of the Yale-Harkness carillon. The latter is not heard in its prime purity, either, for Mercury’s Messrs. Fine and Hall ornamented it with a fainter reproduction of itself, played at double speed, in an attempt to duplicate the eflect ol 1812 Moscow’s thousand bell-towers ringing at once. The result could have been a pretentious fiasco, but it isn’t. It’s overpowering. Hardly anyone, no matter how musically sophisticated, will remain unmoved in the face ol this inspired clamor. Further, quite apart from the tape-trickery, the playing and recording of the Overture are quite the best that I ever have heard.

The same might be said for the Capricclo Italien, on the other side, though to tell the truth I hardly have heard it. yet, an admission that also applies to Mr. Taylor’s explanatory lecture. There is something compulsive about this “1812,” and after you’ve heard it you don’t feel like listening to anything else for quite a while.

Dyer-Bennet: Song Recital (Richard Dyer-Bennet, tenor with Spanish guitar; Dyer-Bennet Records-1: 12”). Not everyone will cotton to Richard Dyer-Bennet’s procedure of taking songs that were of folk origin (mostly) and refining them into something (almost) like art songs, not sociologically authentic but intelligible to everyone. To me, t hey appeal very much as they finally come fort h.

I do not often listen all the way through a collection likeDB-1, but in this case I did, purely for enjoyment. Critics more expert will point out that Dyer-Bennet’s voice is not flexible, though pleasant, and that his guitar accompaniment is repetitive, as it is. What I like is that he really can bring out the story-content of songs like “The Vicar of Bray,” “The Bonny Earl of Morey,” and “Down in the Valley,” as if there were joy for him in the telling. These songs were not fashioned to be heard as something quaint and bygone; they need no antique vestments. The recording is almost too realistic; one can hear the singer inhale occasionally.