December 18, 2012

Mercury Living Presence & Other Recordings

I have a large collection of classical LP's, many of which have never been transferred to digital format, or if they have been transferred commercially, have lost some of their excellent analogue audio qualities in the process.  Through this blog I'll make my own transfers available, always in lossless format.   The initial 100 or so offerings will be from my Mercury Living Presence collection, which although not complete, is quite large.  Other labels will follow.

About Mercury Records

Mercury Records built a devoted following among classical music listeners in the 1950's and 60's. In 1951, when the company was a Chicago-based independent, it launched its ''Olympian Series'' with the now classic recording of the Mussorgsky-Ravel ''Pictures at an Exhibition'' played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik.  In reviewing that disk in The New York Times, Howard Taubman wrote that the effect was ''like being in the living presence of the orchestra''; Pleased, Mercury adopted his phrase ''Living Presence'' as the rubric for its subsequent releases, and carried it well into the stereophonic era.

Published in the New York Times on September 30, 1990

"In bringing these historic recordings to compact disc, the aim of the production and engineering team was to capture as accurately as possible the true sound of the original tape and film masters.
Only the original masters were used for CD transfer, and, as in the recording sessions themselves, no equalization, filtering, compression, or limiting was used. The actual analog-to-digital conversion device used 128 times oversampling with proprietary noise-shaping techniques.
Throughout the CD mastering process, the digital master was compared to and matched against the 3-track master to ensure as true and faithful digital reproduction as possible.
For the transfer of these masters to the digital domain, the original Mercury vacuum-tube Westrex film recorder and Ampex 3-track tape machine were restored. in addition to providing the exact reciprocal of the original equalization curve, the tube technology replicated the full, rich sound, clarity of instrumental timbre, and solid convincing soundstage preserved on the original tapes or film.
This combination of classic tube technology and state-of-the-art digital equipment re-creates for compact disc the wide dynamic range, lifelike clarity, and spatial perspective of Mercury Living Presence.
Because of the historical significance of the Mercury Living Presence recordings, and in response to requests from record collectors, it was decided to use the original LP covers and liner notes whenever possible." 

For those wishing to know more (much more) about Mercury recordings I highly recommend the following site:   Some sites dealing with the subject are quite specialized. There is, for example, one devoted exclusively to Mercury LP labels: http.//

No lossy mp3 files here. My uploads on this blog are all lossless (.wav format), packaged as either .ape or .flac files.  These,  after being downloaded, can be (and, I hope will be,) converted back into the original .wav files for storage in your computer, cloud, or whatever ... ). The quality of these performances and recordings deserves nothing less.  In digitizing  my LPs, I use a 0.25 mil stylus for the monophonic recordings, and a hyper-elliptical stylus for the stereo ones.   The phono cartridge signal goes into a vacuum tube preamplifier, usually set for the RIAA curve,  in order to benefit from the unique, very musical quality that tube equipment affords, and from there by a USB connection to my Mac's sound card.   I respect Mercury's "hands off the controls" recording philosophy, and don't boost, diminish, or alter the original signal in any way. I may infrequently apply some minimal click reduction to LPs that I've obtained second-hand.  The LP cover and CD booklet scans are high-definition for those who prefer to roll their own.

NOTE:  For any download issues, comments, or questions, please send me a message:

PLEASE NOTE:  The following instructions apply to the albums on this blog that contain more than one link (split files).

After having downloaded the split  files, you then need to combine them into a single file.  How you do this will depend on what operating system you use.  If you're running Windows, you can download the freeware program HJSplit .  For Mac users there's the freeware Split&Concat .  Use these progams to combine the multiple files you have downloaded to produce a single one.  This file, when unzipped,  contains all of the album's tracks in lossless .flac or .ape format, as well as high-resolution scans of the front and back album covers.


As an introduction to the Mercury series, I include here an interview with its producer, Wilma Cozart Fine during which she explains the special characteristics of the recording process used, reminisces about Rafael Kubelik,  and talks about the enduring appeal of these recordings to collectors.



 Saint-Saëns - Symphony No.3 in C minor, Op.78

This is one of my favorites from the Mercury Living Presence series.  For me, this Paray/Dupré recording of the Saint-Säens 3rd is still unsurpassed.
The Detroit Symphony's web site notes: "The "Organ" Symphony  is cast in seething Teutonic mysticism and is usually played with booming bass and surging power. Paray lightens the textures and yields a lithe, supple and pointed reading in which inner voices are far more prominent than usual. It's always fascinating and significant to hear a conductor's own compositions in which they can reveal their own aesthetic outlook even more readily than when interpreting the instructions of others. Despite the gravity of its timeless theme, Paray's own Mass, written in 1931, is a deeply beautiful work; ardent, lush and romantic, yet buoyant, refreshing and gracious. Without being blatantly innovative, it's original enough to not sound derivative and is a work that should be far better known. With this example of how Paray chose to organize his own musical world, his application of similar principles to the music of others fits into place. The CD concludes with touching impromptu remarks Paray made to the performers upon concluding this recording session. More striking than the words themselves is the extreme difficulty with which he tried to express his thoughts in English years after assuming his position at the helm of a great American orchestra. Perhaps it only goes to show that despite cultural nationalism, music is indeed the most universal of all languages." 

"Preceding Munch with a first stereo recording, but lacking RCA’s vast marketing clout, Paray bestows a magnificent idiomatic reading of elegance, grace and precision, complete with an authentic “French” sound from the orchestra he had trained in Detroit (of all places).  Arguably, this is the work’s first truly French recording – Coppola was trained in Italy, while Munch was Alsatian and presented a blend of French and German blood, both physiologically and aesthetically. With prominent inner voices, Paray's lithe, supple, evenly-paced approach with restrained dynamics revels in the score’s abundant coloration and echoes the descriptions (if not the evidence on record) of the composer’s own playing. The impact is abetted by a superbly crisp and detailed recording with remarkably precise stereo imaging (all achieved elegantly with only three mics) that captures the clarity of the textures and invites an understanding and appreciation of the composer's gifts of orchestration that the blurrier acoustic of Munch and many others tends to obscure. " (from www.classicalnotes)

Paray - Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

Paray was a prolific composer of both instrumental and vocal works.  Having already composed an oratorio in 1913 honoring Joan of Arc, in 1931 he created this mass.  This is, as far as I know, its only recording.

new (working) links below:


hanson cover

Hanson - Symphony No.3
Elegy in Memory of My Friend Serge Koussevitzky
Lament for Beowulf
Eastman Rochester Orchestra & Chorus
Howard Hanson

Moving right along .... The Mercury issues are a prime source of recordings of Hanson's works. I've always been enchanted by his "Elegy in Memory of Serge Koussevitzky". It appeared originally on a Mercury LP that also contained the "Song of Democracy" for chorus and orchestra as well as songs composed by Lewis Lane.   Since CDs can contain more music than LPs, the CD reissues changed many of the LP couplings.

Here are some useful descriptions of the works on this LP:
The Third Symphony's ruminative expectation is crowned by starkly crushing brass statements seemingly descriptive of some Nordic tempest. The trudging and rushing forward momentum (5:40) is explosive and propulsive. Hanson superbly sustains, accents and goads the progress of the music. He also insists on some mice dynamic contrasts. Sibelius 2 can be heard in those dynamic pizzicato rushes" from the violins. In the second movement softly chanting woodwind gently launches one of those long string melodies related to that in the Second Symphony. In the third movement there are echoes of Sibelius 3 in the chipper writing for woodwind. This mixed with shadows of Sibelius 1 and the folk â la stompa we hear in Peterson-Berger and later in the symphonies of Hilding Rosenberg. The finale is strident, gripping, raw, dark and sinuously Nordic.

The Koussevitsky Elegy is the most sincere and indomitably built of all the works included here. He owed much to Koussevitsky including the commission for both the second symphony and the piano concerto. Koussevitsky also recorded the Third Symphony on 78s and this has been reissued on Dutton in their Essential Archive series CDEA5021.

The Lament for Beowulf dates from Hanson's days in Rome and his studies with Respighi. It is amongst his most potently brooding works. It carries all his irresistible fingerprints: long-spun themes, gruff brass punctuation, Holstian insistence from the drums, taciturn majesty, and string ostinati with brass punch-syncopated above. At 13m19s there is a delirious counterpoint rising to majesty, and at 16m30s a Neptune-like evocation of eternity fades into mystery.

Rob Barnett (

New (working) links below


Sarker cover

Dvorak - Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104
Bruch - Kol Nidrei
Tchaikovsky - Variations on a Rococo Theme
Janos Starker, violoncello
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

nty logo
September 30, 1990

" ... Dorati conducts the London Symphony for Janos Starker in the great cellist's patrician performances of the Dvorak Concerto, Bruch's ''Kol Nidrei'' and Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme..

" Mercury are justly proud of the recordings they made in the early stereo epoch and are now enabling us to hear them as never before. Though I have heard this only in its CD form, this recording has range, depth and definition that are truly amazing, with every detail of Dvořák’s orchestral score (and what a lot of detail it has!) heard as, quite frankly, never before, yet all sounding quite naturally balanced with the solo cello. If it had been sent to me as a recording made in the last year or so, I don’t think I would ever have suspected otherwise. Compared with other early stereo accounts, for example the Rostropovich/Boult/EMI (the cello sounds fine but the orchestra is congested) or the Hoelscher/Keilberth/Telefunken (a beautiful performance ruined by the backward placing of the orchestra though, again, the cello sounds well), this is in another league." MusicWeb International

New (working) links:

CD cover

 Balalaika Favorites
Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra

This cover proudly proclaims the recording as a Cold War first.  Unusual repertory typifying the eclecticism of the entire MLP classical catalog.   Who can resist a balalaika orchestra playing "Midnight in Moscow"?
nty logo
September 30, 1990

"In 1962 Mercury became the first Western company to send its own recording team to the Soviet Union. The fruits of those sessions are on two of the CD's - 50 minutes of ''Balalaika Favorites'' recorded in a nonstop midnight session by the Osipov Russian State Folk Orchestra, and the two Liszt concertos with Byron Janis".

"... this is irresistible, and the recording is superbly real in its CD format." (The Penguin Guide)
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Ibert - Escales
Ravel - Rhapsody Espagnole
Alborada del Gracioso
Pavane pour une infante défunte
La Valse
Le Tombeau de Couperin
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

 Olympian MG50056 Original LP cover 
(Ravel Rapsodie and Ibert Escales)

nty logo
September 30, 1990

"Paul Paray conducted the premiere of Jacques Ibert's ''Escales'' in 1924, and a sense of self-renewing affection for the piece may be felt in the performance he recorded in Detroit in 1962. It comes with the even more magical ones of ''La Valse'' and four other Ravel works - an especially striking example of Mercury's success in balancing warmth and shimmer, a ''round'' sound with startling sharpness of detail."

New working links:



Liszt - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Byron Janis

Van Cliburn got the hero's welcome in New York, but Janis received Russian adulation well before the Texan's Tchaikovsky Competition prize.

Janis dispatches the meretricious yet sentimentally entertaining two Liszt concertos with all the élan and tireless confidence you would expect. The Second Piano Concerto is the finer work with more musical substance and it again shines in the hands of Janis and the Rozhdestvensky whether in elfin display, thunderous triumph, or melancholy swoon.  MusicWeb International

For an excellent article about Byron Janis in the Soviet Union, see:

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You Are There!

A promotional CD with 22 selections from the Mercury Living Presence catalog, offering a taste of what's to come on this blog.  Besides the music tracks, the download includes two .pdf files taken from scans of the original booklet that detail the history of the series, the contributions of Wilma Cozart Fine and her team, as well as comments on their pioneer recording experiences in the Soviet Union.

Track List:

New working links:


cd cover scan

Prokofiev - Romeo and Juliet (Ballet Suites Nos. 1 & 2)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Moussorgsky - A Night on Bald Mountain
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
Review by Ivan March, Gramophone [3/1991]

Skrowaczewski's version of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet ballet suites is one of the very best things he has recorded. The LP made an extremely strong impression when it first appeared here in 1965, although the recording was actually made in 1962, after Dorati had brought the Minneapolis orchestra to a high peak of achievement. The playing is often electrifying in its precision and delicacy—witness the very opening filigree on the high violins in the ''Folk Dance'' of Suite No. 1 or the delectably precise articulation of the portrayal of Mercutio which follows. Skrowaczewski's subtlety of rubato, both in the latter (track 2) and the wonderfully delicate ''Madrigal'' which follows (when Romeo first approaches Juliet), is equally memorable for the wistful character of the orchestral playing.  
The ''Balcony scene'' with its gently soaring string line is ravishingly done, and then in the ''Death of Tybalt'' there is a frenzied burst of sheer bravura from the violins, with exhilaratingly sharp articulation that makes the nape of the neck tingle. Prokofiev did not strictly follow the narrative line in the order of his selections and so ''Juliet as a young girl'' comes in Suite No. 2. It again brings playing which combines a gossamer touch with unpretentious virtuosity of the highest order, while at the closing climax of ''Romeo at Juliet's grave'' the music's pungent agony and sense of apotheosis is powerfully expressed (the bite of the violin line well matched by the turbulent horns and mordant brass).
The acoustics of Edison High School in Minneapolis and the refined clarity of the recording seem ideal for Prokofiev's scoring: the effect is never too voluptuous, and the bigger climaxes are projected with great dramatic force. There are other fine modern selections from what, in my view, is Prokofiev's greatest score and, perhaps, the greatest of all ballets, but none which captures its unique atmosphere and character more tellingly. There are excellent notes relating the music to the action, and which appealingly quote from the Shakespearean text to set the mood of the major excerpts.
Dorati's (1960) A night on the Bare Mountain (rather more sumptuously recorded, in Watford Town Hall) makes a good filler. It is a dramatic performance, not always conventional in pacing, with a particularly poignant closing section—again, Mercury engineering at its most impressive, with the resonant sonorities never clouding the detail.

New working links:

cd cover scan

 Kodály - Háry Janos Suite
Dances of Galántia
Marosszék Dances
Bartok - Hungarian Sketches
Minneapoiis Symphony/Philarmonica Hungarica, Antal Dorai

A supreme interpreter of this music of his countrymen, Dorati here conducts the Minneapolis and the Philharmonia Hungarica orchestras (the former which he brought to world prominence through its MLP recordings, and the latter composed of Hungarian refugees from the Soviet Union, and of which Dorati was Honorary President). 
nty logo
September 30, 1990

"Dorati's disk of works by Kodaly (''Hary Janos'' Suite, ''Dances of Galanta'' and ''Marosszek Dances'') and Bartok (''Hungarian Sketches,'''Romanian Dances''), recorded with the Minneapolis Symphony and Philharmonic Hungarica, finds the conductor and his orchestras at the top of their form, the Kodaly pieces are altogether more atmospheric, in terms of both warmth and brilliance, than Dorati's subsequent remakes for London/Decca."

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 Schoenberg - Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16 
Webern - Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op.10  
Berg - Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op.6
Lulu Suite 
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

September 30, 1990

... No less impressive is Dorati's Schoenberg/Berg/Webern disk with the London Symphony Orchestra, a sort of basic repertory of the Second Viennese School (has anyone else produced a scream quite as searing as Helga Pilarczyk's at the end of the ''Lulu'' Suite?)".

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Respighi - The Birds 
Brazilian Impressions
 London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
Respighi - The Fountains of Rome 
The Pines of Rome
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

"Brazil has been always a radiant beacon in the febrile imagination of Europe: From Jules Verne to Alexander von Humboldt; from Darwin to Darius Milhaud, the search for an essential sample of virginal nature has inflamed and nourished the ancestral landscapes of Europe: the wild Amazon river, the intricate and dense jungles; the visible attraction for the mystery of unknown, touched the soul of Respighi in composing this fabulous sketch. While the other works here are among the best recordings of them ever made, it's the Brazilian Impressions that excites the most. Like Milhaud, Respighi was astounded by his trip to Brazil and it opened up for him a creative horizon that counteracted his serious, depressive illnesses. The 'Brazilian Impressions' point toward a direction that led to other of his triumphs such as the great ballet "Queen of Sheba", the opera "Maria Egiziaca", the sublime orchestral "Metamorpheosen" that gives any great orchestra as much of a workout as Bartok's Concerto.
'The Birds' is a suite for reduced orchestra. Once more the pantheist gaze of this composer points out the influence of Italian Neoclassicism lead by Casella. Five clavichordists fragments of the XVII century inspired by the song of several birds (from pages of Pasquini, Phillipe Rameau and Jacques de Gallot and a British anonym ). It can feel the deliberated hedonistic avidity so typical of this Century as a clear response to the Age of Rationalism: the triumph of triviality over reason empire." Hiram Gomez Pardo

Attention, and thanks for your patience:  New working links:



Hanson - Symphony No. 1 "Nordic" 
Symphony No.2 "Romantic"
Song of Democracy
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra/Eastman School of Music Chorus - Howard Hanson

The New York Times
September 30, 1990

"The 10 disks in the first Mercury Living Presence CD release were chosen, said Mrs. Fine, to represent both the range of the label's artists and repertory and the specific recordings most in demand. At the head of the list for many collectors will be Howard Hanson conducting his own Symphonies Nos. 1 (the ''Nordic'') and 2 (the ''Romantic'').

While it is gratifying to find this music returning to concert halls and to have young American conductors recording it, no one has brought out as much substance in these symphonies, or as much sheer, sweeping excitement, as Hanson himself. He believed in his own music and communicated his evangelistic fervor to his Eastman-Rochester Orchestra. The irresistible disk includes his choral ''Song of Democracy,'' with the Eastman School Chorus singing the Walt Whitman text."

Hanson composed his "Song of Democracy" as a commission in 1957 for the 50th Anniversary of the Music Educators National Conference.  In 1969 it was performed at the inaugural concert for incoming U.S. President Richard Nixon. Hanson proudly noted this was the first inaugural concert to feature exclusively American music.
I have a particular affection for this work.  There is an innocence and naiveté in the music and in Whitman's text that in our politically more cynical times, I find refreshing,  nostalgic, and even inspiring. I've included the Whitman text sung by the chorus in the links below.

New links (thanks, Paul and Daryl !)

Corrected texts for Song of Democracy


Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.4
Piano Concerto No.5 ("Emperor")
Gina Bachauer, piano
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati  / Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

"Unjustly neglected and sadly under-recorded Greek pianist Gina Bachauer (1910 [and not 1913, as we commonly read] - 1976) was a pupil of Cortot and had extensively worked with Rachmaninoff too. Perhaps because she was such an astonishingly good all-round player – a true 'generalist' – Bachauer has been too little regarded in recent years. And like several other great pianists she was rarely heard at her best in the studio. But, try out this recording and you will see, as B. Morrisson (Gramophone magazine, August 2005) put it, "what a phenomenon she was, [...] an artist whose exultant virtuosity and unswerving musical honesty became one of music’s legends. Fittingly described by Barbirolli as ‘glorious Gina’, her New York debut in 1950 was heard by Myra Hess who, although markedly different in style and repertoire, saw her as her natural heir, a pianist in the grandest of grand traditions [...].  Bachauer was a strong and committed woman: She gave more than 600 concerts for the Allied soldiers in the Middle East during WWII and her estate founded the annual Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition".  ( review)

This recording is from 1963.

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Jacob - Suite:William Byrd
Walton - Crown Imperial March
Holst - Hammersmith: Prelude & Scherzo
Bennett - Symphonic Songs for Band
Williams - Fanfare & Allegro 
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell  

Here are some prime examples of the symphonic band literature.  An enthusiastic reviewer wrote: I waited sixteen years for this recording to become available again, after first hearing it on the radio, and it was well worth the wait. The sound on this release, as well as on the others in this Mercury series of vintage recordings, is amazingly spacious and dynamic. This disc's rousing version of the Crown Imperial Coronation March is THE definitive recorded performance of that work. Complete with a stirring, regal melody, startling cannon blast, majestic organ, chimes, cymbals, shattering gong crashes, and thunderous drums, it will literally blow your socks off!

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Schumann - Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op.129
Lalo - Cello Concerto in D Minor
Saint-Saëns - Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op.33
                         London Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski /Antal Dorati

From a sample review: "Schumann rapidly composed his Cello Concerto in only two weeks during an extremely productive creative phase. Its first performance was quite another story. Although the piece was written "first and foremost for this beautiful instrument," no cellist from Frankfurt had shown interest in the piece, but then declined to play it after Schumann had refused to comply with his wishes for certain changes. This led to the unfortunate fact that Schumann did not live to see the work's premiere. Things went quite differently with Edouard Lalo, who described himself as a self-taught composer; an excellent cellist himself, Lalo could be sure that his work would be heard in the concert hall. Both works are connected by the pioneering attempt to establish the cello as a solo instrument in concert life in the 19th century. Right from the fifth bar of the Schumann concerto Janos Starker is able to display his mastership in the expansive main theme. In the Lalo too he demonstrates his absolute virtuosity."

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         Stravinsky - The Firebird (complete ballet)
                                                   London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

" is perhaps (Dorati's) very finest record, and the LSO play with marvelous sensitivity and a glowing preciseness of detail which continually fascinates the ear... "
Ivan March in The Gramophone

In their LP issues, due to the need to fit extremely wide dynamics onto the disk medium, MLP recordings were sometimes less than 40 minutes in length. The CD re-issues don't, of course, face that problem and thus they tend to be more generous. This one contains over 70 minutes of demonstration-quality sound.

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Enesco - Roumanian Rhapsody No.1
Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 1-6 
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Six of the orchestrated Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies and Enesco's Roumanian Rhapsody No.1, in readings which succeed marvelously in capturing the spirit of a Gypsy (or apparently, nowadays the politically correct label is "Romani") band.

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  Gould - Spirituals
 Fall River Legend (Ballet Suite)
Barber - Medea (Ballet Suite)
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

"The ... disc gives us Morton Gould's Spirituals of which there are five. Gould manages to blend gorgeous liquidity of string lines with a pungent syntax which, for all the searing and occasional brashness, always roots these studies in seriousness. Yes, there's the easeful charm of the Sermon and also the "pizz and percussion" snap of A Little Bit Of Sin but the Protest reasserts deeper significance before allowing the open air Jubilee to run riot; just a touch too much cow-pokery, perhaps.
The full Fall River Legend ballet music has recently been recorded by Naxos. But here we get the far more familiar concert suite, cast in six movements. The Church Social remains a high point of Hanson's conducting, the Copland hues studded throughout never thoughtlessly brought forward, but rather adding their own layer of influence to those of the hymnal and the wistful abstraction Gould so richly evokes.
Barber's Medea appropriately carries on the ballet theme and fuses rhythmic verve with the romantic impress of The Young Princess, the crypto-cinematic with the spare reflectiveness of Kantikos Agonias. " (Review from Music Web)
"Here Hanson performs some of the better known compositions by two leading 20th Century American composers, Samuel Barber and Morton Gould. These performances of "Medea Suite," "Spirituals," and "Fall River Legend" are truly without peers. Maybe that is why collectors prize these recordings, because they are a breath of fresh air in a homogenized world of listening. Of course, collectors love a challenge too, and MLP CDs are becoming increasingly hard to find. It has taken years for me to finally find all of the MLP CDs released to date, and unfortunately I don't think there will be any new releases forthcoming. So collectors, and even those who aspire to be, should pick up as many Mercury Living Presence discs as possible now, before they all die." (from review)

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Bartok - Concerto for Orchestra
Dance Suite 
Two Portraits
 Mikrokosmos (excerpts)
London Symphony Orchestra / Philharmonia Hungarica, Antal Dorat

As might be expected, Dorati's interpretations of the works of his fellow countryman Béla Bartók are all superb.

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Bloch - Concerto Grosso No.1
Concerto Grosso No.2
Georges Miquelle, violoncello
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

This CD re-issue contains works from two LP's:
SR90223 contains the Bloch Concerto Grossi (this CD uses that LP's cover). The other LP is SR90286, containing Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody for Violoncello and Orchestra).  The other work on SR90286,  Victor Herbert's Cello Concerto No.2,  is on another Mercury CD re-issue and is offered on this blog as #31, coupled the Grofé Grand Canyon suite.

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Prokofiev - Scythian Suite
The Love for Three Oranges
Symphony No.5
London Symphony Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony, Antal Dorati

An very generous and diverse offering of samples of Prokofiev's output for ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra, brilliantly recorded by Mercury's engineers.
The Scythian Suite comes from the composer's enfant terrible period, during which the young Prokofiev managed to both shock listeners and displease the Soviet authorities. In retrospect, why this is so in the case of this particular music is a bit puzzling. Perhaps extolling the marvelous diversity of the Soviet Union's cultures was not an official priority at the time.

An interesting side-note: Where the Scythians came from, and which racial stock they were, are hotly debated questions --sometimes even in international courts--even to this day. They were most likely from the Altai region, or perhaps from an area slightly west of it. The remains of buried and subsequently frozen individuals found in places such as the Pazyryk kurgans indicate some people with strong Mongolian features, and others who were blond, with quite European features. We do know that in one important respect they were very different from the mounted archers who came after them: many of their best and most celebrated warriors--or at least those who were given the most elaborate funerals--were women.  It was almost certainly these Scythian female warriors who inspired the Greek depictions of the Amazons.  According to Herodotus, "No Scythian woman may marry until she has killed a man of the enemy." Such reports, and the evidence of Scythian art and craft were routinely dismissed until the latter part of the 20th century, with the discovery of the remains of Scythian women buried in their riding clothing--identical to that of men--together with their bows, their swords, and their horses.
The suite that Prokofiev compiled from his comic opera The Love for Three Oranges contains some of his most memorable melodies. The piano arrangement of its "March" was a favorite encore in Artur Rubinstein's recitals.
The Fifth Symphony is no doubt the most popular of Prokofiev's seven excursions into this form, and exemplifies to the full his astounding lyrical gifts as well as his sardonic humor.

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Grainger - Lincolnshire Posy
Hill Song No.2
Persichetti - Symphony for Band
Khachaturian - Armenian Dances
Hartley - Concerto for 23 Winds
Rogers - Three Japanese Dances
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell

An Eastman Wind Ensemble Tour de Force.  The Granger and the Rogers are taken from the LP title "Winds in HiFi"
, SR90173, which is on The Absolute Sound's list of "Must-Have Recordings".

 The Persichetti, Hartley, and Khachaturian pieces are from SR-90221, "Diverse Winds".

Grainger found his inspiration in the folksongs of rural Lincolnshire and the sound of Scottish bagpipes (his favorite of all musical sonorities). The Hartley Concerto for 23 Winds was written especially for the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Perischettis Symphony for Band is one of several his works recorded by Fennell.  Khachaturian's "Two Armenian Dances" are tuneful and dazzling, Rogers "Three Japanese Dances ("Merely acts of fancy") are colorful studies in contrast.

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Fabulous Marches for Orchestra
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell

This re-issue contains selections from two LP issues conducted by Fennell: "Fabulous Marches for Orchestra", played by the Eastman-Rochester Pops, and "Wagner for Band" with the Eastman Wind Ensemble (see entry no.80 for the LP, SR90276). 

1. Walton:  Orb And Sceptre (Coronation March)
2. Beethoven: The Ruins Of Athens: Turkish March
3. Sibelius: Karelia Suite: Alla Marcia
4. Borodin: Prince Igor: March
5. Schubert: Marche Militaire, Op. 51, No. 1
6. Grieg: Sigurd Jorsalfar: Homage March
7. Wagner: Tannhauser: March
8.               Overture to 'Rienzi'
9.               Parsifal: Good Friday Music

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 Ives - Three Places in New England
Symphony No.3
Schuman - New England Triptych
Mennin - Symphony No.5 

Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

Here are excellent examples of some of the American music offered by Mercury.
The company had issued recordings of works by Charles Ives long before Columbia's best-selling performance/lecture recording of the 2nd Symphony in which Bernstein introduces Ives as an "unknown".
"Mennin's fifth symphony of 1950, which is tonal, energetic and suspenseful, was recorded by Howard Hanson and the Eastman Rochester Orchestra in the Mercury series of American classical works -- the original LP also included the "New England Triptich" of William Schuman -- and for years was the only widely-available recording of Mennin's work, though its reissue on CD prompted several other recordings of Mennin compositions." (Wikipedia)

This is among the most sought-after of the Living Presence compilations.

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Bach - Complete Cello Suites - Janos Starker, violoncello

A double CD album.
Starker, was principal cello of Toscanini's NBC Symphony and then professor extraordinaire at Indiana University.  He recorded the Bach suites five times, produced a wonderful and unique tone, with no Rostropovich or Yo Yo-Ma refulgence. The sound can be quite 'wiry' at times. But he gets right to the heart of these pieces. His technique is flawless, his intonation impeccable. The Suites just sound 'inevitable' as the music flows along. He frequently changes his dynamics and tone in order to maintain interest. These recordings are justly famous.  Fingerboard noise, resin on bow, breathing, body movement. It's all here.

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 Smetana - Má Vlast ("My Country")
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik

"The present set of ['Ma Vlast'] stands as a monument to Kubelik's three-year accomplishment in Chicago. I know of no other living conductor who could duplicate Kubelik's success with the specific repertory. A native Czech himself, this is obviously a labor of love on Kubelik's part ... and he has inflamed the men of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with his own ardor. The music fairly leaps off the disks with an irresistible and compelling power. Fully cognizant of the history-making performances they were recording, the inspired Mercury engineers have responded with what one is tempted to say is even finer recording than their justly-famous reproduction of the Kubelik-Chicago 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. In short, my friends, here is one of the all-time greats in the history of reproduced music."
Martin Bookspan, The Jewish Advocate, 1953

We will forgive (won't we?) Bookspan's unthinking reference to the single gender   makeup of the Chicago Symphony. After all, this was 1953.

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Piano Concerto No.3
Byron Janis
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra / London Symphony Orchestra, 
Antal Dorati

I'm tempted to say "definitive".  These performances have been acclaimed as essential since their release.  The Mercury team performed their usual wizardry, capturing every nuance of the glowing ambience of these inspired readings. The Preludes are a nice bonus. Although Rachmaninoff subsequently regretted the day that he wrote that one in C-sharp minor,  hearing Janis play it, I, for one, am very glad that he did.

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French Opera Highlights
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

Paul Paray was a master in this repertory. Surely here he had the members of the Detroit Symphony playing on the edge of their seats. If this performance of the Zampa Overture doesn't get your feet tapping, you'd better check your vital signs.

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Fennell Conducts Sousa
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell

"There's absolutely nothing to dislike about this album, assuming of course that you like marches. Frederick Fennell conducts Sousa's miniature masterpieces with all the brio and zest you could wish for, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble's playing matches the power, polish, and pizazz of some of the finest military bands. More than 24 items are included in this generous collection featuring such relative rarities as Solid Men to the Front!, Sesqui-Centennial Exposition, Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, as well as popular showpieces such as Sound Off!, The Liberty Bell, Sable and Spurs, and The Glory of the Yankee Navy, which brings the program to a rousing close. Oddly missing is Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, but surely the true march connoisseur already has at least one other recording of this perennial favorite. For audiophiles, this one's a winner; for march fans, it's a must." --Victor Carr Jr. [Muzicweb International 2/5/2005]

"This is the Sousa record for people who are serious about marches. Sousa was the greatest march composer in the history of - well, marching - and this disc includes many fresh and interesting pieces that will likely be unfamiliar, as well as a couple of favorites (including "The Liberty Bell," famous as the theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus). But by and large, this disc focuses on the less well known pieces, though there's not a dud in the lot. Sousa had a special gift for orchestration and for writing tunes with real rhythmic interest; his marches never sound dull. Frederick Fennell is simply the best wind band conductor around, and these performances are standard- setters." - David Hurwitz

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Copland - Appalachian Spring
Billy the Kid (complete)
Danzón Cubano
El Salón México
London Symphony Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

"Aaron Copland is among those Americans whose compositions have found worldwide recognition. Measured against his long lifespan (1900 to1990), his creative phase was relatively short, and indeed he hardly composed at all from the 1960s onward.  His most important works were his answer to the musical crisis of the 1930's, and he has gone down in history as having greatly influenced the development of new music in the USA. The ballets "Appalachian Spring" (1944) and "Billy the Kid" (1938) are among the key works of their day. Both have folkloric traits, which brought Copland the reputation of having a penchant for borrowed melodies. In reality, the well-known tunes are very subtly treated and modified, and are incorporated into large-scale, defined forms. Now and again, melodic echoes of Mahler's music or highly rhythmic exposed passages reminiscent of Stravinsky flash through. The ballet "Billy the Kid" is thoroughly American. Arranged in orchestral 'wide-screen sound', as it were, cowboy melodies glow with the very best Wild West tradition, and are bedded in a dramaturgy which is almost ripe for a film soundtrack. The signal to Hollywood is virtually unmistakable. That is America" - from High Fidelity Discs / Xingo B.V.

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Grofé - Grand Canyon Suite
Mississippi Suite
Herbert - Cello Concerto No.2
Georges Miquelle, violoncello
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

Perhaps Wilhelm Furtwangler had Ferdinand ("Ferde") Grofe in mind when he very unfairly remarked that ""America has no composers, only arrangers." Indeed, Grofe was a prolific arranger for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and for others. His Mississippi Suite (the river, not the state) was composed in 1925 while he was still Whiteman's arranger.  The  ubiquitous Grand Canyon Suite has been recorded scores of times. Here we have one of the best renditions. And then there's the stunning Mercury cover art ... 

Irish-born Victor Herbert spent his childhood in Germany and England, and at the age of 27 moved to New York where his soprano wife sang the role of Aida in the Met's first production of that opera, while Herbert played cello in the orchestra. His later fame as a composer of operettas, 43 in number, including Babes in Toyland, and Naughty Marietta, obfuscated his many other works.  We should be grateful to Herbert for composing this cello concerto if for nothing else that it inspired Dvorak to write one as well.

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Chabrier - España
Suite Pastorale
Féte Polonaise
Overture to "Gwendoline"
Danse Slave
Joyeuse Marche
Bourrée Fantastique
Roussel - Suite in F
Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray

Here's more French orchestral music from the baton of Paray. In España Chabrier follows in the long tradition of his countrymen's fascination with their neighbor to the south. It's remarkable how Paray was able to imbue the Detroiters with such sunny joie de vivre.

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Ravel - Daphnis et Cloe, Suite No.2
Valses nobles et sentimentales
Debussy - Three Nocturnes
Petite Suite
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

"In this recording, you get to hear the absolutely best performance of "Bolero" ever commmited to disk. Paul Paray recorded this in the early days of stereo, and it's not been bettered since. The way the conductor controls the momentum and inexorably builds to a truly shattering climax is amazing ... and mesmerizing! The "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales" is performed here as a dance number, not some sort of "dream sequence" like so many other conductors do.  It's good to remember that this piece was performed as a ballet in Paris in 1912, in a memorable evening in the annals of dance that also included La Peri (Dukas) and La Tragedie de Salome (Florent Schmitt).

 The Debussy "Nocturnes" are given a highly effective performance as well. Paray's clouds drift by more quickly in the "Nuages" movement when compared to the lazy pace of other conductors, while the "Fetes" movement carries the listener along on the crest of its own excitement. In the concluding "Sirenes", for once a conductor treats the "call of the sirens" as a portend of danger and death, not some sort of comforting quietude. There's a weird kind of nervous energy to this performance that is different from any other interpretation I've heard - and completely convincing. After you've experienced this, it's really hard to go back to the scads of other "Nocturnes" recordings that just sound boring by comparison.

 If you were to purchase only one disk of Ravel and Debussy orchestral chestnuts, this would be the one to buy. It's even better, IMHO, than Paray's other Ravel/DSO/Mercury CD featuring La Valse, Rapsodie Espagnole and several other works." (from review at

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Barber - Capricorn Concerto
Piston - The Incredible Flutist
Griffes - Poem for Flute and Orchestra
McCauley - Five Miniatures for Flute and Strings
Kennan - Three Pieces for Orchestra
Bergsma - Gold and the Señor Commandante
  Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

"The disc is an especially strong one. Barber's Capricorn Concerto was recorded in 1959. Its occasional spiky brittleness is offset by some neo-classical wind frippery, not least in the Allegretto second movement, and some crisp Stravinskyisms ensure that the finale doesn't dawdle. Piston's The Incredible Flutist has received its fair share of recordings over the years but this one with Joseph Mariano has particular zest. Hanson captures just the right kind of solemn entry in the Vendors movement and presents the orchestra's chattering high winds and sepulchral low brass to fine effect in the Entrance of the Customers. The Siciliano is especially lovely in these hands and adds lustre to the performance as a whole, an entirely sympathetic one. Griffes, one of the big What Ifs? of American music, is represented by his Poem for Flute and Orchestra, Mariano once more. Impressionist, yes of course, but with sturdy bardic calls and dancery, a male and female opposition successfully resolved.
Also here are short pieces by Kennan, McCauley and Bergsma. The Kennan Three Pieces for Orchestra certainly wastes no time in getting confident; this is bold and colourful occasional music but any more reflective moments saved for the central Nocturne. McCauley has his Five Miniatures for Flute and Strings - which is warm in its well-orchestrated fourth movement and flirts with a fugato in its finale, somewhat unnecessarily, as he obviously had the compositional heft to stick to his guns. Bergsma, who died in 1994, was a Hanson pupil and contributes a ballet suite, which has its colour and pantomimic moments very much on show, and with some heady percussion in the Sinister Dance." (review from Music Web International)

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Rimsky-Korsakov -  Russian Easter Overture
Suite from Le Coq d'Or
Capriccio Espagnol
Borodin - Polovtsian Dances
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

The primary concern remains the music, and Antal Dorati's vibrant, colorful performances, with stunning playing from the London Symphony Orchestra (the sweetly swooning strings in Le Coq d'Or; the brazen brass in the Russian Easter Overture; the gorgeous woodwinds in the Polovtsian Dances) should be reason enough to purchase this disc.

--Victor Carr Jr

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  Suppé and Auber Overtures
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

Rousing performances. A knowledgeable friend tells me that in France and Belgium, Masaniello is best known as "La Muette de Portici".

Can you listen to Light Calvary without imagining Mickey conducting it?  I can't. 

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Carousel Waltz and Popovers II
London Pops Orchestra / Eastman-Rochester Pops, Frederick Fennell

"Whither the Pops concert? Orchestras still program them, but as popular music changes, so does the composition of the typical Pops concert. Furthermore, these concerts tend to be programmed with a regional consciousness: American Pops concerts focus on American music, English Pops concerts focus on English music, and so on. As a result, much worthwhile "popular" music falls in the cracks as one moves along in time and space.
Consider the contents of this Frederick Fennell CD. When was the last time that you heard Giovanni Bolzoni's Minuet, Edward German's Henry VIII Dances, or Arthur Benjamin's Cotillon Suite ? (Yes, that's the way Benjamin spells it.) Modern American orchestras are unlikely to program these tidbits for their Pops series simply because these tidbits are no longer popular. It's partly a question of conductors and artistic administrators not knowing this music, and it's partly a question of economics: name recognition is important in classical music, just as it is everywhere else.
This reissue shows us some of the things that we've been missing recently as the Pops concert has evolved, particularly in America. The works by Bolzoni, German, and Benjamin are smooth treats and nicely-aged in my mind, I can almost hear the comforting hiss of a 78-rpm record accompanying them on a Saturday afternoon. This CD also includes short works that still are in the repertoire, such as the "Dance of the Russian Sailors" from Gliére's The Red Poppy and the waltz-pantomime (given in its entirety here) from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.  Fennell and his two lusty orchestras sound overjoyed to be playing this music. Rhythms snap like twigs on a cold day in winter,  but the sunny melodies keep the mood cheerful and warm. For example, for a lesson on how to phrase and shape even the tritest tune into something that's infectious, listen to the "Aragonaise" from Massenet's Le Cid.  If you want probably intentional vulgarity, try the uncredited orchestration (I don't think it's Lucien Caillet's) of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor;  it's perfect for Liza on the ice.
The Eastman selections were taped in 1959, and those from London  in 1965 and have better sound. The popovers pictured on the cover look delicious; the popovers inside sound delicious too."
(Classical Net review)

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McPhee - Tabuh-Tabuhan / Sessions - The Black Maskers / Thompson - Symphony on a Hymn Tune - The Feast of Love -
 Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

Here is some more eclectic, adventurous programing by Mercury, and part of its American Composers Series. Colin McPhee's work is based on Balinese 
instruments and rhythms (thus the striking cover photo).  Roger Sessions wrote The Black Maskers for the senior class play of Smith College in 1923.  It had eight numbers and was for a small orchestra.  Five years later he revised the music as a four-movement suite for a large symphony orchestra.  Virgil Thomson's The Feast of Love, for baritone and orchestra, is a setting in the composer's free translation of the Pervigilium Veneris, a collection of rhymed Latin stanzas from the second to the fourth century, A.D., celebrating the three-day festival of Venus.  Where else can collectors find such unusual repertory?

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  Widor - Allegro (from Symphony No.6)
Franck - Piece Heroique
Three Chorales
Marcel Dupré, organ

It shouldn't be surprising that Dupré performs these pieces with mastery. Mercury produced very few organ recital albums. A pity, because their engineers capture the instrument magnificently.  This one will shake your windows.   The main organ at St. Thomas Church (on the corner of 5th Avenue and 53rd St. in NYC) was manufactured by Aeolian Skinner.

Organ buffs may wish to consult which contains an extensive history of the instrument recorded here, with a wealth of technical details.

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Verdi Overtures
  London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

This is of one of my favorite MLP recordings, and a disk that has accompanied me on three continents since college.  It's a prime example of the company's single microphone technique. Since I've treated it with the respect it deserves, the surfaces are quite silent. Headphone listeners may detect some slight tape hiss in very quiet passages (an artifact of the era). I've transferred to digital format using vacuum tube preamplification. The recording's dynamic range and the LSO's and Dorati's performance are still very impressive after nearly 50 years.

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Dvorak - Symphony No. 7
Symphony No.8
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati


From The Penguin Guide 2002:

Dorati's coupling brings an extraordinary successful account of No. 7 with the spontaneous feel of a live performance enhanced by the vividly realistic concert-hall balance of the (1963) Mercury recording - one of their very finest. The interpretation is free, the Poco adagio is impulsive and the Scherzo lifts off with a sparkle. The finale has enormous energy and bite, and an exuberant thrust, lending on to a thrilling coda. The Eighth Symphony was recorded four years earlier, with the acoustic of Watford Town Hall again providing a highly convincing ambience. Dorati's reading proves comparably vibrant.

My two favorite Dvorak symphonies conducted by Dorati on a single CD. What a deal!

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MLP 434317-2
Dvorak - Symphony No.9
Sibelius - Symphony No.2
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

"They don't make 'em like this anymore. No musical tradition has suffered a greater decline than the French, and no conductor represented the French school more tellingly than Paul Paray. These are wonderful performances: fleet, unaffected, and simply exciting as hell. Paray lets his players play, shaping the performance in huge arcs of sound. The New World's largo seldom has sounded more earthy and folk-like, the outer movements more energetic and effortlessly propulsive. Similarly, this lean and mean Sibelius Second features some volcanic climaxes in the andante second movement and a finale that, like Szell's, never for a minute outstays its welcome. In these days of fussy, heavy, micromanaged conducting, conservatory students should be chained to their stereos and forced to memorize every Paray recording that they can get their hands on. This is a disc that sets your pulse racing."  --David Hurwitz

      original Sibelius LP cover

                                                                original Dvorak LP cover

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MLP 434319-2
Moore - Pageant of P.T. Barnum
Carpenter - Adventures in a Perambulator
Rogers - Once Upon a Time
Phillips - Selections from McGuffey's Reader
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson

More Americana from Howard Hanson.

Douglas Moore unjustly has fallen into nearly complete obscurity over the last 20 years. While his discography was never huge, he still made a wonderful contribution to 20th century American classical music. To my knowledge this Howard Hanson recording in 1958 on Mercury Living Presence (SR90206) made available in this CD is the only way to obtain this masterpiece of Americana. Mercury used original vacuum tube equipment for the CD transfer and it does make a difference. There is a warmth that comes through the speakers loud and clear!

Composed in 1924, The Pageant of P.T. Barnum is a tuneful set of 5 portraits for orchestra, describing events and people in the life of the (in)famous showman, is Americana writing at its best. "Boyhood at Bethel", marked Allegro, depicts country fiddles in lively imitative counterpoint, punctuated by the orchestra. It is perhaps more Coplandesque than Copland in its rugged open country joyfulness. The sweet and touching second portrait, an Andante expressivo, is that of "Joice Heth - 161 Year Old Negress" who was Barnum's first "attraction", rumored to have been nurse to the baby George Washington. Through the lovely, simple string melodies - a high one and a rich, melancholy one for solo cello - the listener can easily imagine an interior picture of the elderly lady (and perhaps wonder at what her thoughts might have been at her current situation). The third portrait is that of the well-known "General and Mrs. Tom Thumb", who are depicted by a lively ragtime, with high-register military calls, and a contrasting music-box waltz. These two themes get closer in their alternation, until the tempo is changing almost every measure. A cap pistol completes the militarism-in-minature. The 4th portrait is that of "Jenny Lind", marked Andante con moto, and is also highly lyrical like the 2nd portrait - in this case, a flute with coloratura-like embellishments sails across a beautiful string section playing tunes in modal scales that suggest those of Northern Europe and the British Isles. The last portrait is the "Circus Parade" in a Tempo di marcia - previous tunes are recapitulated, and new ones are added that suggest clowns and other characters. The ending is in the grand manner with a full brass chorus, then a Hollywood-like full orchestra with sweeping strings, both ideas separated by rolling deep drums and a noisy ratchet.

Composed in 1934, Selections from McGuffy's Reader is a charming set of 3 pieces for orchestra illustrate three well-known stories from McGuffey's Eclectic Readers - six volumes that were standard educational material in the elementary schools of mid-19th century America. The first story is by O.W. Holmes, "The One-Horse Shay", about the local deacon's well-built carriage that proceeds to fall completely to pieces on its 100th anniversary. Spirited cakewalk-like rhythms (with xylophone and woodblock percussion) back up lively melodies depicting the carriage in proud motion along the roads, until with a series of dissonant punctuations, the whole thing collapses. Longfellow's poem about the romance of "John Alden and Priscilla" is the image of the second movement - a rather sentimental song slowly grows into a harmonically rich and dramatic string orchestra statement, touched lightly with the neutral 3rd of the blues song. Mysterious sustained strings, harp, and glockenspiel depict the lanterns in the church tower -"one if by land and two if by sea" - at the beginning of the 3rd movement "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere". The orchestra then suddenly comes to life with adrenalin pumping, horseback racing rhythms, at times dipping low in the winds and strings with anxious uncertainty, only to revitalize into a splendid climax." From 

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MLP 434321
Bizet - Carmen Suite
La Patrie Overture
L'Arlesienne Suites 1 and 2
Thomas - Mignon and Raymond Overtures
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

Includes Paray's own arrangement of melodies from Bizet's opera.

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  McBride - Mexican Rhapsody
Nelson - Savannah River Holiday
Mitchell - Kentucky Mountain Portraits
Vardel - Joe Clark Steps Out
Still - Sahdji Ballet
Ginastera - Creole Faust
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra, Howard Hanson

"It's always a pleasure to listen to favorite music again and to nibble a little of that proverbial "ear candy." The same goes for composers who, at any and all times, collected folk songs and dances on the streets, as it were, in order to incorporate them into their own works. The Americans are no exception and they have always dug busily for musical roots near and far, as one can see from the numbers "Mexican Rhapsody," "Kentucky Mountains" and "Savannah River Holiday." Muted sounds are not to be found here, for the Hi-Fi Fiesta is celebrated with orchestral fireworks, which stress their close relationship with film music. A powerful string sound, paired with salvos from blaring brass and thunderous drum rolls are just as characteristic of these spirited, effervescent works as are the lyrical, cantabile passages which reach ethereal heights with violin harmonics ("Mexican Rhapsody"). The Eastman-Rochester Orchestra performs this collection with great spirit and a maximum of glorious sound." (from Acoustic Sounds)

Starting with the original LP (below), for the CD re-issue Mercury here added one of the few pieces with chorus that it ever recorded (the Sadji Ballet [1930] by Afro-American composer William Grant Still), and made the album even more representative of the Americas by including Ginastera's "Creole Faust".

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  Frederick Fennell Conducts the Music of Leroy Anderson

OK, Chateau Haut-Brion is wonderful, but you're not going to drink it every day, right? Sometimes you crave a Beaujolais, or maybe a bubbly cremant from the Loire. Here you are, then: light, refreshing, and never intended for deep contemplation. And nobody serves up such bubbly better than Fennell. So cheers!

Sentimentality, romance, and a sense of humor--all of these things characterized Leroy Anderson's music, attributes that somehow went missing from much of American classical symphonic repertoire during the '50s, '60s, and '70s (except for Bernstein and a few others). And although there's always an important and enduring place for the more profound, timeless works, there's also one for music that immediately recalls the sound and sensibility of a period and effectively captures its popular mood. Anderson's music did exactly that, and if you don't respond with smiles and toe-tapping enthusiasm when you hear Horse & Buggy, Blue Tango, Summer Skies, The Girl in Satin, China Doll, or Serenata, then you are probably beyond the reach of this light-hearted but seriously entertaining fare, and are sadly disconnected from the schmaltz and slightly tacky but still delightful pleasure of The Waltzing Cat and such classics as The Typewriter, Fiddle-Faddle, The Syncopated Clock, and the still wildly popular Sleigh Ride.
Although the Boston Pops pretty much owned many of these pieces, Frederick Fennell and his Eastman-Rochester Pops (and unnamed London orchestra that plays on nearly half of these 23 tracks) did a more than respectable job, enhanced by the unsurpassed audio engineering of the Mercury Living Presence team--Wilma Cozart, Harold Lawrence, and C. Robert Fine. If you already own the excellent original CD release of this program, and you intend to continue to play it on your regular stereo system, then you won't find substantial improvement with this new SACD incarnation, which offers these performances for the first time "in their original 3-track versions". But for SACD aficionados, by all means, get your hands on this and enjoy a renewed appreciation for this label's integrity and foresight 50 years ago to spare no effort to capture and preserve performances in the manner that its name proclaims--'Living Presence'. A treasure!" --David Vernier  [12/9/2005]

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Bartók - Bluebeard's Castle
Berg - Excerpts from Wozzeck
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati 

The mediafire link is a.pdf file that contains the libretto in  the original Hungarian and in English translation of this remarkable one-act opera, and there's additional accompanying material as well.

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Enesco - Roumanian Rhapsody No.2
Brahms - Hungarian Dances
Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op.56a
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Brahms was greatly influenced by folk music and often set folk melodies, particularly those of Germany and Hungary. His Hungarian Dances, some of which he published as piano pieces, were among the most popular of his compositions during his lifetime and remain so today. He also excelled at writing variations, including, besides the orchestral ones here, those for piano based on music of Handle, Schumann, and Paganini. In its "Discovering Music" series, BBC3 offers an interesting program on the Haydn Variations (
In regard to this recording of the Hungarian Dances, Gramophone stated: "Dorati's effervescent conducting betokens a genuine charisma for this repertoire, and the combination of some captivatingly flexible rubato and an exhilarating LSO response undoubtedly comprises a treasurable experience."

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  Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastiqe
Hungarian March
Trojan March
Corsair Overture
Roman Carnaval Overture
Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray

"Paray's readings were usually a little breathless but unfailingly exciting, and speed did not come at the expense of phrasing, articulation, or pointed rhythm (indeed, the opening bars of the second movement here throb too, precisely for the sake of the atmosphere). Paray moves swiftly but emotively through the first movement, without pausing for an exposition repeat. Then he carries the drama through the waltz, rather than treating it as a pleasant interlude. Paray maintains all the necessary tension here, where too many conductors are content to be merely lilting and cheerful. Paray also maintains the dramatic thread through the slow movement, keeping it full of foreboding and restlessness, with the woodwind solos making unusually biting attacks at the beginnings of some phrases. The last two movements, as expected, are played to the hilt." Review from FANFARE

For an intriguing version for piano (by Liszt) of the Symphonie Fantastique, see my thread

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MLP 434303 
Country Gardens - Music of Grainger and Coates
London Pops, Eastman-Rochester Pops, London Pops 
Frederick Fennell

Many of us who believe we have at least a passing acquaintance with European music from the beginning of the 17th to the end of the 19th century (say, from Bach to Bruckner),  would be able to list a good number of major European composers for that time period. But most of us would be very hard put to include very many British composers among them. In truth, at least for orchestral music, the period in Britain from Purcell to Elgar can only be described as "fallow". Why this is so is best explained  by musicologists and historians. Vocal music performance however, has always been strong in the British Isles, and the music of Percy

 Grainger is very much in that tradition. 

The music of Eric Coates has often been used by the BBC as themes for their programs. Here we have charming and unpretentious short works, many of which are based on traditional folk-songs. And they are lovingly played by Fennell and his Eastman-Rochester and London groups.

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  Prokofiev - Piano Concerto No.3
Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.1 /encores
                     Byron Janis, piano, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyril Kondrashin

In 1962, "On location in Moscow" was news that merited being on the cover of an LP.  During the middle of the Cold War, such a feat by an American recording company was the stuff of headlines .  The very next year would face the Cuban missile crisis, and movie goers would be watching "Dr. Strangelove". 
Besides the novelty of the recording venue, the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, a delight for American audiophiles was the opportunity to listen to a great  Russian orchestra reproduced with a quality light years ahead of what could be heard on MK/Artia imports and Monitor domestic releases.

The Prokofiev 3rd Concerto was among Janis' specialties.

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MLP 434334
Hands Across the Sea - Marches from Around the World - 
Eastman Wind Ensemble
Frederick Fennell

Rousing music.  Includes many of Sousa's most famous marches as well as "Coronel Bogey" (the march from "The Bridge on the River Kwai"), and even one by Prokofiev, performed by Fennell and his band.

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Satie - Parade
Milhaud - Le boeuf sur le toit
Auric - Overture
Françaix - Concertino for Piano and Orchestra
Fetler - Contrasts for Orchestra
Antal Dorati

"Consistently magical performances, captured in brilliant golden-age stereo sound, that offer a slightly different take on your typical interpretation of the great works. However, the treat here is rarely recorded compositions by four great French composers and one American. Dorati and the LSO makes lesser known works by Satie and Milhaud, and pieces by relative unknowns Auric and Francaix, sound like they belong in the classical canon. Dorati produces equal results with the MSO on Paul Fetler's Contrasts for Orchestra. Maybe that is why collectors prize these recordings, because they are a breath of fresh air in a homogenized world of listening." Michael Richmond

These recordings were issued on LP by both Mercury and by Philips.  

I've included in the upload an essay on Dorati by the producer of these recordings, Harold Lawrence.

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Delibes - Coppélia (complete ballet)
Sylvia (ballet in 3 acts)
Minneapolis Symphony, Antal Dorati
                                 London Symphony Orchestra, Anatole Fistoulari

This is a wonderful 3-CD set of the two complete Delibes ballets. The reproduction is amazingly life-like with an incredible dynamic range. When I put on the prelude to "Silvia" and the music started, our Westie, Bonnie,

who had been peacefully snoozing on the couch in my study, jumped straight into the air.
I guess I´ll have to turn the sub-woofer volume down.
The upload contains a .pdf file of the accompanying booklet as well as .jpg images of each page, and of the CDs themselves.

New working links.  Thanks, Pavel!



Schumann - Violin Concerto
Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in E minor
Encore pieces 
Henryk Szerying
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Compared to "the big four" violin concertos of the 19th century (of which of course, the Mendelssohn is one), Schumann's is relatively unknown. While no one contests the beauty of its 2nd movement, the other two can be a challenge for the listener as well as for the soloist (although Szeryng handles them with aplomb). His encore pieces here are charming and varied.

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Stravinsky - Petrouchka (complete ballet)
Le sacre du printemps
Four Etudes for Orchestra
Minneapolis Symphony / London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Dorati had a long and distinguished career as a conductor of ballet music. From 1933 to 1941 he shared conducting duties with Efrem Kurtz at the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, a descendant of Diaghilevs celebrated Ballets Russes.  From 1941 to 1945 he was Principal Conductor of the American Ballet Theater, and also composed arrangements that became popular ballet scores: Graduation Ball ( with music of Johann Strauss, Jr.) and two Offenbach-based pieces, Bluebeard and Helen of Troy.  His Mercury recordings of the three Tchaikovsky ballets are legendary, and will eventually be included here as well.
This set contains two of the three major ballets of Stravinsky.  The other, The Firebird, was issued as MLP432012, and is post nº16 here.  Four Etudes for Orchestra is an arrangement by the composer that he made in 1928 of two of his chamber works: Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914) and Étude pour pianola (1921).  He revised the arrangement in 1952, perhaps for copyright reasons; the same motivation that led him to revise The Firebird in 1947. These recordings were of course available as single Mercury LPs.  They were also issued as a 3-LP set, now very rare and highly collectable: 

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MLP 434343
Debussy - La Mer
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Ravel - Mother Goose Suite
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

More French classics from Paul Paray, who was able to coax a truly Gallic sound from his Detroit players.  
La Mer, Iberia, and Prelude ... were recorded in December, 1955 at Old Orchestral Hall, Detroit.  The Mother Goose Suite was recorded in March, 1957 at Detroit's Ford Auditorium.

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Hi-Fi Española; Popovers - 
Eastman-Rochester Pops, Frederick Fennell

Here again, a CD that brings together two Mercury LPs. It contains six pieces from the original "Popovers"  album, including

"Finlandia" and a polka by Shostakovich.

The other LP is certainly wonderful hi-fi.  But sorry, Mercury, out of respect for Brazil, maybe you should have called it "Hi-Fi Latina".   After all, Brazilian composers Oscar Fernandez and Camargo Guarnieri are both represented here. In addition, there's the ditty Percy Faith entitled "Brazilian Sleigh Bells". I've never heard any sleigh bells in Brazil, but Faith must have ventured deeper into the jungle than I.

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Kaleidoscope - An Orchestral Extravaganza
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras

"Do you know lovers of classical music who jog or engage in other aerobic activities? 'Kaleidoscope',  an energetic orgy of popular light classics, just might increase their performance. Most athletics-minded music-lovers probably already have recordings of the overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Coronation March from Le Prophete, and the other goodies on this disc, but they should consider this lucky collection of thirteen brief orchestral works anyway. Mackerras and the London Symphony zippily recorded these selections in Walthamston Town Hall in July 1961, and Mercury gave them the best sound they had to offer. So what if the music is a little corny (the overture to Suppé's Jolly Robbers ? – puh-leez) and the playing is a little unsubtle? Whatever you're doing, this CD will make you do it faster and enjoy it more. If you're driving, you might end up with a ticket." (Classical Net review)

    •    Brahms - Hungarian Dance No.1
    •    Glinka - Jota Aragonesa
    •    Meyerbeer - Coronation March from "Le Prophete"
    •    Nicolai - The Merry Wives of Windsor, Overture
    •    Offenbach - Orpheus in the Underworld: Overture/Can-Can
    •    Smetana - Dance of the Comedians from "The Bartered Bride"
    •    J. Johann Strauss Sr. - Radetzky March
    •    von Suppé - The Jolly Robbers, Overture
    •    Tchaikovsky - Cossack Dance from Mazzepa
    •    Thomas - Mignon, Overture
    •    Weber - Invitation to the Dance; Abu Hassan, Overture


Bartok - The Wooden Prince (complete ballet)
Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
                                     London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Antal Dorati really has this one wrapped up--as a great ballet conductor, Hungarian, and friend of the composer, he brings a special authority to Bartok's allegorical ballet The Wooden Prince. This is Bartok at his most Romantically evocative, with orchestral writing full of shimmering textures and exotic sounds. This was the first stereo recording of the complete ballet, and it remains one of the finest, both in sound and performance. The Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta--better known as the soundtrack to The Shining--is similarly well-played and commandingly interpreted. Just about all of Dorati's Mercury recordings are classics, none more so than this. -- David Hurwitz


Wagner - Siegfried Idyll
Music from Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre, Rienzi, Götterdämmerung, and Tristan und Isolde 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

While Germany and France may be geographic neighbors, their cultures (and politics) are as far apart as can be. One would expect Paray, a quintessential French conductor, to either avoid, be indifferent to, or stumble badly over the works of the key German composer. And yet, this is one of the very best Wagner compilations around. It begins with a Flying Dutchman Overture that is ardent, beautifully played and shorn of interpretive rhetoric. The Meistersinger Suite is not the standard overture, but a combination of the wistful Act III Prelude, the playful dance of the apprentices, and then the monumentally powerful music in praise of the master-singers which concludes the overture (and, ultimately, the opera); this progression makes perfect sense, both musically and dramatically, depicting the melancholy of age worrying over the future, alleviated by faith in the children in whose hands the future will lie, and sealed by a statement of decisive leadership of the current generation. The otherwise well-conceived program concludes on a bizarre note (literally) the final selection is the Prelude to Act III (not the more common Prelude to Act I) of Tristan, which wallows in grief and then simply cuts off a plaintive and poignant solo oboe passage. It is deeply moving, but a rather bizarre choice. Reprogramming the order the last two tracks, so that the Prelude leads into the lovely Siegfried Idyll, works much better.  Peter Guttman

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Dvorak - Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 and Op. 72
Smetana - Music from The Bartered Bride
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati 

Dorati recorded the Slavonic Dances three times - first with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, issued by Vox. This Mercury recording was his second go at it.  His last recording of the set was recorded digitally in 1984 with the Royal Philharmonic and issued by Decca.
This performance was recorded in Minneapolis in April, 1958 and it is I believe, the best of the three recordings in terms of pure, joyous playing. The extremely wide dynamic range of the recording explains the use of 3 LP sides for the Slavonic Dances. Side 4 of this set contains music from Smetana's The Bartered Bride.

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Bartok - The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
Kodaly - Peacock Variations
Hindemith - Symphonic Metamorphosis
Schoenberg - Five Pieces, Op.16
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati, Rafael Kubelik 


These four works from the first half of the 20th Century, played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, offer a max-load of music.  The Hindemith and Schoenberg were led by Rafael Kubelik prior to his Orchestra Hall farewell in late April of 1953. The fact that Kubelik promoted such "modern" music was among the reasons that his stay in Chicago was so unfortunately bried. They are recorded in Mercury's excellent mono sound.  Since Mercury was still owed two LPs when Kubelik left, it was arranged for Antal Dorati to come from Minneapolis for a week and finish the job.  He does his countryman Bartok proud (and in stereo). Classical Review

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MLP 434389
French Orchestral Music - Lalo, Chausson, Barraud 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Paul Paray 

Édouard Lalo             Le roi d'Ys, Overture / Namouna, Suite No.1

Henry Barrud            Offrande à une ombre

Ernest Chausson      Symphony in B-flat, Op.20

Audiophiles and orchestral enthusiasts alike have long cherished Paul Paray's late-'50s/early-'60s Mercury Living Presence recordings with the Detroit Symphony devoted to French showpieces. Here, five previously available mid-price CD releases are gathered together in a budget-priced box that showcases the conductor and orchestra's remarkable synergy at its apex. Paray's effervescent, clearly delineated account of Saint-Saëns' "Organ" Symphony (with the legendary Marcel Dupré as featured soloist) is a classic, serving as a complement to Charles Munch's more robust Boston reference version. I'm particularly impressed that Paray avoids all temptation to milk the Poco Adagio's famous main theme, focusing instead on how the organ and string writing interweave. The conductor conveys the wide mood swings of Chausson's Symphony in B-flat while maintaining a vital, forward moving pulse at all times, and his saucy, sultry performance of Ibert's Escales remains as fresh and vital as the day it was recorded.
And what a day that was (March 18, 1962), for during the same sessions Paray taped his equally inspired, hair-raisingly executed Ravel Rapsodie espagnol and La Valse, plus an Alborada del Gracioso unrivaled for heel-clicking accuracy (the trumpet's repeated notes are effortlessly tossed off) and an elegant, limber Pavane pour une infant défunte. Unsentimental briskness and razor-sharp balances also distinguish one of the finest recordings of the Le Tombeau de Couperin Suite.
You rarely will find more zestful and idiomatic renditions of overtures and suites by the likes of Lalo (the composer's rarely heard first suite from Namouna features lovely work from principal flutist Albert Tipton), Barraud, Gounod, Thomas, Auber, Hérold, Saint-Saëns, Berlioz, and Massenet, plus generous helpings of Bizet (both L'Arlésienne suites, a Carmen suite cobbled together by Paray that curiously omits the Habañera, and the jaunty, nationalistic La Patrie Overture). As a composer, Paray's natural melodic gifts and resourceful orchestration manifest themselves throughout his Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc, although a later Paray-led performance on the defunct Carthagene label boasted superior choral forces. Mercury's innovative sonics wear their age well, and the modest price tag is worth your falling in love with these performances anew, or even for the first time. [1/14/2005]

--Jed Distler

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MLP 434368-2
Rachmaninov - Symphony No.2
Franck - Symphony in D Minor 
Detroit Symphony
Paul Paray

Regarding the Rachmaninov 2nd Symphony:

This Mercury Living Presence release was notable for combining both of these large-scale symphonies on one disc, making it a remarkable package--albeit with one caveat: the Rachmaninov employs what used to be the standard cuts in some passages. Nevertheless, Paray offers a vibrant and moving rendition, with lively playing by the Detroit Symphony. The close-perspective recording reveals every detail of Rachmaninov's score, especially his aggressive low-string writing. 

Victor Carr

I grew up listening to this symphony, blissfully unaware that Rachmaninov's initial conception was for a longer piece. Then to my surprise, "original" versions suddenly began to appear on disk. As Leonard Norwitz writes:

" ... until the work was revitalized on record with its cuts restored — most notably by Andre Previn in pretty damn good stereo on EMI, concert and living room audiences alike were happily oblivious to the notion of this symphony having been edited. I could sort of understand cutting the piece for the sake of fitting neatly onto two sides of an LP, but such was not the reason. It all stems from Sergei's nagging lack of confidence. Hard to believe, isn't it! After the critically disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897 when he was 24, he had a nervous collapse, destroyed the score, and wrote nothing for three years. Ah, those Russians! He recovered well enough, for his next piece from 1901 was the immensely popular Second Piano Concerto. While Rachmaninov was said to have sanctioned cuts for his next symphony (altogether, some twenty minutes if all the original repeats are also observed), he more than likely thought better of it eventually. A story survives of when Eugene Ormandy invited Rachmaninov to cut the hour-long score for a performance in Philadelphia. The composer returned it to Ormandy with his reluctant consent to cut the symphony as he had marked. He had crossed out two bars.
Nonetheless, the cut version of the Second Symphony stands well on its own even if the restored version is better — better, that is, if you enjoy even more of Rachmaninov's savory ooze — which I do — "
In fact, for this recording with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on MLP, Paray couldn't have made many cuts, since the performance comes in at a full 45 minutes.
For an intriguing read, see the review written in 1911 by a New York Times critic of a performance of the Rachmaninov symphony (at that time only five years after its composition). in which the he complains about the work's length. One wonders what he must have thought of much longer symphonic works, such as those by Mahler (who died that year) and Bruckner.

Regarding the Franck Symphony in D minor
The dark, richly textured orchestration of Franck's only symphony (a piece that has yet to achieve the popularity it deserves) sets this work apart from other nineteenth century symphonies, and provides a unique audio experience. From its opening bars, reminiscent of Liszt's Les Preludes, the D Minor Symphony soon morphs into one of the most brooding pieces from the nineteenth century symphonic repertory, a sort of French Isle of the Dead. In its day, late in the century, it was stupidly vilified by archconservatives for its three-movement construction and the composer's inclusion of the English horn (little more than an alto oboe), as if Franck had chosen the kazoo. Both the DSO/Paray recording for Mercury and the Monteux for RCA remain the statements about this passionate work, even as compared to Cluytens and the French National Radio Orchestra on EMI/Angel, whose energy peters out in the finale. Leonard Norwitz

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 Symphony No.41 in C Major, K.551 "Jupiter"
Symphony No.39 in E-flat Major, K.543
London Symphony Orchestra
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt

"Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt is one of those conductors whose work was famous far more among the ranks of his peers (and of very serious listeners) than among the general classical audiences of his era. A believer in strict rhythmic precision, transparent orchestral textures, and the avoidance of excessive mannerisms, Schmidt-Isserstedt and his work were loved by fellow musicians and listeners committed enough to seek it out, eclipsed as it often was by his more flamboyant and well-known rivals. It is a measure of his place in the pantheon of early and middle twentieth century conductors that, while only two or three of his recordings are represented on CDs from major labels, dozens of his performances appear on private collectors labels." (from

Schmidt-Isserstedt was particularly famous for his recordings of the music of Mozart. Surprisingly, this Living Presence LP has not been issued by Philips in its Mercury Living Presence CD series.   I've digitized it using tube preamplification, and included a .pdf file with scans of the front and back of the LP jacket.

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back cover scan:



Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No.1
Byron Janis, piano
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
London Symphony Orchestra, Herbert Menges 

Janis has made several recordings for RCA Victor and Mercury Records, and occupies two volumes of the Philips "Great Pianists" series.  His pianism has been described as combining a Horowitzian technique with a sublime musicality akin to Alfred Cortot's. He has a special affinity for Chopin and made a French film on him that was shown around the world.
Janis was born Byron Yanks (a shortened form of his family's name, Yankilevich) in McKeesport, PA, to Russian-Polish Jewish parents. When he was 7 he was taken to New York to study with Adele Marcus. Later, he studied at the Julliard School with Josef and Rosina Lhevinne, and received musical influences from Rachmaninoff and Alfred Cortot. At 10, Janis lost sensation in a finger due to an accident but this did not prevent his debut under Frank Black playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 in New York. When Janis was 16, Vladimir Horowitz heard his performance of the same concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by 15-year-old Lorin Maazel and invited Janis to work with him. Janis studied with Horowitz for four years. He remained a close friend and one of only three students ever acknowledged by Horowitz--the other two being Gary Graffman and Ronald Turini.
In 1960, he was selected as the first American pianist to be sent to the Soviet Union, and his performance opened the successful exchange between the cold war adversaries. This was the first of his many world tours, during which he premiered many works and performed breathtakingly challenging piano-concerto programs. In 1967, he accidentally unearthed two previously unknown manuscripts of Chopin waltzes in France —termed by one commentator "the most dramatic musical discovery of our age". For such achievements, he appeared on the front page of the New York Times many times. He also published an edition of the Chopin waltzes.
He was honored by several U.S. Presidents and in 1984, at a State Dinner at the White House in his honor at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan, he revealed that he had been suffering from severe arthritis throughout much of his decades-long career. The painful and crippling condition eventually required hand surgery. However, he recovered sufficiently to resume performing and recording commercially.
He received a host of the most prestigious honors each of which had not previously been conferred on an American, including the Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur and the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (France's highest decorations), the Grand Prix du Disque and Cannes Classical Award (both for his Mercury Records recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.1 and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.3 accompanied by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Kiril Kondrashin( and the Harriet Cohen International Music Award and the Beethoven Medal (for his performance of Beethoven sonatas).
Other honors include the Classical CD Critics Choice (for his recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3), the National Public Radio Critics' Choice Award (for his all-Chopin CD), and the Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award. He is recipient of honorary doctorates and the Sanford Fellowship (the highest honor of Yale University). He is the National Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation, Chairman of the Global Forum Arts and Culture Committee, head of the Visual and Performing Arts in America, and member on the Board and the Music Advisory Committee for Pro Musicis.
He is married to painter Maria Cooper Janis, daughter of  actor Gary Cooper.  They reside in New York City. (excerpts the article in Wikipedia)

I have never been less than astounded by the recordings of Byron Janis.
The Schumann concerto emerges here as if one is hearing it for the first time. The balance between piano and orchestra, always a challenge is this piece, is particularly noteworthy. The Arabesque is fleet, delicate, and tender.

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Symphony in B minor "Unfinished"
Incidental Music to "Rosamunde"  
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

In 1960, Polish-born Stanislaw Skrowaczewski succeeded Antal Dorati as Music Director of the Minneapolis Symphony (since renamed "The Minnesota Orchestra" during his tenure in 1968), a position he held until 1979, when he was named the organization's Conductor Laureate.

 I've digitized this LP using valve preamplification. For those interested in technical details, the cartridge I employed was a Signet MR 5.0me with a square shank .2x7 ml nude stylus, fitted in a Stax UA-7cf tonearm on a Thorens TD12 turntable.

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Screamers - Circus Marches and March Time
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell

"This recording sets a performance and sonic standard for circus marches that will likely never be surpassed. The recording dates from 1962 but could not possibly sound better. The performances by the Eastman Wind Ensemble conducted by its founder, Frederick Fennell, crackle with the excitement of the circus ring. The passion of the conductor and the performers for this music can be heard in every selection, in the breathless succession of one march after another, like circus acts parading past the listener. It is really difficult to believe that this recording (and the others by the Eastman Wind Ensemble) were made by college music students -- the thoroughly professional standard of their playing has never been matched on recordings, and will stand as a tribute to the Eastman teaching faculty, and to the performers themselves, for as long as band music exists. On this recording, the low brass is exceptionally well featured, with the trombones executing their parts with a speed and clarity that seems impossible. It has to be heard to be believed. Anyone who likes marches or band music should have this recording."
"First, for those not familiar with Fredrick Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble, they are a treasure. During the early 50's and through the 60's, Fennell and the EWE raised the level of band and wind ensemble playing in this country. Listen to British Band Classics vol 1 as a starting point. In Screamers, Fennell surveys an important but often overlooked piece of Americana--the circus march. Think of a hot summer afternoon in the main tent with sawdust, popcorn, and animals providing "atmosphere". The artists hold your attention, but what fills your ears has been captured on this recording. Recorded with state of the art equipment, circa 1960, this album loses nothing in re-issue. It still thrills." ( reviews).

Just listen, for example, to the performance of Huffine's Them Basses - taken at an unusually boisterous pace but nevertheless with amazing, note-perfect articulation from the lower brass.  In addition, from Fennell's March Time LP there's a generous selection that includes Richard Roger's stirring Guadalcanal March - taken from music that he composed in the 1950's for the NBC television documentary series Victory at Sea.

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Hindemith - Symphony in B-flat for Concert Band
Schoenberg - Theme and Variations
Stravinsky - Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell

Hindemith completed his Symphony in B
for Band in 1951, and it was premiered on April 5th of that year by the U.S. Army Band ("Pershing's Own") in Washington, D.C. Not many composers have endeavored to write significant pieces for band; there was no demand or market for them, while chamber music, symphony orchestras, operas and ballets were so popular in the late 19th century. Schoenberg and Hindemith were the first composers to show the public that music written for band, not just orchestra, could be precise, thematic and beautiful.
This symphony is often called a "cornerstone" piece for wind ensemble, and is one of the most prominent and widely known pieces composed and arranged for band. What makes Hindemith stand out as a composer for band is his outstanding use of the various instruments that comprise a band. Each instrument's timbre is different from any other.  By changing the instrument playing a melody, the tone color of that melody is different. Hindemith writes the same melody throughout an entire movement with no interval or rhythmic changes, yet it seems like a different melody with each separate set of instruments that play it. The tone color of a melody can also be significantly changed by the number of instruments playing; for example, the solo oboe playing the second theme in the first movement sounds significantly different than the full clarinet section playing it a few bars later.
Hindemith often applied the concept of gebrauchmusik, or "utility music" to his compositions. He believed that every piece of music composed should have a social or political purpose. In writing the Symphony in B♭ For Band, he created a serious work for winds, adding an important facet to the wide variety of his extant orchestral music.

Schoenberg composed his Theme and Variations at the request of his publisher, G. Schirmer. Never one to underestimate himself, the composer wrote enthusiastically "It is not one of my main works, as everybody can see, because it's not a twelve-note composition. It's one of those compositions which one writes in order to enjoy one’s own skill and to give a certain group of music lovers - in this case bands - something better to play. I can, however, assure that technically it's a masterwork. I believe it is also original and know it is inspired. Not only can I not write 10 minutes without inspiration but I wrote this with really great pleasure."Although scored with large forces in mind, Schoenberg treats the players as soloists, with plenty of interest and challenge in each line - the ideal way of dealing with the problems of wind band scoring. The march-like Theme begins with a nine bar statement, moving seamlessly through G minor and A to Bb, the dominant of Eb.; a two bar rhythmic phrase in F# interrupts, repeated in F, before an energetic eight bar phrase completes the tripartite structure. This twenty-one bar theme is subjected to a set of seven very strict variations and a Finale.
Variation 1 continues the mood of the theme with a little more energy. Variation 2 is a fleet scherzo, 42 bars long instead of 21, and this is followed by a lyrical poco adagio with a duet for solo clarinet and baritone horn. A Waltz follows as Variation 4, in G major, before a more extensive duet for the clarinet and baritone, this time in Eb major, that flattened submediant so beloved of Schubert. Variation 6 is an energetic fugato, building to a climax which disappears into the sinuous lines of variation 7. The Finale refers to many of the melodic phrases from earlier variations including the fugato, before a final triumphant peroration.
Even for Stravinsky, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments is strikingly original, grounded not in the "symphonic" genre but – as the musicologist Richard Taruskin has shown – in the Russian Orthodox service for the dead. It began as a serene and archaic chorale composed in memory of Debussy Stravinsky then expanded this "fragment" with music more popular in flavor. The chorale, at the close, became an apotheosis sublimating an eclectic wealth of material. The ensemble eschews strings in favor of colorful, chanting winds.

Stravinsky wrote in 1936: "I did not, and indeed I could not, count on any immediate success for this work. It lacks all those elements that infallibly appeal to the ordinary listener, or to which he is accustomed. . . . It is an austere ritual which is unfolded in terms of short litanies . . . This music is not meant to 'please' an audience, nor to arouse its passions." More than half a century later, the religious elan of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments seems both pleasing and arousing.

Lossless .ape files + LP cover scan

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Symphony No. in B-flat major "Spring"
Manfred Overture, Op.115
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

One of Paray's outstanding MLP performances of the Schumann symphonies. Recorded using Mercury's "single microphone technique". I've transfered this LP to digital format using valve preamplification.

Paray's Schumann is characterized by swift tempos, flowing slow movements, carefully judged instrumental balances, and rhythmic precision--attributes associated with the French school of which he was an outstanding exemplar. The result: lithe, energetic interpretations that avoid the muddiness that too often typifies performances of Schumann's orchestral works. The Spring Symphony benefits from this approach; the introduction, so often pompous or rushed, here manages to be both buoyant and un poco maestoso, and the rhapsodic nature of the piece comes to the fore. (review on

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AMS16028 (British pressing)
Ottorino Respighi 
Ancient Dances and Aires for Lute,  Suites 1, 2 and 3
Philharmonica Hungarica,
Antal Dorati

The common practice in concert houses today of performing early music on modern orchestral instruments is owed largely to the endeavors of Ottorino Respighi. His free transcription of Renaissance works for the lute (1932) opened the way to the rediscovery of forgotten rhythms and timbres. Although Respighi altered the structure of the music by dissecting phrases right down to their basic elements, re-ordering them and redefining their sonority by the use of heavy brass and timpani, the art of the ancient maestri remained unscathed. Cadences and harmonic idioms are given a modern coloring at the most, but are never destroyed. Antal Dorati and his famous Philharmonia Hungarica have all that is needed to bring the score to life. Even in opulent passages the individual instruments can be heard distinctly. This works particularly well in the first two suites in which each movement is treated to a process of refinement by means of differing orchestration. That the third suite, written purely for stringed instruments, soars away, just like the proverbial Aeolian harp is only to be expected from this orchestra.
(Acoustic Sounds)

If you're ever looking for really nice, pre-recorded wedding music, then you should try this record. The very first couple of minutes of the first track make perfect processional music in an average-sized church. The piece is appealingly arranged for chamber orchestra from Renaissance lute music, and it appears to swell in volume like an approaching parade. The result has just the right combination of joy and solemnity.  Anyway, this first recording of the complete suites of dances is still by and large the best. It was another triumph for Dorati and his enterprising colleagues at Mercury Living Presence. Even if you don't have a wedding to go to, its worth hearing.
David Hurwitz

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MLP 434305
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.5
March Slav
Waltz and Polonaise from "Eugene Onegin"
London Symphony Orchestra / Minneapolis Symphony, Antal Dorati

Dorati had a special affinity for Tchaikovsky's music and he recorded for Mercury Living Presence the 6 symphonies, the three ballets, and of course the 1812 with cannon. I will eventually upload all of these recordings in accordance with the serial number sequence that I'm  (well, OK, more or less) following) in this thread. In any case, here's the 5th, as well as a rousing performance of the March Slav, and two charming dance interludes from the opera Eugene Onegin.

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Brahms - Violin Concerto in D Major
Khatchaturian - Violin Concerto (1940)
Henryk Szeryng, violin
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

"Henryk Szeryng's robust and resonant violin tone at times takes on a dark quality more like a viola--quite different from the bright sound of Heifetz. The result is a certain weighty seriousness to Szeryng's playing, even in the dancing finales of both works. Of the two performances, the Khachaturian is the more memorable, as Szeryng revels in the music's ethnic coloring and exotic sensuality--sounding very much the folk fiddler in the first-movement cadenza, and displaying stunning rhythmic and tonal acuity throughout.
Though Szeryng adopts a more aristocratic stance in the Brahms, he sacrifices none of his flair, masterfully negotiating Brahms' challenging double-stops while rendering the composer's lovely melodies with great feeling. Szeryng's fashioning of the standard Joachim cadenza is so artful that it sounds pleasingly fresh, not at all the staid warhorse it has become today. Antal Dorati skillfully conducts both scores, displaying impressive alacrity in the Khachaturian, while the London Symphony offers its usual first-rate playing."--Victor Carr Jr (Classics Today)

"These famous presentations are some of the best to re-emerge on Living Presence and they sound as close to the superb original vinyl as is possible. I love the gutsy strings of the LSO that match the soloist to a T. As for the conductor, no one, soloist, recording company, audience, could ask for more, because it's impossible to find such a combination of style, insight, and care for the soloist.
Szyering and Dorati start the Brahms awfully slow, but a few minutes into it, you realize that they view the work in the same vein as the piano concerti which tower rather than flow laterally.  These historic recordings don't sound historic... on high-end equipment they sound as if they were recorded yesterday." (Mark McCue)

New working links:


MLP 434320
Gould - West Point Symphony
Hovhaness - Symphony No.4
Giannini - Symphony No.3
Eastman Wind Ensemble, A. Clyde Roller

About the music:
Morton Gould's “West Point Symphony” was written for the West Point Sesquicentennial celebration at the request of Francis E. Resta of the West Point Academy. It was first performed in 1952, with the composer conducting. The first movement, “Epitaphs,” is a tribute to the West Point graduates who have sacrificed their lives to their country. The march tunes that make up the second movement musically trace the development of a freshman through his years at the institution.
In 1958, Giannini turned his attention to composing an entire symphony (his Symphony No. 3) for band, commissioned by the Duke University Band and its conductor Paul Bryan. Completed in 1958, Symphony No. 3 is unquestionably Giannini's most frequently performed and recorded work, and has become a much-beloved staple of the band repertoire. Establishing the work's overall tonality of B flat major, the first movement, Allegro energico, opens with a resolute theme suggestive of the Mixolydian mode, built upon a series of ascending fourths and including a triplet figure. An additional, transitional theme comprises a scurrying idea in the woodwinds. This leads to the second theme, a warm, chorale-like idea that swells and recedes, then builds to a minor climax. The development section incorporates the fourths from the first theme into the transitional material, while other elements of the first theme are also developed, finally leading to the expected recapitulation of the two themes, with the scurrying transitional material in abbreviated form. A restatement of the first theme ends the movement.
The Adagio is poignantly nostalgic in character, and hovers generally around the key of A flat. Its first two ideas recall the first movement themes: In the first, the interval of the fourth is featured prominently; the second is chorale-like and rises and falls in stepwise motion. The first idea blooms into a plaintive melody, introduced by a solo flute, that anticipates the second theme of the Dedication Overture. This alternates with the chorale idea, which is elaborated gradually. A slightly restless section follows, in which a solo cornet is answered by a solo clarinet, as the chorale idea becomes increasingly demanding. The plaintive melody returns, now building to a heartfelt climax, before a coda of reminiscences ends the movement. The third movement, Allegretto, has the character of an intermezzo, its main idea a stealthy, whimsical theme in B flat minor that toys with a hemiola rhythmic juxtaposition. An expansive, wide-arching melody that appears twice provides contrast. Returning to the key of B flat major, the fourth movement, Allegro con brio, is, like the first movement, a sonata-allegro design, but with the character of a march. Its main idea, a brilliant, rapidly descending scale pattern, pivots on a tritone harmonic movement (again anticipating the Dedication Overture). The rushing scales are followed by a fanfare-like motif suggesting the Lydian mode in the cornets and trumpets, and then by a more sustained melodic idea. The second theme grows from this melodic idea, and is more subdued, though still martial in character, calling to mind similar passages in the ceremonial works of Walton. The mood again becomes exuberant as a cheerful "closing" idea appears in the woodwinds, accompanied by scale patterns in the brass. After a series of ascending fourths recalls the first movement, a development section follows, treating much of the material that has been heard so far with some contrapuntal intricacy, relative to the movement's lighthearted character. A full recapitulation follows, bringing the movement, and the symphony, to a dazzling conclusion.

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  Cherubini - Medea
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus, Tullio Serafin, Conductor.  
Maria Meneghini Callas (as Medea, soprano), Renata Scotto (as Glauce, soprano),
 Lidia Marimpietri (as First Maidservant, soprano), Elvira Galassi (as Second Maidservant, soprano), Miriam Pirazzini (as Neris, mezzo-soprano), Mirto Picchi (as Jason, tenor), Alfredo Giacommotti (as The Captain of the Guard, baritone), Giuseppe Modesti (as Creon, bass).
Recorded at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on September 3, 14-19, 1957.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mercury recorded a number of operas in partnership with Ricordi of Italy.  This is a 3 LP set that I've digitized using valve preamplification.

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SR2 9008
  Donizetti - Lucia de Lammermoor

Another Mercury/Ricordi collaboration.  "Some of Renata Scotto's finest recordings came from the late 1950s and 1960s, during which her voice was at its freshest. Examples of Scotto at her best are her Lucia di Lammermoor with Giuseppe di Stefano and Ettore Bastianini in a Mercury recording from 1959."
 (from Wikipedia)

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Verdi - Rigoletto

Rigoletto - Ettore Bastianini 

Gilda - Renata Scotto 

The Duke - Alfredo Kraus 

Coro e orchestra di Maggio Musicale 
Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond.

Mercury SR39012 (3 LPs)

This recording, made in Italy under the direction of the Mercury team of Fine and Cozart,  was issued by Mercury, with the rights owned by Ricordi.  It went out of print was eventually issued in Europe on CD, but the transfer disappointed listeners who remembered the LPs.  My digitalization is from the original Mercury vinyl.

  This is among the best recorded performances of "Rigoletto". The stars are all fresh, young, and in wonderful voice. Moreover, both the excitement and energy of this great "stand up and sing" performance are powerful!! This is the best of Renata Scotto's recorded Gildas. Her voice is sweet and lyrical and fresh. Alfredo Kraus sings richly and smoothly as the Duke, his limpid tone surmounting all the challenges of the role. Finally, Ettore Bastianini is simply splendid in the title role, with the drama forcefully presented by his stunning,, full voiced portrayal.  Fiorenza Cossotto is an excellent Maddalena, intense, full voiced, and characterful, while Ivo Vinco's Sparafucile ranks among the best. Gavazzeni is a sterling conductor.  He paces the lyrical moments warmly, while driving the dramatic sections with great vibrancy and verve.

One reviewer notes:

Well, this is it. This is definitely my favorite recording of Rigoletto and it is the closest approximation I can imagine to a definitive recording of this lovely opera. Not only is there no weak point in the principals, but all of them are perfect for their roles and in perfect shape. Too bad for the orchestral sound because Gianandrea Gavazzeni is a fine conductor I like very much. He doesn't have Solti's bombastic sound but he is much better balanced and consistent throughout the whole opera. He certainly has a keen eye for a dramatic detail, too. Kraus is as excellent as he is the recording with Solti (RCA, 1963). Scotto is in lovely voice here, I think she was not yet thirty when the recording was made. She sounds exactly as Gilda should sound: fresh but innocent, tender but passionate. Her diction is exemplary and only seldom a slight shrillness in the highest register detracts a little bit from the perfection of her rendition. 

But she as well as Kraus and Gavazzeni pale in comparison with Ettore Bastianini. He is in glorious voice here, two years before the terrible cancer diagnosis and seven years before his untimely death only at 44. What a voice that is! Ettore seems to have everything: ringing top notes, steady and dark low ones, astonishing legato and fabulous diction. Not just every word and phrase, every vowel and every consonant is clearly pronounced. His is the most musical Rigoletto and this is the reason why it is by far my favorite. I don't care that the Gramophone critic doesn't like it, I don't care that Charles Osborne doesn't even mention it in his guide (although there is a photo of Bastianini). 

But it is not just a beautiful voice. The most extraordinary thing about Ettore Bastianini is that he can act with his voice without breaking the melody for a single second. He achieves everything only with his voice and Verdi's music. No sobs, no cries, no ridiculous inflections of the text, no histrionics at all. Just voice. And melody. And every word with its meaning. Take for example the famous scene with the courtiers in the Act 2, surely one of the greatest 20 minutes in all opera: from 'Povero Rigoletto!' until the tremendous 'Sì, vendetta, tremenda vendetta'. It starts with an exemplary 'La rà, la rà, la rà' which doesn't need to be distorted until one can hardly recognized it to be effective and grief-stricken behind its apparent lightness. The exchange of ironic remarks with Marullo and company is restrained but finely articulated and in the right mood. The famous 'Cortigiani, vil razza dannata' is staggering! I have never heard it so powerful in its anger and so beautifully shaped as music. Absolutely the same is true for Rigoletto's plead 'Ah! Ebben, piango'. Restrained, without any false, unmusical sounds and deeply moving at the same time. The following scene with Gilda is also something at which to marvel. Listen to Bastianini's singing line in 'Ah! Solo per me l'infamia' and in 'Vendetta' when his voice trembles with anger and indignation, with furious rage actually, and yet the melody reigns supreme and every word falls in its place. Listen to the change in his voice when he addresses his daughter: 'Piangi, fanciulla, piangi'. It becomes tender and caressing, clearly expressing the fatherly love, and the following duet is a perfect example of beautiful singing without the cacophony-like mess that usually happens on other recordings. The same is true for the other duets between Gilda and Rigoletto, in Act 1 and in Act 3, immediately before her death. I never cease to be astonished how amazingly well both the music and the text in Rigoletto work together, without any unmusical additions whatsoever. Listen to Bastianini's perfect phrasing and how he sustains the long melodic line in, for example, 'Ah, veglia, o donna, questo fiore'. Just listen to it. It is just unbelievable singing, I listen and simply can't believe my ears that such musical perfection and profound characterization are possible at all, let alone at the same time. 

The favorite remark of the critics is that Bastianini is not a subtle singer. I would like to ask those for whom English is mother tongue to explain to me what on earth these people mean when they use the adjective 'subtle' referring to singers and singing? Please, explain to me. If one has brilliant top notes, he can't have fine interpretation of a complex character? 

There is not a single note misplaced in Ettore's performance, including the terrific high ones in the 'Pari siamo'. Both his sneering in Act 1, 'Voi congiuraste...' for example, and his grief in the finale - 'Non morire, mio tesoro, pietade!' - as well as his most passionate plead with the courtiers to return his daughter to him - 'Ridonarla a voi nulla ora costa, tutto al mondo tal figlia è per me' - are so devoid of any histrionic effects, so very different from everything else I have ever heard in this role, it is simply unbelievable to hear them. It's like hearing and discovering Rigoletto for the very first time. It's like suddenly discovering a masterpiece equal to the Sistine Chapel's ceiling into your own office where you've been going every day for years and never noticed such a thing. And this is the only way to discover how beautiful and great and powerful Verdi's music really is."

New working links Thank you, Paul.  Great cover!


MLP 434363
Mendelssohn - Symphonies No. 3 and 4,
Fingal's Cave Overture
More Dorati and more Skrowaczewski in outstanding MLP recordings.  Enjoy!

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Wagner for Band
Eastman Wind Ensemble 
 Frederick Fennell 

1. Prelude to Act 3 and Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin
2. Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla from Das Rheingold
3. Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin
4. Overture to Rienzi
5. Good Friday Music from Parsifal

As is always the case with Wagner's music, the large brass instruments in orchestra pits all over the world are called upon to give their utmost. The idea of having a wind ensemble to perform the most magnificent-sounding passages is, therefore, not as far-fetched as it might seem. Wagner too appreciated the colorful sound which a wind-and-brass ensemble can produce, as is proved by the fact that in his Ring cycle, he introduced a complete "wind band" consisting of 33 players. Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble treat the arrangements here with such care and respect that no one will miss the delightfully warm carpet of sound of the strings in the original version. Where lyrical sentimentis called for, the high woodwinds play airily and precisely and are supported by a sonorous, organ-like base which gradually builds up to dramatic musical exuberance. Even when the highest dynamic range has been reached, no particular register is dominantly in the foreground but blends in to produce powerful, harmonious surges of sound. These arrangements bring together dynamic agility, complete transparency and musicality. One really cannot wish for more Wagner than is offered on this LP.

"…As a stereo showpiece, Wagner for Band was, is, and remains a keeper." - Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound, June/July 2006

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Haydn - Symphonies 100 and 101
Antal Dorati, London Symphony Orchestra

Dorati would later record with the Philharmonia Hungarica the pioneering first complete set of the Haydn symphonies, as well as a large number of first recordings of Haydn's operas, all issued by Philips. In this Mercury LP we have luxurious, full-orchestral sound and well-sprung rhythms, captured with the usual aplomb by the company's engineers.

I've included an .mp3 file of a BBC radio program that analyzes Haydn's Symphony N°100.

LP tracks as lossless flac files
Cover scan

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Mozart - Six String Quartets Dedicated to Haydn
Roth String Quartet

Janos Starker was the cellist of this ensemble. I know of no other recordings of his performance with a string quartet. He was also at the time of this recording, the principal cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchesta, under his mentor Fritz Reiner.

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Cesar Franck 
Symphony in D minor
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

Recorded February 1953
The dark, richly textured orchestration of Franck's only symphony (a piece that has yet to achieve the popularity it deserves) sets this work apart from other nineteenth century symphonies, and provides a unique audio experience. From its opening bars, reminiscent of Liszt's Les Preludes, the D Minor Symphony soon morphs into one of the most brooding pieces from the nineteenth century symphonic repertory, a sort of French Isle of the Dead. In its day, late in the century, it was stupidly vilified by archconservatives for its three-movement construction and the composer's inclusion of the English horn (little more than an alto oboe), as if Franck had chosen the kazoo. Both the DSO/Paray recording for Mercury and the Monteux for RCA remain the statements about this passionate work, even as compared to Cluytens and the French National Radio Orchestra on EMI/Angel, whose energy peters out in the finale. The Monteux has the advantage for most audiophiles of a superb stereo recording. While the original MF pressing is the most desirable, in this case the FR and RFR's are both excellent. (from

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Olympian MG50036
Schumann - Symphony Nº4 in D minor, Op.120

Liszt - Les Preludes

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

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Mercury Olympian MG-50045
Beethoven Symphony Nº6 in F, Op.68
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Paul Paray

Recorded in Orchestra Hall, Detroit, November 1954

Notes on the recording:
"I couldn't believe my ears, and darted to the turntable to see if it was set by mistake to 45. But it wasn't ; Paray really was taking the first movement like that. "Cheerful impressions received on arrival in the country ", wrote Beethoven on the score ; this is a cheerful impression all right..." - Gramophone review of 6th Symphony, January 1957

Thus wrote the Gramophone critic on hearing - clearly for the first time in his life - Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony taken at precisely the speed its composer had intended when he added metronome timings to the score. It is astonishingly swift, and very few conductors have abided by the composer's instructions in this respect.

But it makes for a quite different reading - and once you've climbed over the metaphorical stile that is this sudden increase in tempo, and stroll into Paray's pastoral world, you may well find it's one which agrees with you. Certainly there's much to like here in both recordings - Paray had molded the Detroit Symphony into a world class orchestra, and Mercury's Living Presence sound recordings were the perfect way to capture them in the early years of the LP era."
Andrew Rose

Corrected link below.  Thank you, Markus!



Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade, Op.35

Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra

 Rafael Druian (violin solo)

Antal Dorati

Some of Mercury's " living presence Olympian recordings—a series made by the Minneapolis Orchestra under Antal Dorati and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik—have already reached us on the H.M.V. label : notably the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition (see A.R.'s review in TI1E GRAMOPHONE for October, 1952) whose brilliance of sound won acclaim ; and also the Bart6k Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, and the "New World" Symphony (all made by Kubelik). Now Mercury is speeding to us through the agency of Oriole Records. The first-fruit of his coming is this Schelzerezade, better recorded than any of its three predecessors (for some account of which see THE GRAMOPHONE for last April). The Mercury recording technique, we are told on the sleeve, was "based on the use of a single Telefunken microphone—in this instance hung about 15 feet directly over the conductor's podium. A special method was employed in the Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minneapolis to enhance its acoustical characteristics—and thus the sound of the orchestra itself ". What we hear is of thrilling tonal intensity, wonderful clarity, exceedingly well balanced, and also—an important point—perfectly " manageable " with a reasonably good equipment.   (from Gramophone (GB), June 1954)



Mercury Olympian MG50022
Beethoven Symphony Nº7 in A, Op.92
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Paul Paray

Recorded in Orchestra Hall, Detroit, February 1953

"One of the most thrilling performances of the Beethoven 7th Symphony ever recorded."
Rob Cowan, BBC Radio 3 'Breakfast' - 29 December 2009.

Corrected link below. Thanks, Markus!



Mercury Olympian MG10133 

Mozart Quartets - K.575 “ King of Prussia Quartet” and K499. “Hoffmeister Quartet”

Roth String Quartet

New working links:

New working links:

The pw is: billinrio (I very infrequently use a pw here, but when I do, that's it).



Mercury Olympian MG50057 (French pressing)

Brahms Symphony Nº4 in E minor, Op.98

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Paul Paray

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Mercury Olympian MG50072 
Symphony Nº3 in F, Op. 90 / Tragic Overture / Academic Festival Overture
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

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Mercury Olympian MG50077 (1953)

Roy Harris Sumphony Nº3

Howard Hanson Symphony Nº4 ("Requiem")
Subtitled "Requiem" and dedicated to the composer's father, Hanson won a Pulitzter Prize for his 4th symphonyt in 1943.
The Harris 3rd, in one-movement, has long been his most admired work. He composed it during the Great Depression under the auspices of the Roosevelt administration's national arts program. In his book The Rest is Noise. Listening to the 20th Century, New Yorker Magazine music critic Alex Ross writes: "Harris was another model New Deal musician. His background might have been dreamed up by Great American Composer central casting: he was born in the oil-boom town of Chandler, Oklahoma, in a log cabin, no less, on Lincoln’s birthday. Time magazine further noted that the log cabin had been “hewed by hand” and that the young composer had driven a truck. The implication was that Harris was no classical sissy or bourgeois darling. The work that won Harris nationwide attention was his Third Symphony of 1938-an all-American hymn and dance for orchestra in which strings declaim orations in broad, open-ended lines, brass chant and whoop like cowboys in the galleries, and timpani stamp out strong beats in the middle of the bar. Such a big-shouldered sound met everyone’s expectations of what a true-blue American symphony should be. When Toscanini deigned to conduct the piece in 1940, the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates wrote to the composer: “If I had pitchers who would pitch as strongly as you do in your Symphony, my worries would be over.”

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Daphnis and Chloe (complete)
Macalester College Choir of St.Paul
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

Issued in 1954, this is the first complete recording of Ravel's "choreographic symphony in three parts". The deluxe edition here, with the gold tassel cover, is quite rare.

The following comment is from the Gramophone review of 1961:

"As one might expect, Antal Dorati secures a splendidly precise, sensitive and brilliant performance of Ravel's most complex, subtle and glittering score, and offers a strong challenge to the interpretation of Pierre Monteux. In the matter of rhythmic excitement, there is nothing in it either way. As for the orchestras, both are quite outstanding; to attempt to choose between them would be invidious."

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The Civil War

The Civil War

by Harold Lawrence

In publicizing its eleven-hour series, The Civil War, PBS pointed out that producer Ken Burns used hundreds of archival photographs, period paintings, lithographs, posters and other historical visual materials to tell the story of the war. Critic Harry F. Waters gave due credit to the impressive pictorial coverage in his review of the epic documentary. He noted, however, that "ironically, it's the sounds rather than the images that strike most movingly." Waters referred specifically to the authentic-sounding artillery cannonades accompanying the chilling pictures of major battles.But like most reviewers, he overlooked the fact that the authentic sounds of Civil War weapons, as well as much of the music heard in the series, were taken from the four-LP audio documentary recorded by Mercury Records in 1960 to mark the Civil War Centennial.

In many ways, The Civil War - Its Music and Its Sounds, Mercury Living Presence LP2S 202 (1961-62) was the sonic precursor of the immensely popular PBS TV documentary.Like Burns, Frederick Fennell was obsessed with authenticity. Founder and director of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fennell was determined to create a sonic documentation of the music of the Civil War. "I felt it my vital responsibility," he wrote in 1960, "to seek only that music which was known to have actually been played by the musicians of those (Union and Confederate) regiments . . . on the authentic and unique over-the-shoulder brass instruments for which the music was written, thus to afford the listener a faithful representation of the music of the period in its true and long-forgotten medium of expression."Fennell was ahead of his time. Today's conductors are unearthing neglected scores and painstakingly re-creating the way music of past centuries really sounded when performed on period instruments.When Fennell first dreamed of bringing to life the band sounds of mid-19th century America, Civil War music in movies, recordings and television was performed on modern instruments in contemporary arrangements, including the well-intentioned Bales-Columbia album on music of the period.The idea for the Mercury project was born in a hotel room in Gettysburg in 1956. Along with hundreds of other visitors, Frederick Fennell, had made the pilgrimage to the battlefield and was reading himself to sleep with W.C. Storrick's "The Battle of Gettysburg" when he came across this entry from the diary of Lt. Col. Arthur J. L. Fremantle, a British observer with Lee's forces: "When the cannonade was at its height, a Confederate band of music, between the cemetery and ourselves, began to play polkas and waltzes, which sounded very curious, accompanied by the hissing and bursting of the shells."At these words, Fennell leaped from bed, dressed and went out into the moonlit field to try to locate the exact spot where the Confederate band had played. As he sat on one of General Longstreet's cannons, his mind raced with the speed of a solid-shot projectile. Why not recreate the music of Civil bands using authentic period instruments?Fennell approached Howard Hanson, director of the Eastman School of Music and the artistic supervisor of the Eastman School/Mercury Living Presence American Music series, with his idea. Hanson enthusiastically endorsed their project and Fennell plunged ahead.

The first priority was to identify the Confederate band that Fremantle heard on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. For months, he searched through history books, periodicals, Civil War studies, and regimental records of the Confederacy. He struck pure gold when he found a re-print of a speech given by member of the 26th North Carolina Regiment Band. There was no doubt that this was the band referred to in Fremantle's diary. 

Finding musical parts for the 26th North Carolina, however, was a big challenge to Fennell. Not surprisingly, there were no printed scores. Fennell observed in his profuse notes for the Mercury album that it wasn't until the next century that bandmasters were supplied with "more than a sometimes-cued one-line cornet part". The original Confederate band parts of the 26th were in varied condition. One had a hole through it, probably caused by a Minie ball during a battle. Others were faded so badly that Fennell had to decipher where the staves and the bar lines were. And the many different musicians who copied music into the individual band parts made lots of mistakes. After struggling with the often illegible parts, Fennell finally arrived at a point where he could test what he'd transcribed.He invited six Eastman Wind Ensemble players to his studio to read through the 40 tunes he had written out. Errors were fixed as they turned up. Fennell prepared his final band scores from the tapes he recorded at this session.The musicians of the 26th performed a dual function, Fennell learned, which may account for the amateur-looking parts he found: "They played when it was appropriate for them to do so, cheering the troops in camp or on the march. They served under the surgeon and their military duties were confined to that of field hospital corpsmen."He had a much easier time with the Union band parts of the Third New Hampshire Regiment, which was formed in 1861 and spent the war years in the Port Royal sector of South Carolina after a Federal expeditionary force landed at Hilton Head and established a permanent garrison there.Armed with these historic manuscripts, Fennell got to work ferreting out the authentic brass instruments played by Civil War bands. He found most of them in private museums and instrument collections. These horns were designed so that their bells were pointed back to deliver their sounds to the troops marching behind them.
Over-the-shoulder brass instruments were an outgrowth of rotary valve horns which began to be manufactured in Germany and Austria in the early 19th century. An American brass maker, Allen Dodsworth, copied the European designs and, in 1838, "invented" a family of conical-bore rotary valve brasses whose bells pointed back over the left shoulder of the player. The Dodsworths reached their peak during the Civil War when regimental bands North and South used them on parade.Fennell made a few concessions to practicality in re-constituting his Union and Confederate marching bands. Since there wasn't any appreciable difference in sound between 1860 and 1960 clarinets, he used contemporary instruments. He also decided not to use period fifes as the stretches needed to cover the open holes in the old instruments are simply "too demanding". So he selected piccolos instead.The job of restoring the antique instruments to playing condition was entrusted to a horn-playing member of the Eastman Wind Ensemble.There was a dramatic difference between the Confederate orchestrations and those of the Union bands. The 26th North Carolina was made up of over-the-shoulder brass, with no drums. The Port Royal band was a far cry from the simple musical style of their Confederate counterparts. The larger Federal ensemble included 3 piccolos, 4 clarinets, 17 over-the-shoulder horns, and 2 drums, small and large. Fennell contends that there is not one note of cymbal music in the books of any Civil War band. Historical photographs bear him out.The 26th North Carolina scoring produced a plain, naive, sound. Hearing "Dixie" played by such a small ensemble will come as a refreshing surprise to listeners familiar only with the full band or orchestral versions. The performance on this Mercury Living Presence recording generates a kind of excitement far beyond the number of players.The rest of the repertoire of the 26th North Carolina consisted largely of hymns, marches, sentimental ballads and quicksteps.The Port Royal Band's music was more cosmopolitan. Apart from such home-grown products as "Hail to the Chief", "Hail Columbia", and "Cape May Polka", the larger band drew much of its material from Europe, including medleys from operas like Weber's Der Freischutz and Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, Strauss waltzes and the stirring "La Marseillaise".In addition to the authentic sounds of these re-constructed bands, Fennell devoted the rest of his Civil War musical survey to marching tunes for fifes and drums and cavalry bugle signals.Fennell discussed the project with Mercury Records from the start. The idea for recreating the sounds of the Battle of Gettysburg was the brainchild of Wilma Cozart Fine, director of the label's classical division. On October 31, 1960, after four years of planning, Fennell and the recording team began to put the pieces together. The Eastman Wind Ensemble assembled on the stage of the Eastman Theatre in Rochester with their lovingly restored period instruments.It was quite a sight! With his back to the exposed bricks of the Eastman Theatre (the orchestra shell had been removed), Fennell looked out over what was probably the strangest deployment of instruments in recording history. The reeds were placed on the apron of the stage, facing the audience seats. The players were "upset" over losing eye contact with their conductor. Fennell's solution to the problem was simple: he went to the nearest auto supply house and purchased seven rear-view mirrors which he fixed to the music stands.Unlike the reeds, the horn players faced the conductor, although the bells of their over-the-shoulder instruments pointed toward the microphones on the stage apron. The two percussionists faced each other from positions on either side of the stage. Fennell called it a "heterodox" arrangement - which was his way of saying that "unorthodox" didn't quite do it justice.

The music sessions all took place in December, 1960. But the recording project as a whole actually began in Gettysburg, where the sounds of The Battle were recreated. Drawing on its experience with period weapons the Mercury crew decided to add to its recorded arsenal. With the help of Gerald C. Stowe, curator of the Museum of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and now military adviser to the project, Mercury assembled an impressive array of battle weapons.All the firing was recorded on 35mm magnetic film recorders and half-inch three-track tape machines. In addition, Mercury staged cavalry charges on the historic site. The cannons were set up across the lower end of the battlefield, with C.R. Fine's custom-designed recording van a safe three hundred yards away. The three Schoeps mikes were placed on 15-foot poles, facing the firing line. Members of Battery "B" of the 2nd New Jersey Light Artillery Unit rammed wads of water-soaked paper down the muzzles of the cannons, which were aimed at a point not too far below the microphones.Power for the recording equipment came from a special line erected on the highway-half a mile from the truck. Every foot of audio cable that chief engineer could lay his hands on had been brought to the battle site. The microphones were placed on fishpole booms, tall wooden posts, or suspended from clusters of heavy-duty balloons, according to the sounds being recorded. Four Civil War cannons-a 10-lb. cast-iron Parrott, a 3.67 bronze field gun firing a 12-lb. James projectile and two 12-lb. Napoleon bronze gun-howitzers-were recorded firing repeatedly.The effects tracks included more than cannonades. There were gun crews plunging rammers into muzzles, the clip-clop of horses hooves, rumble of caissons, horses neighing, whish of sabres, rattle of canteens and frying pans in a mess kit, Rebel shouts, firing of sidearms, the cocking of a hammer on a Colt .44 or a Remington revolver, the clatter of ejected cartridges, the lever action of a single-shot Sharp breechloader, the fitting of a bayonet on a rifle and the rapid fire of a 7-shot Spencer repeating rifle (the only rapid-fire repeating rifle Federally issued in the Civil War)-each played a key role in constructing the sound-effects mix.The task of editing the music and sound effects of the Battle of Gettysburg alone was formidable. Over 1,500 shots from authentic Civil War weapons were combined with music, narration and sound effects, using 93 separate 35mm magnetic film tracks, to create this sonic documentary.

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MLP 434354
Schubert - The two symphonies in C major
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Stanislaw Skowaczewski (No.9)
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (No.6)

"Skrowaczewski's "Great" was recorded in 1961 in Northrop Memorial Auditorium on both 3-track tape and 35mm film. This recording offers a foretaste of performances of Schubert on original instruments; the conductor's light touch and breezy tempos, and the orchestra's wiry strings aren't far from what Norrington, Harnoncourt, and others have recorded in recent years. Skrowaczewski finds no titanic climaxes or olympian raptures in this "Great," whose total timing is just over forty-five minutes. The second movement, marked Andante con moto, is positively perky here. The MSO's strings are taxed by the seemingly endless triplets in the Finale, but, all in all, this is a well-played, lightweight performance, albeit one which lacks the marmoreal qualities that other conductors and orchestras have brought to it. 

The "Little" C Major was recorded three years earlier. This delightful work dances between hints of Haydn and bites of Beethoven but is Schubertian to the core. Schmidt-Isserstedt, an underrated conductor, finds the right tone for each of the movements, except possibly for the Finale, a notoriously difficult movement to find the right tempos for. The London Symphony is on its toes for this recording, and the engineering for both recordings is among Mercury's best." ClassicalNet review

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MLP 434340 

        Brahms - Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat
Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Bk.II
       Liszt - Hungrarian Rhapsody No.12
           Beethoven - Piano Sonata Op.14, No.1

Gina Bachauer
London Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski 

From Gramophone, September, 1995

"Once upon a time women pianists were thought not to be “up to” the two Brahms concertos, an idea Gina Bachauer’s 1962 recording of the B flat Concerto disproves - not with Amazonian beligerance, but with a sweet reasonableness that goes staight to the the heart of this loftiest, most Olympian of concertos. Skrowaczewski begins rather belligerantly, as though trying to out-Szell Szell, but he and the LSO soon settle back to provide a suitably taut and civilized reading of the concerto’s elaborately symphonic infrastructure. The tiniest amount of residual tape hiss apart, the Mercury recording is a joy to hear, rich-bodied and clear.

The way the new disc has been assembled, the B flat Concerto is a mere aperitif, a curtain-raiser for the big stuff to come. In Book 2 of the Brahms Paganini Variations and in the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody one gets the unmistakable impression of the real work to be done, of Bachauer really confronting the keyboard as Michelangelo is said to have confronted the marblehe was contemplating working. And yet, with the Beethoven sonata as a postlude, all is again sweetness and light, a reading of tantalizing charm and ease of address.

Perhaps because whe was such an astonishingly good all-round player - a true “generalist” - Bachauer has been too little regarded in recent years. This collection reminds us what a phenomenon she was."

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MLP 434348
Richard Strauss
Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
Don Juan
Death and Transfiguration
Suite from Der Rosencavalier

Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra 
Antal Dorati

"In this one superlative disk you can hear why Dorati was considered one of Strauss's greatest interpreters. Throughout his career, from the days of the Ballet Russe in the '30s and '40s to the Detroit Symphony recordings of the '70s and '80s, Dorati followed Strauss scholarship closely and shared his admiration of Strauss with audiences in stunning and communicative performances. These are from his Minneapolis years (only the mono Heldenleben is left out) and the performances are knockouts. The maestro plays fair by the composer, but there's an almost operatic type of scene organization that allows him to build drama and lead us through the ebbs and tides of Straussian psychology.

Unlike so many readings of this composer, no lumpiness is allowed, no frowzy attacks, no sitting around. In all instances the music is youthful, alive, spritely, fresh, clear, balanced, and captivating. Dorati gets his best performance of his own assemblage of Rosenkavalier excerpts, hypnotic and rythmic with a good measure of Viennese elegance thrown in. Those of us who have suffered thourgh snoring, routine performances at the Staatsoper would have liked to have had the Minneapolis contingent in the pit. The ensemble played and breathed like an opera orchestra while under Dorati, living and "singing" the drama and life of its repertoire. This comes through strongly on this disk.

Striking here is the Transfiguration, which does, indeed, do that as the conductor brings up a vertical crescendo and breaks apart the sound into transluscent color that scatters across your speakers' spectrum to startling effect. Wilma Cozart, genius that she is, probably thought rehabbing this one from her own original tapes was a coffee-and-Danish break. My side-by-side comparisons with first-edition Mercury vinyl indicates little, if anything, was needed to bring this outstanding reissue to us." (ClassicalNet review)

Death and Transfiguration and Don Juan were recorded in Northrop Memorial Auditorium, on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on December 23, 1958 using three Telefunken microphones - one Model 201 and two M56 . Till Eulenspiegel and the Suite from Der Rosenkavalier were recorded in the same venue on December 22, 1955 with one Telefunken 201 and two Telefunken U47 microphones. All were recorded on three-track, one-half-inch tape

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Piston/Sessions/Hanson/ Hovhaness
The Eastman Rochester Orchestra
Howard Hanson

Piston: The Incredible Flutist

Piston composed his -only work for the stage, the ballet The Incredible Flutist in 1938, The ballet received its premiere by the Boston Pops, under Hans Wiener, on May 30 of that year. The text of the ballet was written by Piston and Wiener. It describes a marketplace teeming with activity and enlivened by a circus. A flutist acts as a snake charmer, and also charms women. A rich widow flirts with a merchant, is discovered by her lover, faints, and is revived by the flutist's music. The circus then leaves the square.
Piston arranged music from the ballet into a suite for orchestra; this was premiered on November 22, 1940, by the Pittsburgh Symphony under Fritz Reiner. The suite is in thirteen movements:

▪ Introduction
▪ Siesta Hour in the Marketplace and Entrance of the Vendors
▪ Dance of the Vendors
▪ Entrance of the Customers
▪ Tango of the Four Daughters
▪ Arrival of Circus and Circus March
▪ Solo of the Flutist
▪ Minuet - Dance of the Widow and Merchant
▪ Spanish Waltz
▪ Eight O'Clock Strikes
▪ Siciliano - Dance of the Flutist and the Merchant's Daughter
▪ Polka
▪ Finale

Elliott Carter has commented on how Piston avoided the use of particular musical geographic "pastiche" style in the music, which could have made the setting specific to one geography, and noted that the village can be "any village" in this setting.

Roger Sessions: The Black Maskers

Sessions wrote The Black Maskers for the senior class play of Smith College in 1923, at the request of Professor S.A. Eliot. It had eight numbers and was for small orchestra. Five years later Sessions revised the music as a four-movement suite for a large symphony orchestra. The play The Black Maskers was by the Russian symbolist dramatist Leonid Andreyev (1871 - 1919). In it the human spirit (personified by Duke Lorenzo) comes under attack from sinister, powerful forces from the unknown. To set the mood of the piece, Sessions quotes a passage written by Andreyev in his My Diary, a few months before completion of the play. In it Andreyev depicts a castle (the soul) into which the host admits a succession of grotesque masked figures. "The strange Black Maskers are the powers whose field of action is the soul of man, and whose mysterious nature he can never fathom."

The suite became one of Sessions few early successes, and was particularly welcomed in the USSR because of its Russian literary origin. The first movement is a wild melody with cries of despair answered by "malicious laughter," as the composer stated. The second movement is for Scene 3 of the play, where the festive gathering is gradually infiltrated by increasing numbers of the Black Maskers. A quite central section is Duke Lorenzo's song, but at the end the Maskers trumpet in triumph. The third movement is the introduction to Scene 4 of the play, with reminiscences of the Maskers' trumpet calls, and then new trumpet calls representing Lorenzo's death. In the final movement, his castle is overwhelmed by flames, in whose purity Lorenzo finds redemption.

Howard Hanson:  Suite from "Merry Mount"

Completed in 1933, Merry Mount was to be Hanson's only opera. With a libretto by R. L. Stokes after the novel by Nathanial Hawthorne, the premiere, under Tullio Serafin, took place at the Metropolitan Opera, New York on February 10th, 1934 (a recording taken from the New York run is available on Naxos Historical 8.110024/5). The scenario, concerning witchcraft and sexual obsession in seventeenth century New England, offered unlimited scope to the composer's full-bodied orchestration and lush harmonic manner. Despite initial sucess, however, the opera was not revived until 1964 and seldom thereafter. Hanson compiled the five-movement suite in 1938 and recorded it in 1940. The Overture begins with a brass chorale, which sounds forbodingly over tolling timpani and gongs, gaining in passion as the music emerges into focus. A heightened turn to the major, replete with pealing bells, indicates the powerfully emotive nature of the story about to unfold.
Children's Dance is a witty and rhythmically agile scherzo, bounding forward with uninhibited zest. Ironically, it depicts the presence in the town of pleasure-seeking cavaliers. Love Duet is warm and lilting, the melodic material intensifying by degree, before it reaches a purposeful climax over a measured timpani tread, and closes in a suddenly ominous mood, reflecting the doomed desire of Pastor Bradford for Lady Marigold Sandys. The Prelude to Act II opens pastorally, becoming rhythmically animated as the music moves forward impulsively into the Maypole Dances. This vividly descriptive sequence, complete with modal inflections and offbeat percussion touches, heads relentlessly to its whirlwind conclusion; a graphic image for the conflict between hedonism and puritanism which underlies the opera's fateful conclusion.

Alan Hovhaness: Prelude and Quadruple Fugue

Prelude and Quadruple Fugue (1936/54) is an orchestrated revision of an extract from the composer's String Quartet No. 1. The Prelude features a somber modal melody that is elaborated with great sensuality. The Fugue is something of a compositional tour de force: it presents four subjects, each of which appears in full exposition, before all are combined in quadruple invertible counterpoint (i.e. each subject in turn serves as the bass line). Hovhaness has asserted that he is the first composer ever to have accomplished this feat, although Mozart inserted a brief fugato with quadruple invertible counterpoint into the coda of the fourth movement of his Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter"). (J. S. Bach had intended to conclude The Art of Fugue with a full quadruple fugue, but did not live to complete the work.) What is especially remarkable about Hovhaness's work is that its effect is rather breezy and dramatic, with no sense of hieratic academicism

PW: billinrio

This analog to digital transfer was made with the following equipment:

Turntable: Garrard 401
Tonearm: SME 3012
Phono cartridge: Dynavector XV-1T
Phono preamplifier Artemis Labs PH-1 Phono Stage
Monitor speakers: AR2a
Sound card: Macintosh iMac

Minimal declicking with Adobe Soundbooth CS4

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Mercury Golden Imports SRI 75136
Evelyn Lear, soprano
Martin Katz, piano

Leonard Bernstein
1. Who Am I (from PETER PAN)
2. My House (from PETER PAN)
3. I Can Cook Too (from ON THE TOWN)
4. Some Other Time (from ON THE TOWN)
5. Lonely Town (from ON THE TOWN)
Stephen Sondheim

6. Green Finch and Linnet Bird (from SWEENEY TODD)
7. I Remember (from EVENING PRIMROSE)
8. Could I Leave You? (from FOLLIES)
9. Losing My Mind (from FOLLIES)
10. Send in the Clowns (from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC)

Lyrics by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Steven Sondheim

Released in 1981

This recording is one of the few that Mercury released originally on its "Golden Imports" label. It's a rare example of an opera singer crossing over to more "popular" fare (in this case, to the American equivalent of operetta) and sounding very natural in doing so.

I did the analog to digital transfer using the following equipment:

Turntable: Garrard 401
Tonearm: SME 3012
Phono cartridge: Dynavector XV-1T
Phono preamplifier Artemis Labs PH-1 Phono Stage
Monitor speakers: AR3a
Sound card: Macintosh iMac

Minimal manual de-click treatment with Adobe Soundbooth

New working link:



Olympian MG50037
Schubert - “Unfinished” Symphony
Tchaikovsky - Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Among the unfortunately small number of recordings that Mercury made while recording in Chicago, most were conducted by Rafael Kubelik. This is one of the very few conducted by Dorati.

Since some people have asked about the equipment I use to digitize the LPs, here is a list:

Turntable: Garrard 401
Tonearm: SME 3012
Phono cartridge: Dynavector XV-1T
Phono preamplifier Artemis Labs PH-1 Phono Stage
Monitor speakers: AR3a
Sound card: Macintosh iMac

Minimal treatment with Adobe Soundbooth CS4
Once you have downloaded the 2 links below, combine them and then unzip the resulting file.

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Chadwick - Symphonic Sketches
MacDowell - Suite for Large Orchestra
Peter - Sinfonia in G
With its stupendous dynamic range, the Mercury LP of the Symphonic Sketches (SR90018) became famous as a sound demonstration disk.  The truth be told, its groove modulations were beyond the tracking ability of practically all of the phono cartridges on the market at that time, with the result that most of us who liked to “demonstrate” it ended up damaging the LP.  There is a “near mint” copy currently being offered on ebay for $99.   But “buyer beware”.  This digital transfer, carried out with the usual care by Wilma Cozart Fine, is, IMO, perfectly satisfactory.   The cover, apparently showing the “Hobgoblin” of the Symphonic Sketches 3rd movement, is among my personal favorites of the Mercury series.. 

    Once downloaded, combine the files with the freeware HJSplit (Windows) or SplitandConcat (Macintosh). Then unzip the resulting file.   

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Tchaikovsky Symphony Nº6
Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture

One of the finest ever recordings of the Pathetique... The Finale is masterly ... The Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture is just great. What a disc!
Bill Newman, Hi-Fi News and Record Review, December 1995

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Olympian MG50012
Richard Strauss - Ein Heldenleben
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Dorati
Recorded December, 1952

Think what you will about Strauss's paean of self-glorification    the picture of himself as the Uebermensch, heroically fighting off his snarling detractors and loftily withdrawing from the world to plan his masterpieces undisturbed smacks not a little of the Nazi lack of proportion—it cannot be denied that after more than half a century it stands up, as music, better than many of the, other bombastic works of the period (think of d'Indy's Second Symphony, Scriaben's "Le Poetize de l'Extase", Gliere's "Ilya Murometz" or—dare I add, after the Edinburgh Festival, Schoenberg's—"Gurrelieder"!).  True, some of the sequences in the early part now sound manufactured; the caprices of the "Helpmate" become rather tiresome ; the battle (with the dice heavily loaded) goes on too long. But Strauss's sheer exuberance, his delight in wielding his mastery of the most complex counterpoint, the melting tenderness in those moments when he was content to be simple and quiet, give this tone-poem many unforgettable passages. There is already a fine recording available by Clemens Krauss and the Vienna Philharmonic, well if not faultlessly engineered, on the Decca list.  This new version is a worthy rival to it. Dorati, who is thought of in this country mainly as a ballet specialist, reveals that he is equally at home in vast concert scores such as this, and with the aid of his excellent Minneapolis Orchestra (which he took over in 1949) gives a reading which is full of vitality, shapely and admirably clear. Though the strenuous parts leave little to be desired, it is the reflective sections which are given a particular beauty—the composer's musings on his previous works, or his peaceful reveries (the cor anglais theme after figure 99 in the score). The strings of the orchestra are first class, and the solo violin not only well illustrates the changeable temperament of Frau Pauline but does so with purer intonation than his Vienna Phil. rival. The trumpets heralding the battle, by the way, are played off-stage as the composer demanded—a detail which Decca passed over.
What of the recording? Mercury have a high reputation to uphold, and they are clearly proud of their " Living Presence" quality—though I don;t understand how their use of a single microphone constitutes a "unique recording technique ".  The tone of the orchestra emerges faithfully (though without quite the roundness and weight of the Decca version), the disc surface is completely quiet, and the recording takes the full blaze of the shattering climaxes (e.g. the enormous dominant seventh at the end of the first section) without a trace of discomfort." L.S.     Review from Gramophone November 1954

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cover scan:



Olympian MG 50006   
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 in E minor, Op.74 "Pathetique"
Chicago Symphony Orchestra  Rafael Kubelik  (1953)

"Rafael Kubelik's tenure in Chicago was a difficult time for the conductor. In spite of his first-class music-making, he was the target of Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy whose unjustified displeasure with Kubelik was obvious from every scathing review. It was an impossible situation for anyone taking over leadership of the CSO after the stormy departure of Artur Rodzinski, who always enjoyed (and rightfully so) the vitriolic critic's glowing praise. These are superb performances recorded in 1951 towards the end of the Czech conductor's first season with the CSO.  Mercury had just started its remarkable series of CSO recordings that began with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, a disk that amazed audiophiles due to its balance, dynamic range and rich orchestral textures—in addition to the splendid performance.  Pictures, inexplicably, is not currently available but a few of the early Kubelik's are: Dvorak's New World (1953) coupled with Mozart's Symphony No. 38 (1951)(Mercury Living Presence 434387), Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra (1954) coupled with Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis (1953)(434397), and Smetana's Ma Vlast (1952)(434379). All were recorded with Mercury's single microphone process. We hear the sound of a big orchestra playing in an acoustically perfect hall, Chicago's Orchestra Hall before the misguided changes in the concert hall in 1966 during Jean Martinon's regime". 2003 review by R.E.B.  Haydn House website.
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MLP 434359  Gina Bachauer

Ravel  Gaspard de la nuit
 with John Gielgud (Spoken Vocals)

Debussy  Suite for Piano "Pour le piano"
Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie
Préludes, Book 2: no 5, Bruyères
Préludes, Book 1: no 1, Danseuses de Delphes

Stravinsky    Pétrouchka: Three movements for Piano

Includes Gina Bachauer bonus:

2 CD´s

Saint-Saens:  Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22     
Faure:  Ballade for piano & orchestra (or piano solo) in F sharp major, Op. 19     
Ravel:  Gaspard de la nuit, for piano      
Debussy:  Pour le piano, suite for piano, L. 95   
Mozart:  Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, K. 537 ("Coronation")  
                Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491     

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Tchaikovsky Symphony no.4 / Francesca da Rimini
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

  Copy and paste the links below into your browser.  Once downloaded, combine them with the software such as HJSplit (Windows) or SplitandConcat (Macintosh). Then unzip the resulting file.

New working links:

Mercury MG50148

Barber - Symphony no.1
Overture to the School for Scandal
Adagio for Strings
Essay for Orchestra Nº1
Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson

Samuel Barber is arguably the most underappreciated American composer of the last century.  His music is always inventive, visceral and accessible, melodic and colorful.  The slow movement of his String Quartet, reconstituted as the "Adagio for Strings," is one of the most recognizable concert pieces to emerge from this continent.   

Hanson's recording of Barber's expansive First Symphony crops up in a number of couplings.  Mercury must have been very proud of this recording – a very early stereo effort (1954) that sounds great in every version in which it appears, including the original mono.

(Comment from the Mono Mavin website)

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MLP 462960
Holst, Vaughn-Williams, Mennin, Persichetti, Reed

"The Holst and Vaughan Williams pieces are cornerstones of the basic concert band literature. It has a sonic panorama of exotic percussion instruments, popular folk melodies and colorful wind sonorities. A demo disc for audiophiles. A "must have" compilation, almost 75 minutes in length."(quote from Acoustic Sounds website)

 Copy and paste the links below into your browser.  Once downloaded, combine them with the freeware HJSplit (Windows) or Split&Concat (Macintosh). Then unzip the resulting file.

New working links:



MLP 434375
Beethoven - Symphony No.5 in c-sharp
Symphony No.6 in F
Overture to "The Creatures of Prometheus"
London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

 Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 was recorded on July 24 and 25, 1962, on both 35 mm film and 3-track half-inch tape. Due to difficulties with original film master, this Compact Disc was made from the half-inch tape; it was originally released on vinyl as SR90317. The Sixth Symphony was recorded July 15-25, 1962, on 3-track half-inch tape and was first released as SR90415. Both symphonies were recorded in Watford Town Hall, outside London. The Prometheus Overture was recorded on 3-track half-inch tape in Wembly Town Hall, also outside London, on June 12, 1960, and was first released as part of LPS9000. All three works were recorded with three 201 Telefunken microphones.

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Moussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition
original piano version, Byron Janis

Ravel orchestration - Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

 original MLP LP cover of the Ravel version

The spectacular sounds of Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's masterpiece, 'Pictures at an Exhibition' truly are tailor made for Mercury's Living Presence sound and I was completely bowled over by the magnificence exuded by this superbly remastered disc.

Byron Janis plays what may be termed as one of the finest ever interpretations of the solo piano version of 'Pictures' bringing a unique insight into the famous 'Promenades', 'The Old Castle', 'Catacombs' and the resplendent 'Great Gate of Kiev'.

Two short Chopin pieces are also brilliantly played by Janis whilst Doráti's version of Pictures with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra needs no introduction to the seasoned audiophile. As already mentioned, the sound is absolutely mind boggling on all counts, with the Finale truly apocalyptic.

When I am faced with such discs, I really am at a loss at what to write, such is the perfection and beauty of the interpretations and recordings. As always in this Mercury series, notes and presentation are of the highest standards with the former also including reminiscence from the great Byron Janis himself. Great stuff then and if you have an SACD player, more power to your bugle! review

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MLP 434342
Wagner - Preludes and Overtures
  • Parsifal: Good Friday Music
  • Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude
  • Lohengrin: Act 1 Prelude
  • Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod
  • Lohengrin: Act 3 Prelude
  • Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music

 Wagner's "Die Meisterginger" Overture, Good Friday Spell, and Prelude to Act I of "Lohengrin" were recorded in Wembly Town Hall, outside London, on June 4, 1960, and released on SR90287.

  The Prelude and Liebestod, Overture and Venusburg Music, and Prelude to Act III of "Lohengrin" were recorded at Watford Town Hall, also outside of London, on June 9 and 14, 1959, and released on SR90234.

 All the works were recorded on three-track half-inch tape using three Telefunken 201 microphones.

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Moussorgsky/Ravel - Pictures at an Exhibition
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Kubelik

 MG5000. The one that started it all .  In 1951, when the company was a Chicago-based independent, its ''Olympian Series'' was launched with this now classic monophonic LP of the Mussorgsky-Ravel ''Pictures at an Exhibition'' played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik.  In reviewing that disk in The New York Times, Howard Taubman wrote that the effect was ''like being in the living presence of the orchestra''; Mercury took his phrase ''Living Presence'' as the rubric for its subsequent releases, well into the stereophonic era. 

 Ape files of each track + cover scan.

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Brahms - Cello Sonatas nos. 1 and 2 
Mendelssohn  - Cello Sonata no.2  
 Janos Starker, Gyorgy Sebok

Does anything more need to be said? Starker's fans cover a half-century span; his artistry, in a class of its own; his career, stellar; his long-term collaboration with Sebok, ideal. The New York Times described Starker's wizardry perfectly: "The pitch is unerringly right, the tone is mellow without being mushy, difficult leaps and runs are manipulated with the easy unobtrusiveness of a magician." These are masterful performances of very beautiful music; a CD sure to be treasured and played again and again. (from Acoustic Sounds)

LP cover of the Mendelssohn sonata
 LP cover of the Brahms sonatas

 Copy and paste the links below into your browser.  Once downloaded, combine them with the freeware HJSplit (Windows) or Split&Concat (Macintosh).

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The Romeros

 (Celedonio, Celin, Pepe and Angel) guitars

San Antonio Symphony Orchestra / Victor Alessandro

Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (1939)  (Angel Romero);
Concierto Andaluz for Four Guitars and Orchestra (1967)  

Concerto in B Minor for Four Guitars and Orchestra (Transcribed from the Concerto for Four Violins and Orchestra, Op 3, No 10 (from "L’Estro Armonico")
Concerto in C for Guitar and Orchestra (Transcribed from the Concerto in C for Mandolin and Orchestra (Celedonio Romero);
Concerto in G for Two Guitars and Orchestra (Transcribed from the Concerto in G for Two Mandolins and Orchestra)  (Pepe and Celin Romero).

"The selling point here is of course the Aranjuez Concerto, which probably is the most played and most recorded of all 20th century concertos. It was written just before the outbreak of World War II, and an interesting fact is that the guitar player who dominated the greater part of the last century and who even can be held responsible for the revival of the guitar as an instrument for serious music making, Andrés Segovia, never played it. Obviously he objected to Rodrigo dedicating the work to another player. It is a fine composition and the beautiful Adagio movement must be known to most music lovers and to many other. It has also appeared in many different arrangements; most famous of them all the Gil Evans – Miles Davis version on the early 1960s album "Sketches of Spain". That’s where I first heard this music. I had a student friend who also was an amateur painter – very good indeed – and he used to put this particular tune on the turntable while painting. I can still see the painting he worked on for weeks: a white landscape in the foreground, separated from a similarly white sky by a thin horizon, but that horizon grew thicker the further to the right you looked, and there, in that thickness, he worked hour after hour, inspired by Rodrigo’s music, with different colours. It was all very fascinating and I think I heard that particular track of the already worn record literally hundreds of times. When I finally bought a CD with "Sketches of Spain" it meant a return to these hours of painting, and a reunion with a very good friend.

There are other versions. Rodrigo himself, as late as 1986, turned it into a lovely song, with lyrics, in French, by his wife Victoria Kamhi. It is entitled Aranjuez, ma pensée, and I heard it quite recently, sung by a young and very promising Swedish dramatic soprano, Ulla Westlund, who is auditioning for Covent Garden this autumn (2004).

I have long treasured a CBS LP from 1974 with John Williams and English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. I listened to it again before delving into this Mercury disc. Of course there are differences, but not very important. Williams – Barenboim are a little slower in all the movements. In the Adagio that creates a more dreamlike atmosphere, but I am not sure it’s the tempo differences that matter most; the whole sound picture is softer, the cor anglais, presenting the celebrated melody, is more withdrawn, superbly played by James Brown. The unnamed player on the Mercury disc is also very good. The ECO strings are more sophisticated, more silken in tone, than the San Antonio group, which sounds bigger – and maybe more Spanish. After all San Antonio is not that far from the Mexican border and the orchestra may include some Spanish-speaking members, if that is of any importance. The guitarists are both world class, both play the Adagio in an improvisatory way that is very appealing. Both performances are excellent. The old Williams LP has on the reverse-side the Villa-Lobos Concerto, which also is a masterpiece. But The Romeros have another trump card: another work by Rodrigo, and, besides that a world premiere recording.

In 1967 Celedonio Romero, the father, asked Rodrigo for a concerto for himself and his three sons. The result was this Concierto Andaluz, which was first performed by the Romeros and the San Antonio Symphony in November of that year and subsequently recorded. In the booklet the composer himself describes the music. It was inspired by Andalusian music, but contains no authentic folk melodies. It is written in a popular vein, partly very colourful, partly aiming at displaying the brilliance of the soloists. The first movement, Tiempo de Bolero, is definitely captivating, and there is a catchy tune in the strings that I had to play all over again, one that was singing in my head even after going to bed; just like a really good pop-tune. But after a while the movement idles – it feels over-long, but that bolero-rhythm saves the day. The Adagio isn’t very memorable; a cute theme in the strings appears halfway through the movement and returns near the end; and the Allegretto is lively – of course, it is an allegretto. Then there is a mischievous trumpeter elbowing his way out of the orchestral texture now and again. That’s great fun. And of course the solo playing is excellent. But this concerto isn’t in the same league as the Aranjuez. Still it is good to have heard it and the Bolero is something I will return to, and play to my friends.

There is quite a substantial "filler": 30 minutes of Vivaldi. Of course Vivaldi never wrote a guitar concerto, but through the centuries many of "the Red Priest’s" 450-odd concertos have been subjected to arrangements and transcriptions by great and less great colleagues (J.S. Bach being one of the first). Here we find two works, originally written with the mandolin in mind, and the well-known concerto for four violins (from "L’Estro Armonico"). 
The timing is generous; if it is the Aranjuez concerto you are after you can’t do much better in a crowded field than getting this one, and getting the Andaluz concerto on the same disc is no bad thing. 

Göran Forsling (MusicWeb International web site)


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Offenbach/Rosenthal - Gaite Parisienne
Strauss/Dorati - Graduation Ball 
Minneapolis Symphony
Antal Dorati

Gaîté parisienne  is a 1938 ballet based on music by Offenbach and arranged by Manuel Rosenthal. The setting is the Café Tortoni, in Paris during the Second Empire. Various people from all levels of society meet there, including  aristocrats, high society-ladies, as well as a lower-class flower girl, along with professional can-can dancers. A glove seller attracts the attention of various rival suitors, including a baron and an officer. Another suitor is a Peruvian tourist who carries two carpetbags, full of jewelry, hoping to make his fortune in Paris. In due course a quarrel between the customers ensues. After order is restored, the ballet culminates in a high-spirited can-can, the celebrated one  from Orpheus in the Underworld. However, with the "Barcarolle" from Les contes d´Hoffmann as the featured music after the can-can, the café customers disperse and the café closes for the evening. The ballet ends as the Peruvian is left alone, ready to search for new adventures.

In composing Graduation Ball, Dorati took some less-familiar works of Johann Strauss Jr. and incorporated them into a full ballet.  These included "Acceleration Walzer", "Trisch Trasch Polka" and "Perpetuum Mobilé". Several different polkas and galops are heard in the finale.  
Recorded: April 1957

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cover scan:



Szerying Plays Kreisler

"Henryk Szeryng and Charles Reiner taped this recital in 1963, for the Mercury Living Presence label. Using revolutionary three-track equipment, the recording director, Wilma Cozart, and chief engineer, Robert Fine, achieved unprecedented fidelity and dynamic range, throughout a series of legendary LP issues which became bywords for excellence among a generation of hi-fi buffs. Three decades later, this outstanding CD testifies eloquently to the prodigious results obtained. One need hardly add that Henryk Szeryng’s accounts of these Kreisler bon-bons are masterly. He brings to these delectable miniatures much of the sparkle and inimitable Gemütlichkeit of the master himself. A treasure of a reissue.   Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5)."  -- Michael Jameson, BBC Music Magazine 

 Simply stated, the Szeryng disc belongs in every violin-fancier's collection. Szeryng's tone is warm and rich, and his interpretations are sentimental but not saccharine. Furthermore, search Opus for other collections of Kreisler's goodies – this disc includes a lucky thirteen – and you'll find surprisingly few. I haven't heard all of these collections, but I doubt that I'd prefer any of them to Szeryng's. (It's worthwhile to hear Kreisler play Kreisler, first on an EMI Références reissue, and now in RCA Victor's integral edition. However, the Kreisler recordings sound their age.) Mercury's program includes the hits: "Caprice Viennois," "Liebesleid," "Liebesfreud," "Tambourin Chinois," and others. This material was recorded in 1963 and originally released as SR90348. Mercury's reissue fills the program out with Léclair's Third Sonata, a bit of Gluck, and Locatelli's The Labyrinth, also recorded in 1963, and originally released as part of SR90367.  ClassicalNet review

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MLP 434341
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Concerto in F
Eugene List, piano
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra
Howard Hanson

"The chemistry between pianist, Eugene List, and the gifted young players of the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra here produces compelling results. The catalogue is already bulging with excellent recordings of Rhapsody in Blue, including those played by Gershwin himself. However, performances as sinuous and stylish as this one are always welcome. Gershwin’s F major Piano Concerto was his most ambitious symphonic project, and, as with the exotic Cuban Overture, the present recording brings the composer’s colourful orchestration vividly to life."  - Nicholas Ras, BBC Music Magazine

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Hanson - Symphony No. 1
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson 

As Carson Cooman has written, "The cause of American music could hardly have asked for a more enthusiastic champion than Howard Hanson. Throughout his long career as a composer, conductor, and educator, Hanson was absolutely indefatigable in his commitment, generosity, and enthusiasm for the contemporary music of his homeland."

As a composer, Hanson was an unashamed musical romantic. Perhaps through his Swedish ancestry, he displayed an early and lifelong adherence to North European symphonism - particularly Sibelius, whose influence he transmuted in very specific and, in his view, specifically American ways. This is nowhere more apparent than in his Nordic Symphony, Op. 21, the first of the seven symphonies which would span the entirety of his composing career. Completed in 1922 during his time in Rome, the influence of his then-teacher Respighi can be detected in the powerfully evocative orchestral style. The fact, however, that it shares the same key, E minor, as Sibelius's First Symphony cannot be coincidental, as Hanson's freewheeling and often intuitive approach to form frequently brings to mind the Finnish composer.
The opening movement begins with an earnest melody on strings, quickly becoming more expansive and impulsive. A vivid panorama opens out, with more than a hint of Bax's Tintagel in the vivid orchestral colouration. After an evocative transition on horn and solo woodwind, the second theme alternates between upper and lower strings, before sounding forth imperiously in full orchestra. Solo wind herald a return of the opening theme, as the movement's material is not so much developed as animated by skilful harmonic eleboration. Increasing intensity is gained, and the mood darkens, before a heightened restatement of the opening theme. The second theme now maintains the momentum, as a rhythmically-incisive figure in the horns presages the main climax. This is snatched short, however, and the movement ends with a plangent reminiscence of the opening mood.
The slow movement opens with expressive string gestures, solo oboe and flute contributing evocatively, to this musical seascape. A brief climax heightens the pictorially-inclined mood, before strings usher in a more robust version of the opening theme. Solo horn comments resignedly on the idea, and clarinets wind the music down to its restful close. The Finale breaks out impulsively with a rhythmically-agitated theme on full orchestra, clearly related to the opening theme of the first movement. Oboes and upper strings introduce a more wistful melody, abruptly cut short by strokes on the bass drum. A starkly tragic theme now emerges over a heavy tread in the lower strings, an well-defined episode in place of the expected development, before the opening agitation reasserts itself. The second theme now expands directly into the movement's clinching climax - a heady peroration, after which the surging rhythmic energy sees the symphony through to a powerful conclusion. Its E minor tonality stated forcefully and unequivocally.
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth (1951) for piano and string orchestra was commissioned by Hanson's alma mater, Northwestern University, to celebrate their centenary. Hanson commented: "It occurred to me that it would be appropriate if I could write a series of variations on a theme which I wrote when I was a young student there. Looking through my student works, I found one theme which seemed to be as fresh today as it was when it was written well over thirty years ago." The theme which he chose was the opening motive of his Concerto da Camera in C minor for Piano and String Quartet (1917). The new work begins with the theme as it appeared in the early composition and then is followed by four variations of contrasting character. The first is dark and brooding, the second alternates music of percussive and flowing characters, the third is a lyric meditation, and the fourth is a vibrant and ferocious dialogue. A quiet coda ends the work in peaceful tranquility.

Note that Hanson´s "Nordic" Symphony is also part of the cd of entry No.12 above.  I've digitized this LP in order to make available the performance of Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth, a recording that Mercury didn't include in its cd re-issues.



Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture
Capriccio Italien
Beethoven - Wellington's Victory
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

The original lease-breaker. Wilma Cozart Fine's digital transfers of these ground-breaking stereo recordings.   I have the older Mercury monophonic LP, that I will be uploading shortly for those who wish to compare.

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SR2 9011

Giselle, Ballet in Two Acts

London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: June 1959

New working links pending.



                                                                    MLP 434380
Brahms - The Four Symphonies
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

Here is Brahms in late 1950s analogue stereo sound courtesy of Wilma Cozart and Harold Lawrence. It has bark and bite both as sound and in performance style. Doráti delivers whiplash, lunge, parry and recoil. This is exciting Brahms and no mistake. It’s not without affection but Doráti clearly favours red-hot adrenaline over autumnal leaf-fall. Listen to the rafter-shaking almost Tchaikovskian burst he puts on in the last four minutes of the First Symphony and in the last two movements of the Fourth. Doráti ’s brand of predatory concentration is well to the fore. 
The Third is my particular favorite since ‘learning’ the work from the Bruno Walter Columbia reading. Dorati keeps the music-making on a high flame and that shark-attack hammer-blow can be appreciated especially in the finale. The Second Symphony is not without dramatic episodes but the overarching peace is picked up by Dorati in a reading that is slower by a couple of minutes than Sawallisch’s EMI Classics recording with the LPO. For the Fourth Symphony we are back to the gripping and driven impatience of symphonies 1 and 3. The orchestra has a thunderous and shuddering bass and its very powerfully caught by the microphones. Stand back from the blast furnace door! 
I remain very deeply impressed with the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of Giulini’s VPO Brahms.   Dorati by contrast delivers virtuoso and sometimes angrily impatient Brahms with the turbocharger fully engaged. It’s like the difference between 1970s Boult Elgar and 1970s Solti Elgar. Brahms cycles from Loughran and Haitink also stand at the other pole from Dorati . With the analogue era audio comes a degree of background hiss – a small price to pay for such exciting music-making. The notes are by Anthony Burton though nothing about Dorati . 
Impatient and intemperate Brahms – invincible and heart-singing when you are in the right mood. A great palate freshener when you have had your fill of the musing and the contemplative.    Rob Barnett,

Vibrant performances with plenty of thrills (no spills!) played with passion. Phrases soar. This is brawny Brahms, unsentimental, clear-sighted. Antal Doráti’s flexible conducting encourages soulful song and athletic allegros. The sound, unfailingly vivid and immediate, can be edgy, but in time-honoured Mercury Living Stereo fashion there is nothing dull. These symphonies aren’t museum-pieces but alive, breathing works of musical art.    Classical Source

To a certain segment of classical music enthusiasts, purchase of this new reissue will be a foregone action of some urgency. Why? In the late 1950s and early '60s Mercury Records produced a number of recordings hailed as landmarks in sound reproduction and mastering. To this day, some assert that Mercury's recording techniques of that era remain unsurpassed. They note the close-up clarity of the sonics and the naturalness of the soundstage. I remember my first hearing of Byron Janis playing Prokofieff's Third and Rachmaninoff's First on an LP when it came out in the early '60s on Mercury: the sound was spectacular, so vivid, so lifelife, so powerful. I wondered then why the other labels simply didn't copy Mercury's techniques and produce LPs of that impressive quality. Hearing these Brahms performances from December 1957 (#2), June 1959 (#1) and July 1963 (#3 and 4), one marvels still at the sonic properties – and also at the consistency of the readings by the late Antál Doráti.
I must note right off that the tempos here are among the fastest in the complete Brahms Symphony sets. Ormandy, Maazel, Walter, Masur, Kertész and others are significantly slower. Levine and Wand, though, both on RCA, are also brisk, each actually clocking in ahead of Doráti in the Fourth Symphony. In the Third's first two movements, Doráti is surprisingly relaxed, proving he was certainly not inflexible in his approach to Brahms. Of course, tempo is but one small part of the overall interpretive persona of a conductor in a project like this. Doráti always manages to give forward thrust to his readings here, adroitly pointing up the classical, lean side of Brahms, although never slighting the innate Romantic character. Contrapuntal detail emerges cleanly, orchestral balances are well-judged, and Doráti interprets each work as a unified whole, always eschewing the tendency to italicize for some momentary effect, or to turn episodic due to a lack of structural grasp. Try the first movement of the First, where the strings slash away relentlessly to convey anxiety and a sense of doom lurking around the corner; or hear the peaceful, joyous beauty of the second movement of the Third flow by seamlessly and with such mesmerizing charm. In short, these readings are insightful and never sound extreme or hasty, despite their briskness.
To those who think that Doráti's Haydn and Bartók were his only worthwhile major contributions, this set could change their minds. It may not be at the top of the heap of Brahms Symphony cycles, but it holds its own quite well against most comers. Both orchestras play admirably, even if the Minneapolis Symphony (now called the Minnesota Orchestra) is a bit scrawny-sounding. (Back then it probably was a smaller ensemble.) Mercury provides excellent notes and interesting details on the recordings and techniques used. A most desirable reissue. - Robert Cummings Classical Net Review

I don't agree with Cummings' "scrawny" comment.  To me, the Minneapolis orchestra sounds splendid; for example, singing out wonderfully in the first movement of the D major symphony. 

CD1 - Symphonies 1 & 3:  
CD2 - Symphonies 2 & 4:


MLP 434322
Sullivan, Rossini/Respighi, Gounod, Wagner
Eastman Wind Ensemble
Frederick Fennell

"To hear a military band play on record the ballet music from Faust would, you might well suppose, be to re-live the exciting days of the gramophone in 1920 or there abouts. But two factors materially affect the comparison: Mercury's recording is, self-evidently, better than anything cooked up by even the most rose-coloured of spectacles, and, not so self-evidently, so is the Eastman band's playing. The arrangements, of course, give the band every chance, as arrangements should; yet it is the performers themselves who contribute among many other virtues an endless care for balance, splendid attack and precision, and a dignified symphonic sound to the brass (noticeably more dignified than any French symphony orchestra would contribute to this music today).
Sullivan-Mackerras and Rossini-Respighi fare equally well, though here success was perhaps more to be expected. Save where he breaks Out in an occasional rash of sentiment, Sullivan has always gone well on wind, arrangements permitting; and Mackerras has in any event seen to it in this ballet that these pale mauve patches are kept to a minimum. Respighi had an easier job in this respect with Rossini in the first place, but both sets of results have been enormous successes in the theatre and in what we used to call the "light symphony" orchestra repertory. If, transformed to this new colouring, they are now not similar successes it will certainly not be the fault of Frederick Fennell or his colleagues."

-  Gramophone review of the LP, 1960

I was searching for a recording of the Rossini-Resphigi score of La Boutique Fantasque when I came across this recording in a second hand shop. I generally enjoy Fennell's arrangements and took a flyer. It turned out to be a wise purchase and I haven't stopped playing it since I got it home. 

Not only is the Rossini delightful, so is the Pineapple Poll Suite from Arthur Sullivan, part of the operetta pairing of Gilbert & Sullivan, a sequence of dancable numbers that will have you humming along with joy. I can't say as much for the Faust Ballet Music and don't know if its delicacies don't translate as well for wind band or whether it is simply not up to the standards set by the previous compositions. 

The Wagner bleeding chunks for wind band that follow -- Lohengrin: Prelude To Act III and Elsa's Procession To The Cathedral -- are both worthwhile additions to the wind band discography. Not being a Wagnerite (even though I enjoy the occasional spin with a Stokowski recording of these bleeding chunks), I was unfamiliar with Elsa's procession, a piece that encapsulates all of this comoposer's erotica, passion and heroism in about six minutes. 

The final track, Das Rheingold's Entry Of The Gods Into Valhalla, doesn't quite come off as well for wind band as it does for the likes of Karajan and Berlin Philharmonic, but it's fun and in keeping with the spirit of the goings-on. 

As always from this source, the Mercury sound is just about perfect, with excellent fidelity, depth and definition. Why can't other companies do it this well? This recording is an hour's worht of fun and thrills for any fan of wind music. I would recommend this, especially at Amazon vendor prices, to anyone that thinks they may enjoy it...because you probably will.   Amazon review by Larry VanDeSande

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MLP 434329

Gershwin - An American in Paris
Copland - Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes
Schuller - Seven Studies on Themes by Paul Klee
Bloch - Sinfonia Breve
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

The Gershwin and Copland works are, of course, very well-known.  But perhaps some comments on "Seven Studies ... " are merited.   In this work Schuller followed in the footsteps of Mussorgsky by being inspired musically by paintings - in this case the whimsical creations of Swiss artist Paul Klee. The basic design or colors of the original painting were his starting stimulus for some of the pieces, while others try to depict a painting’s general mood or play with the title of the painting.  Antique Harmonies has sombre tonal qualities as does the painting in question. Abstract Trio’s tunes are given to various trios of instruments ranging around the orchestra. Little Blue Devil shows the composer’s affinity for jazz - in blues form in this case, Twittering Machine does exactly that, and Arab Village paints a picture of a sun-baked settlement in the African desert. An Eerie Moment provides just that, and the closing Pastorale conveys its laid-back nature with slow woodwind lines that seem to hover.

FLAC files and full cover scans.

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Schumann - Symphony No.2
Detroit Symphony
Paul Paray

 From the LP liner notes: "It has been said that Schumann's symphonic music is notoriously difficult to project effectively in the concert hall and on records because of the dense texture of his orchestration.  Many conductors and even some composers such as Mahler have, in fact, sought to "edit" the instrumentation of Schumann's symphonies, attempting to make them more "effective".  The Mercury Living Presence Stereo recordings of this Schumann Second - as well as the First (SR90198) and the Third (SR90133) – in Paul Paray's readings with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra would seem to prove beyond all doubt how brilliantly effective Schumann's scoring can be when performed as originally published.  Unquestionably, the major factor in  this is Paray's superb sense of line and rhythm and his absolute mastery of the art of determining the precise instrumental balances necessary to achieve the maximum projection of any melodic line, chord, or rhythmic figuration – all in proper proportion to the musical texture and structure of the whole.

   In order to achieve this kind of conception for recording, the Mercury staff used three exceptionally sensitive omni-directional microphones, hanging them in Detroit's Old Orchestra Hall so that they caught the entire perspective of the ensemble.  Once placed, these microphones were never moved, and they conveyed their tri-partite sound to the recording machines with no interferences or electronic meddling on the part of the engineers.  Thus it is that both the main lines and the inner voices of the symphonies emerge with such startling and faithful clarity, that the listener truly feels himself to be in the "living presence" of the music."

I've digitized this LP using vacuum tube preamplification (also with "no interferences or electronic meddling")  Turntable:  Thorens 166BC.  Tonearm:  Stax UA-9 Integrated Arm with Carbon-Fiber Tapered Tube.  Cartridge: Signet MR 5.0 lc.  

The zipped FLAC files include LP cover scans.


The Romeros

Works by Granados, Torroba, Albéniz, Sor, Tárrega, Torroba, Villa-Lobos, Dowland, Rameau, Galilei, J.S. Bach, and others.  20 tracks.  Flac files.  Full scans. 

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Baroque Masterpieces for the Harpsichord
Rafael Puyana

Born in Colombia,  Puyana studied with Wanda Landowska and Nadia Boulanger,  and taught Christopher Hogwood. Here he plays works by Picci, Frescobaldi, Telemann, C.P.E. Bach, Scarlatti, and Fischer.   Recorded from 1962-64 in the U.K. and USA. 



  Purcell and Handel Chamber Works
L'Oiseau-Lyre OLS144

Arnold Goldsbrough, harpsichord
Ann Dowdall, soprano
Patricia Clark, soprano
Terence Weil, violoncello

Duet: "Elegy on the death of Queen Mary"
Harpsichord Suite Nº5 in C
Harpsichord Suite Nº4 in A minor
Songs -  "Turn thine eyes"
                "Man is for the woman made"
                 "Love thou art best"
                 "No, resistance is but vain"
Harpsichord Suite Nº4 in D minor
Duet: "No,de voi non voi fidarmi"
Harpsichord Suite Nº6 in G minor

Decca's L'Oiseau-Lyre series focused on music prior to 1800 (with a different posy on every cover - so much nicer than the' Germanically staid and sterile manila wrapper that Archiv was using at that time).
For his Messiah, Handel made use of music he had written previously for the three sections of his
Italian duet No, de voi non voi fidarmi.  It's curious to listen to two sopranos
singing the melody of "Unto us a Child is born", while warning us of cupid's snares.

This LP is from 1972.  Flac files.  Full scans.
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Copland - Piano Fantasy
Bartok - Three Studies
Dallapiccolo - Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera
Anthony Peebles, piano

As the jacket notes state, "In these etudes (1918), Bartok moves, as far away from tonality as he was ever to go". Dallapiccola composed his "musical exercises for Annalibera" (his 8 year-old daughter) in 1952 using use a serial technique and was inspired by Bach's work for Anna Magdalena.  Copland's Fantasy, composed in 1957, was written for pianist William Kapel, and used "the twelve-tone system as a ten-note row, reserving the last two notes as a tonal resolution and anchor."(Pollack, Howard, Aaron Copland (NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1999).  Critics lauded the effort, calling Coplands's piece "an outstanding addition to his own oeuvre and to contemporary piano literature" and "a tremendous achievement".  Jay Rosenfield stated, "This is a new Copland to us, an artist advancing with strength and not building on the past alone".
British pianist Antony Peebles delivers an inspired performance here, and the recording (1971) captures his Steinway to perfection.



 Shostakovich - "Hamlet"
 Kirchner  - Toccata
The Louisville Orchestra
Jorge Mester

From 1948 to 1990,  the Louisville Philharmonic Society offered recordings on LP that were often first
editions - especially by American composers.  Many of these are now extremely rare - although
Naxos has re-issued a few items from the Louisville Orchestra's truly impressive catalog.

This recording is from 1968. The thirteen selections from Shostakovich's Op.32 have no track
divisions on the LP, but I've separated them here for more convenient listening.

Leon Kirchner's Toccata for Strings, Solo Winds, and Percussion is from 1955.

Full cover scans included.
New working link:


Music of Leo Ornstein

Thomas Mansbacher, cello
William Westney, piano
Peter John Sacco, viola
Daniel Stepner, Michael Strauss, violins

 Here's a brief excerpt from the jacket notes (full scans are included):

"... Leo Ornstein ... became famous – indeed notorious – as a leading "futurist" composer between the beginning of World War I and the early twenties.  Ornstein was barely out of his teens before he was internationally recognized as a composer of daring, experimental music, as well as a brilliant pianist.  Critics were astounded, and compared Ornstein with Schoenberg and Stravinsky.  Henry Cowell wanted to study with him, audiences were intrigued and frightened; all were impressed.  Then, mysteriously, he dropped out of earshot..."

This LP, from 1975, was the first recording of any of his works.  With its extensive catalog, CRI did a great service to the cause of American contemporary music.  Here, the musicians play brilliantly.  The recording is a fine one (with just a tad of post-echo a few places in the first movement of "Three Moods").   I hope that you enjoy it.

New working links:



 Haydn - Heiligmesse
Staatskapelle Dresden and Radio Choir Leipzig

Neville Marriner

Issued in 1986, this GDR Eterna label pressing used DMM ("Direct Metal Mastering") technology.
For me it's a prime example of of just how musical vinyl can be.  Since the notes are in German only,
I've provided some in English.

.ape files, LP cover scans, and comments.

New working link:



MLP 475 6623
 Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker, Op. 71 (complete ballet)
Serenade in C for Strings, Op.48
London Symphony Orchestra (Nutcracker)
Philharmonica Hungarica (Serenade)
Antal Dorati

 This was the first recording on LP of the complete score.

New working links:



"Americana" for Solo Winds and String Orchestra

                                      Rogers - The Winter's Past  -  Rhapsody for Oboe and Strings

                                      Barlow - Soliloquy for Flute and String Orchestra
                                      Copland - Quiet City for Trumpet, English Horn and String Orchestra
                                      Kennan - Night Soliloquy for Flute and String Orchestra
                                      Keller - Serenade for Clarinet and Strings
                                      Hanson - Serenade for Flute, Strings and Harp
                                           Pastorale for Oboe, Strings and Harp

Robert Sprenkle (oboe), Joseph Mariano (flute), William Osseck (clarinet), Sidney Mear (trumpet), Richard Swingley (English horn), ERSO conducted by Howard Hanson

Alternative Mercury cover:

 Over the years, Mercury's archives became a unique depository, especially for compositions by American composers recorded nowhere else.

Kent Kennan, an Eastman School graduate, spent most of his life teaching, but he was an active composer earlier in his career and near the end of his life. He wrote a few widely used instructional books.

Homer Keller was another product of the Eastman School. He wrote three symphonies and spent much time teaching.

Bernard Rogers was head of Eastman's composition department for several decades.

Wayne Barlow earned undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees from Eastman, then taught there for many years. "The Winter's Past" is also known as "The Winter's Passed" - either makes sense.

The recordings were made in October 1952 and May 1953.

zipped file containing .ape tracks and cover scan
New working link:



Chopin - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Gina Bachauer
     London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati 


Alban Berg - Lyric Suite   
Arnold Schönberg  - Transfigured Night
Ramor Quartet
Vox STDL 500 530  stereo (1963)

This was the first stereo LP issue of Berg's Lyric Suite.  The performance of "Transfigured Night" is that of the original version for string sextet.

New working link:


                                                   L'Oiseau-Lyre DSL0540

Handel:  Prelude and Minuet
Clementi: Sonata in E-flat, Op.12 nº2
Haydn: Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII/6
Beethoven:  Sonata nº27 in E minor, Op.90
Chopin:  Bacarolle in F-sharp, Op.60
Mendelssohn:  Song Without Words
                                 nº29 in A minor, Op.62 nº5
                                 nº 30 in A, Op.62 nº6

This record, issued in 1978,  provides an opportunity to compare the sound of six historic instruments manufactured by John Broadwood and Sons over a period of 70 years,  during which the firm went from being a cottage industry to one the most eminent piano manufacturers on the continent.

Full scans include excellent, highly informative notes.  The FLAC files have been zipped and split.

New working links:



 Hindemith Organ Sonatas 
E. Power Biggs

Quite a rare LP from 1963 (Columbia ML5634).  E. Power Biggs performs on the
Flentrop organ, located in Adolphus Busch Hall at Harvard.  This disk
was never issued on CD.

FLAC files,  cover and label scans


 Delibes - Sylvia (Complete Ballet)
London Symphony Orchestra
Anatole Fistoulari

Digitized from the original Mercury LPs (SR2 9006) .   Combining the 3 split files will give you a single.rar folder.  Unzipping it will produce one containing 4 lossless (FLAC) files, one for each LP side, and another folder in which I've included cover and inner jacket scans.

New working links:



MLP 434361
Pepe Romero

 1     Fiesta en Jerez - Anonymous
 2     Fandangos por Verdiales - Anonymous
 3     Garrotín - Anonymous
 4     Tanguillos - Anonymous
 5     Peteneras - Anonymous
 6     Jota - Anonymous
 7     Carabana Gitana - Anonymous
 8     Farruca y Rumba - Anonymous
 9     Zorongo - Anonymous
10     Lamento Andaluz - Anonymous
11    Spanish Dance No.6, arr for guitar - Granados
             with Angel Romero:
 12     Recuerdos de la Alhambra - Tárrega
 13     Vidalita - Sinópoli
             with Celedonio Romero

"Every time I put this cd in my machine I have to brace myself for the unbelievable energy that comes from the speakers. The control Pepe has over his rasgueados (flourish-like effect produced by the fingers of the right hand)and tremelos is by far the best I have ever heard. His flamenco playing makes you want to get out and learn the steps yourself just to see what he's projecting. The very last piece, Vidalita, a duet with his brother Angel*, is my very favorite. Played with some kind of double-stinged instrument (like a twelve sting guitar but different somehow) has a very thick, beautiful quality to it."  - Amazon review
                                                              * actually, it was recorded with his father, Celedonio

Mercury Golden Imports cover

Copy and paste the links below into your browser.

New working links:


Sonatas for Cello and Piano
Janos Starker

The performances here are from two very collectable LPs.  "The Italian Sonatas", recorded with pianist Steven Swedish, are from SR90460:

and the Bach sonata, with Starker's countryman Gyorgy Sebok, is from SR90480:

which eventually was offered as Golden Import LP:



Riegger - New Dance
Hovhaness - Concerto No. 1 for Orchestra
Cowell - Symphony No.1
Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson

A LP of the early Olympian 4000 series, most of which featured compositions by contemporary American composers performed by the Eastman musicians under Howard Hanson. I transferred this shiny, carefully preserved pressing with only some discrete manual de-clicking using Adobe Audition CS5. 
The record notes, included, are a model of their kind.  They were written by David Hall, who died in April of this year at the age of 96.  Wikipedia has an excellent article about him, detailing his involvement from the very beginning with Mercury Records' classical division:

Zipped FLAC files.

New working link:



Schumann - Concerto in A minor
Chopin - Concerto Nº2 in F minor
Orchestra National de la Radiofussion Française
Samson François, piano
Paul Kletzki

Critic John Bell Young, in the St Petersburg Times of Florida, called François "a charismatic figure, an iconoclast and musical maverick", who, along with Long and Cortot, was "the most important pianist in postwar France. There was something of the swashbuckler about him; his playing was as daring as it was rhapsodic, but also notable for its uncompromising integrity and extraordinary intelligence."

This recording was issued in France on the Columbia label. I've included full HD scans of the LP cover.

New working links:



Everest SDBR 3017
 Milhaud - La Création du Monde
Stravinsky - L'Histoire du Soldat
London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Group
John Carewe

During the 1950's and early 1960's Harry Belock's Everest label produced some outstanding recordings.   Sonically and  musically, this is one of the best.
Technically, many of the Everest recordings are still unsurpassed. It's a pity that the few CD transfers of that one finds on the internet haven't fully captured the truly impressive sound that Blalock and his engineers obtained on their 1/2"tape  Ampex machines and later from using sprocketed 35mm tape.  I think that this LP rip came out particularly well.  The phono cartridge is a Signet TK9.  The preamp is a Dynaco PAS-3.  I used no click treatment or any other filtering on this pristine vinyl.

Most recordings of Stravinsky's  L'Histoire .. include the spoken text.  This one doesn't, and I've come to prefer just listening the music.

The players in "The London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Group"  (apparently a title invented for this recording) are all first-rate, and include clarinetist Gervase de Peyer.  The cornetist, Dennis Clift, is amazingly agile in the Stravinsky. The record notes don't identify the saxophonist in Milhaud's bluesy work.  John Carewe (described in the notes as "the young British conductor"), went on to have a very distinguished career, and is now a dowen, and has been head of the jury of the International Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition.

Lossless .ape files within the zipped folder. Front and back LP cover scans included.

New working links:


                                                                 An Introduction to
                                                         Der Ring Das Nibelungen
                                          being an explanation and analysis of Wagner's
                                                  system of leitmotifs by Deryck Cooke
                                          with 193 music examples either extracted from
                                           the complete recording or specially recorded
                                                                for this production.

                                  The LP set also incorporates two additional works which
                                             draw on the musical materials of the Ring:
                                                                 Siegfried Idyll

                                    with members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
                                                      and the Wiener Sängerknaben
                                                         conducted by Georg Solti

mp3@320 kb/s,8567soaozfc4hzz,cxid9ccngwv736f,hb0vqdqfiynfwhi

 I've scanned the accompanying 43-page booklet.  You can download the.pdf here: (this is a corrected link that includes a scan that I originally omitted):

(booklet)  New working links pending.


RCA LM-2330
Brahms - Piano Quartet No.3 in C minor, Op.60
Festival Quartet

 "The Festival Quartet is the direct outgrowth of the collaboration of Messrs. Goldberg, Primrose,
Graudan and Babin during the summer-long festival of music held each year at Aspen, Colorado.
  Szymon Goldberg is an internationally known violinist, but also enjoys the enviable reputation
as Musical Director of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra .  . .  William Primrose, C.B.E., i
generally regarded as the leading virtuoso of the viola, whether as orchestra player, chamber
musician, or soloist . . .  Nikolai Graudan has toured the world as recitalist and soloist and in
joint concert with his pianist wife, Joanna . . .  Victor Babin is also known a the partner of his
wife, Vitya Vronsky, in the duo-piano team of Vronsky & Babin"  [from the record notes]

Cover scans included.  Lossless FLAC files.

New working link:



RCA LSC-2751
A French Program
Artur Rubinstein, piano

Ravel - Valses nobes et sentimentales
Poulenc - Mouvements perpétuels   
                    Intermezzo in A-flat (1944)
Ravel - La vallée des cloches
Fauré - Nocturne in A-flat, Op.33, Nº3
Poulenc - Intermezzo Nº2 in D-flat
Chabrier - Scherzo-Valse

The jacket notes inform us:  "About the cover:  Mr. Rubinstein stands next to one of
his favorite paintings, a work by the Polish artist Elias Kanarek.  It was presented
to the Rubinsteins in honor of their fifteenth wedding anniversary.  The complete
work, a triptych, represents the houses and locales where the Rubinsteins have
lived since their marriage.  The section seen here shows both the house on the
summit of Montmartre, where the pianist took his bride in 1932, and their present
home on the Avenue Foch, which they have owned since 1938.  Taken over by the
Nazis during the occupation, it was finally returned to the Rubinsteins in 1954"

For those lucky enough to wander the streets of Paris,
if you look for Rubinstein's second home, as I did, note that you will find it not on the broad
Avenue Foch itself, but rather just off it at 22 Square de  L'Avenue Foch,
a short distance from the Place de l'Etoile.

Lossless zipped flac files. Scans.
Happy listening.



Everest LPBR 6019
Ralph Vaughan-Williams - Job: A Masque for Dancing
The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult

"It is entirely appropriate that this recording should be conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, who has given so many definitive performances of the music of Vaughan Williams, because the score of Job is dedicated to him"

This LP is from 1959, when Everest had just begun to use 35mm tape for it's recordings.

Lossless flac files.  Cover scans.



Capitol P303
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
An American in Paris
Leonard Pennario
Orchestra conducted by Paul Whiteman

By 1952, 12" LPs were becoming increasingly popular, replacing the 10" format.  This album, Capital P303, had 10" records (Capitol H-301 and H-302) on each side.  Getting past the marketing hyperbole on the front and back covers ("magnificent fidelity ... acoustically perfect ... superb"), the sound actually is quite good.  It's interesting to hear Whiteman conducting  these pieces, since he conducted the piece at its premiere.  This recording of the Rhapsody in Blue may well have been one of Pennario's first.  He was 27.  
The car horns used in the recording of An American in Paris are said to be from Paris taxis.  You don't hear taxi horns in Paris any more
These are interesting Sid Avery covers.   I especially like the Dali-inspired melting clarinet, and I suppose that in 1952, this cover of An American in Paris approached the risqué.
Interestingly, this is the most-downloaded item of the blog. 

Lossless flac files.  Full album scans. 



Nonesuch D79005
Schoenberg - String Quartet Nº2 in F-sharp minor, Op.10 (1908)
Powell - Little Companion Pieces (1979) 
The Sequoia String Quartet
Bethany Beardslee, soprano

 The opening of the 4th movement of Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet marks the "official" beginning of atonality.  Powell's 6 songs were written as "companions" to the Schoenberg work.

Soprano Bethany Beardslee performed the premieres of works by Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, Babbitt, Krenek, and Schoenberg.

This LP, Nonesuch D-79005,  is from 1980.  The number indicates that it was among the first of the company's digital recordings.

Lossless flac files for each of the 10 LP tracks, plus cover scans.



                                       L'Oiseau-lyre., [DL 1975]                                  
Hummel - Clarinet Quartet in E-flat
Crusell - Clarinet Quartet Nº2 in C Minor
The Music Party

Decca's L'Oiseau-Lyre series was already offering "historically-informed performance" recordings before it became trendy to do so.  This LP is from 1974.  Clarinetist Alan Hacker, who died last April, created The Music Party and was instrumental (no pun intended)  in reviving the basset clarinet, and was later a  member of the goupr The Fires of London.  Here he plays a London-made, juicy-sounding Goulding and Co., London, boxood clarinet made in 1800. Hacker had a distinguished and inspiring performance career.

 More information on the artist at: (

LP tracks as flac files and a .pdf of the LP cover and insert, zipped into a single 250MG file.

New working link:



MG 10143
Sibelius - Symphony Nº4 in A minor, Op.63
Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sixten Ehrling 

New York-based Metronome Records produced the first complete set of the Sibelius symphonies, on five LP's, played by the Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Sixten Ehrling. and all part of the Mercury catalog.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ehrling replaced Paul Paray as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for ten years. These historic Sibelius recordings are now quite rare, and are much sought after by collectors.  I will be offering all 5 of these Mercury LPs. Here's Symphony No.4. It happens to be my favorite of the seven.


Sibelius Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.39
Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sixten Ehrling

New York-based Metronome Records produced the first complete set of the Sibelius symphonies, on five LP's, played by the Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Sixten Ehrling. and all part of the Mercury catalog.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ehrling replaced Paul Paray as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for ten years. These historic Sibelius recordings are now quite rare, and are much sought after by collectors.  Here's No.1, written while the composer was very much influenced by the Russian school, particularly by Tchaikovsky.

New working link:



 Gérard Souzay
Old French Arias

This 10" Decca LP, LW 5091, was recorded in 1954 and, as far as I can tell, isn't available on CD.  Among its rarities is a song by Louis XIII.  The 9 tracks are FLAC files inside the zipped folder.
I've included front and back scans of the cover.  Copy and paste the link below into your browser. Enjoy.


Decca SXL 6227
Bruckner - Symphony No.4 "Romantic"
London Symphony Orchestra
Istvan Kertesz

The other day, I listened to the Celibadasche recording of the Bruckner 4th.
After that, as an antidote to bring me out of the zen-induced torpor, I much needed to listen to this Decca recording conducted by Kertesz. 

Here's Gerald Fenech's  ClassicalNet review that sums up its virtues very nicely:

"I have always had a particular soft spot for István Kertész ever since I discovered his unforgettable series of the Dvořák symphonies on Decca almost a decade ago.

The same freshness and recorded beauty is present in this equally magisterial recording of the Bruckner 4th that is a positively glowing version that reveals Kertész's lamented qualities as a great orchestral conductor. I have a myriad number of recordings of this particular work but none has brought me so much joy as this one from 1965. Each movement has that positive glow about it and the London Symphony strings and brass are simply beyond reproach.  But trumps and plaudits should most definitely go to that legendary 1960's Decca recording team of Ray Minshull and Kenneth Wilkinson who are my 'hors conceurs' in the history of classical music recording.
My only hope is that readers of this review will snap up this magnificent version and enjoy it for a lifetime of greatness, the combination of Bruckner and Kertész, champagne of the noblest vintage!"



DGG 2531 212
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique"
London Symphony Orchestra
Karl Böhm

Most often associated with the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner, at first glance Karl Böhm perhaps isn't an obvious candidate to interpret the symphonies of Tchaikovsky.  But the connection makes sense when we recall his superlative recordings of the works of his friend Richard Strauss (who was among the last of the "romantics").  I have heard no one bring out the dignity and pathos (without the bathos) of this score better than here, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, which Böhm led during the 1970's, being named "Conductor for Life" of that ensemble.  This recording is from 1979.

Lossless flac files. LP cover scans.  Note: My previous rip of this recording had a problem (thanks, John, for pointing it out!)

New working links:


Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat, K.450
Piano Concerto No. 16 in D, K.451
Ingrid Haebler
London Symphony Orchestra
Colin Davis

This recording eventually became part of Haebler's complete set of Mozart concertos issued by Philips, and which is apparently out of print.  This Mercury disk was issued in 1965.

The 6 tracks are lossless flac files.  Cover scans included.

New working links:



Eurodisc 201 423-366  

Prelude and Allegro in G minor
   Fugue I in G minor
   Fugue II in G major
Pieces for a Musical Clock
   Fugue V in A minor
   Allegro in C major
   Prelude in D minor 
Fugue III in B-flat major
   Fugue IV in B minor
   Sonata in C major
   Fugue VI in C minor 
Capriccio in F major  

Edgar Krapp, organist

The organ is that of the Marktkirche in Halle  ("it was on just this organ that in 1694 the organist of the Marktkirche, the composer Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, gave lessons to his most prominent pupil: George Frederick Handel").

In 1972 the instrument's stops were restored to their original voicings (2 1/2 tones higher than normal today).

Recorded in 1980
LP tracks as .ape files
Full scans as .pdf

New working link:


Angel SS-45003
Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite (1919)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini

In order to improve playback fidelity, Angel/EMI created its  "Sonic Series", with 12" LPs that played at 45rpm. The sound is indeed impressive, but the downside was that this resulted in much shorter playback times.  The series was soon discontinued, and now they are quite rare. 
 This U.S. pressing was issued in 1979.
Flac tracks + scans.

New working link:


Philips 9500 748
Edvard Grieg - Holberg/Lyric/Sigurd Jorsalfar Suites
English Chamber Orchestra
Raymond Leppard

The larger Grieg works–the Peer Gynt and Sigurd Jorsalfar extracts–are
from Decca masters, played by the English Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard.
There’s a case for suggesting that “In the Hall of the Mountain King” or the
“Hommage March” (from Sigurd Jorsalfar) require full symphonic forces to do them
justice, but Leppard balances his much smaller resources carefully, ensuring that
every strand of detailing is plainly audible. The lyrically nostalgic central
episode of the march is especially well done. The smaller pieces, such as
“Anitra’s dance” or the string orchestra version of the Op. 54 Lyric Suite sound
stylish and polished. Leppard’s Holberg Suite also is subtly controlled and elegant.
(Review from Classics Today).

The larger Grieg works–the Peer Gynt and Sigurd Jorsalfar extracts–are from Decca masters, played by the English Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard. There’s a case for suggesting that “In the Hall of the Mountain King” or the “Hommage March” (from Sigurd Jorsalfar) require full symphonic forces to do them justice, but Leppard balances his much smaller resources carefully, ensuring that every strand of detailing is plainly audible. The lyrically nostalgic central episode of the march is especially well done. The smaller pieces, such as “Anitra’s dance” or the string orchestra version of the Op. 54 Lyric Suite sound stylish and polished. Leppard’s Holberg Suite also is subtly controlled and elegant, - See more at:
A Dutch Philips pressing from 1980.  Very impressive sound.

The larger Grieg works–the Peer Gynt and Sigurd Jorsalfar extracts–are from Decca masters, played by the English Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard. There’s a case for suggesting that “In the Hall of the Mountain King” or the “Hommage March” (from Sigurd Jorsalfar) require full symphonic forces to do them justice, but Leppard balances his much smaller resources carefully, ensuring that every strand of detailing is plainly audible. The lyrically nostalgic central episode of the march is especially well done. The smaller pieces, such as “Anitra’s dance” or the string orchestra version of the Op. 54 Lyric Suite sound stylish and polished. Leppard’s Holberg Suite also is subtly controlled and elegant - See more at:
The larger Grieg works–the Peer Gynt and Sigurd Jorsalfar extracts–are from Decca masters, played by the English Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard. There’s a case for suggesting that “In the Hall of the Mountain King” or the “Hommage March” (from Sigurd Jorsalfar) require full symphonic forces to do them justice, but Leppard balances his much smaller resources carefully, ensuring that every strand of detailing is plainly audible. The lyrically nostalgic central episode of the march is especially well done. The smaller pieces, such as “Anitra’s dance” or the string orchestra version of the Op. 54 Lyric Suite sound stylish and polished. Leppard’s Holberg Suite also is subtly controlled and elegant - See more at: LP tracks as .ape files.  Scans as .pdf.
New working links:


RCA LM-2149
 Mozart - Symphonie Concertante in E-flat, K.364
Benjamin - Romantic Fantasy

Jascha Heifetz, violin
William Primrose, viola

 This LP is from 1957.

4 LP tracks as .ape files
Scans as .pdf



RCA LSD 2513
Brahms - Concerto for Violin and Violoncello in A minor, Op. 102
Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Wallenstein

booklet insert cover

This 1961 LP is part of RCA's deluxe "Soria Series".  Dario Soria was Angel Records first president. He instituted the old UK made Angel Deluxe packages. When he became an RCA Records executive, he founded the Soria Series as a luxury line of records in 1959. Soria Series records had top line artists, thicker vinyl, quieter pressings, and deluxe art booklet presentations.

LP tracks as .flac files.
Scans as a .pdf
New working link:



Turnabout TV 341458
Rachmaninoff - Symphonic Dances/Vocalise
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Donald Johanos

With it's impressive dynamic range and low, powerful bass, this was the LP of choice to take down to the local high-end stereo shop to test the capabilities of their Altecs, Bozaks, or Klipschorns. 
It was issued in February, 1967, and was a surprise coming from Vox/Turnabout, a label more known at the time for its extensive catalog of inexpensive European solo instrument and chamber disks than for the technical prowess of its recordings. 
But here it had recorded an American orchestra.  And the liner notes even provided technical details - something unheard of in the company's previous albums:
 The tape recording was made at a speed of 30 inches-per-second, using a transport modified to produce exceptionally good motion: a specially developed constant-velocity recording curve was employed for improved signal-to-noise ratio. The lacquer masters were made directly from the original tape, thus avoiding further transfer degradation. The result is a recording of exceptional clarity, naturalness and freedom from vices prevalent generally in the art. 

LP tracks as .ape files
Album scans as .pdf
New working links:


Angel S-35726 (1960)
Chopin Waltzes (complete) 
Witold Malcuzinski

This is among my favorite Chopin LPs, and IMHO the best recorded performance of the waltzes.
From the jacket notes:

"Witold Malcuzynski, personal pupil of Paderewski and himself a fine exponent of the great Polish keyboard tradition, was born in Warsaw in 1914.  His innate love of music overcame his initial decision to study law and he enrolled at the Warsaw Conservatory, from which he graduated with high honors.  Not long after, he became Paderewski's pupil, living and studying with the famous statesman-pianist at the latter's Swiss villa while he was working on the Centenary Edition of Chopin's works.  Malcuzynski's American debut in 1942 was a major musical event; since then he has made numerous transcontinental concert tours, appearing as soloist and with symphony orchestras of every major U.S. city.  He is heard regularly in Europe, and, indeed, in all major capitals of the globe since, being an indefatigable traveler, he thinks nothing of a 50,000 mile concert jaunt.  Fortunately, he pauses now and again to make those Angel Records which have brought new admirers to his already huge audience.  Although Malkuzynski knows no musical boundaries, he is especially famous for his Chopin performances and this recording of the Waltzes will testify to the just acclaim he has received for his devotion to the works of this composer." (from the LP jacket notes)

LP sides as flac files.
Album scans as .pdf

New working links:



 Brahms - Piano Concerto No.1 in D, Op.15
Witold Malcuzynski
National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Stanislaw Wislocki

The Brahms D Minor Concerto was a Malcuzynski specialty.  He recorded it in the early 1950's with Fritz Rieger and the Philharmonia Orchestra (currently available - in some countries - from Naxos) in mono sound.
This stereo recording was issued in Poland in 1960.  Comparing the two, all of the movements are taken here at a faster pace, thus going against the frequent comment that pianists tend to play more slowly as they age.  Malcuzynkski's playing of the hand-breaking trills in the 1st movement is
astounding.  I have some 20 recordings of this work, and have heard no one play it better. 

Flac files + scans.


This CD brings together two Living Presence LPs, SR90112 and SR90111, issued in 1958.

Here we have 66 tracks of U.S. military battlefield and camp signals and marches played on field trumpets, drums, and fifes by Fennell's Eastman Wind Ensemble. 
Lossless .flac files, scans, and track listing in .pdf



MLP 462958
         Beethoven - Symphony No.7
Overtures to "Egmont", "Leonore" (No.3), and "Consecration of the House"   
London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati 

"No less a musical authority than composer/author/educator Gunther Schuller, in his provocative book The Compleat Conductor, hails Antal Dorati as one of the great Beethoven interpreters, and if the first Mercury Beethoven release containing Symphonies 5 and 6 lent credence to this assertion, then the present issue offers proof beyond all reasonable doubt. These are stunning performances of the Seventh symphony and three spectacular overtures, and they succeed for exactly the reasons that Schuller enumerates. Dorati chooses ideal tempos for each movement, he balances the ensemble in such a way that the players can observe every dynamic nuance without sacrificing clarity, and he’s a monster when it comes to rhythm–the violins in the Seventh’s first movement must have been going through sheer hell! Dorati’s achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider that the London Symphony Orchestra in the late 1950s and early 1960s could sometimes be a pretty sad sounding bunch. Here, they surpass themselves, as did  Wilma Cozart Fine in restoring these performances to mint condition for release on CD.  Bravo!" Rating: Artistic Quality: 10  Sound Quality: 10     Review by: David Hurwitz. [Classics Today 10/2/1999]

  • Tracks as lossless .flac files
  • Cover scans
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MLP 434 391
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.1 ("Winter Dreams")
Symphony No. 2 ("Little Russian")
Symphony No. 3 ("Polish")
Arensky - Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky 
London Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

Tchaikovsky's first three symphonies are often compared to the last three and found wanting.
Personally, I think they are a delight.  Although he still had much to learn in regard to structure, the composer's melodic gifts were already in full flower.  When I was at university (in a particularly snowy part of the world) I began what is now a tradition for me:  listening to Tchaikovsky's  "Winter Dreams" Symphony as twilight falls on the day of the year's first snowfall. 

Dorati's affinity for the dance comes to the forefront in these performances.  Listen, for example, to the waltz in the 3rd movement of the 1st symphony.  All splendidly played by the LSO.

Arensky's Variations a tribute to Tchaikovsky, who had died the previous year, is an appropriate complement.  The theme he used is from the song "Legend: Christ in His Garden", the fifth of Tchaikovsky's Sixteen Children’s Songs, Op. 54.

Please note when you unzip these files a pw will be required. That pw is  winterdreams



Seraphim 60053
 Rachmaninoff - Symphonic Dances
Bizet - Jeux d'Enfants Suite
Lutoslawski - Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Piano Duo Vronsky and Babin

Symphonic Dances is  Rachmaninoff's last composition.  He prepared the two piano version and  it's  a very interesting complement to the orchestral version of the work (upload #161).  In his Paganini Variations, Lutoslawski used the same theme as did Brahms in his variations for piano. This LP is from 1962.

9 tracks as .flac files
Scans as a .pdf



Supraphon 1111 3895 G
Ivan Moravec Live

Oldrich Korte - Piano Sonata

Joseph Suk - Love Song (Pisen lasky)
                    - Humoresque

Bedrich Smetana - Polka in G
                              - Czech Dances
                              - Souvenir of Pizen. Polka

Suk's Pisen lasky  has become a popular encore piece for violinists.
You can hear Oistrakh play it on YouTube (
but although Suk was a violinists, he wrote this lovely romantic piece for piano.  I think he was right - especially as Moravec plays it.  Try this along with a glass of wine with your life partner.

Recorded in concert at the House of Artists, Prague, December 18-19, 1984
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RCA LM-1946
Paganini Violin Concerto #1
 London Symphony Orchestra, Anatole Fistoulari
Sibelius Violin Concerto in D
 - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult
Yehudi Menuhin, violin

Both of these recordings are from 1955.

LP tracks as .flac files.  cover scans as a .pdf.

 New upload without the groove skip in the 1st movement of the Paganini
 (thanks for the heads-up, John!) and some additional improvements:



MLP 434364

Tracks 1-16 of these pieces from "The Golden Age of Harpsichord Music" were recorded in April and May of 1962 and first released as SR 90304:

Tracks 17-21 were recorded in April of 1964 and first released on SR90411:

All were recorded in Ballroom Studio A of Fine Recording in New York City on 3-track half-inch tape, using three Telefunken 201 microphones.

pw when required: puyana

My Lady Carey's Dompe (Anonymous) [ a "dompe" is a XVI century English dance]

Les Buffons [Ms. 23623 British Museum] (Bull)

The Primerose [Fitzwilliam Virginal Book] (Peerson)

La Volta  (Byrd)

The Fall Of The Leafe [Fitzwilliam Virginal Book] (Peerson)

Pavana Dolorosa (Philips)

Galiarda Dolorosa [Fitzwillam Virginal Book, Dated 1580] (Philips)

The King's Hut (Bull)

Branie Gay (Besard)

Tombeau De Blancrocher (L. Couperin)

Branle De Montirandé (Francisque)

Concerto In D Minor, After Alessandro Marcello (1684-1750) J.S. Bach

Sonata In A Major (Freixanet)

Sonata In D Major (M. Albeniz)

Pavane In F-sharp Minor

Le Moutier, After Louis Couperin [c. 1626-1661] (Chambonierres)

Gavotte Et Doubles (Rameau)

Passepied (Dieupart)

La Pantomime (F. Couperin, "La Grande")

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Beethoven - The Late Quartets
The Hollywood String Quartet
The legendary 1957 studio recordings issued in the U.S. on 5 LPs by Capitol Records as catalog number PER 8394.

Ever since their publication people have complained that these quartets, the last of Beethoven's works, are diffcult to understand. For me, the Hollywood Quartet makes more sense of them than any of the many other versions I've listened to.

These recordings were very highly praised when they were released, and received a number of awards. The recording of Quartet No.13, Op.131 was selected at the first Grammy Awards ceremony for Best Classical Performance in the category Chamber Music. In 1983 Stereo Review magazine commented: "The sound is astoundingly rich and vivid for its time; one would hardly suspect the recordings' age or notice that they are not stereophonic .... the splendid sound quality does enhance their appeal. That appeal is considerable, based equally on profundity, vigor and brilliance. For sheer articulation of the notes, the playing at times approaches the miraculous, and the more demanding Beethoven's music becomes, both spiritually and technically, the more splendidly the HSQ rises to meet its demands."

Although these surfaces of these LPs are pristine, my upload here includes two folders: one of the 10 LP sides with no "interference" whatsoever on my part, and a second with some (subtle) noise reduction assistance from iZotope RX, v.1.0.6.

Take your pick.

I've done full scans of the booklet (which has very informative notes) as well as of one of the LP "envelopes" with advertising that I find interesting. All in a .pdf

Lossless flac files, zipped and split into 5 parts.

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Russian Orchestral Showpieces
Vladimir Fedoseyev
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra

This 1982 recording was issued in the West by EMI in 1983.  Known for its enormous classical catalogue and substandard recording quality, the Soviet state company Melodia turned these recording sessions over to Japanese producers and engineers. They must have brought their 
equipment with them, for this is a technically dazzling LP with an impressive dynamic range.  A British pressing, surface noise simply isn't there. 
The record notes, which I have included, are by Ivan March.  Of the Russlan and Ludmilla Oveture he writes, "... when the Moscow Conservatory of Music was opened in 1866, Tchaikovsky made haste to go there, find a piano, and play the overture through from memory to ensure that it was the first piece of music to be heard within its walls".  Oh, for a time machine ...

Zipped lossless .ape files and front and back cover scans. 

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Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.5 in E-flat, Op.71

Robert Casedasus, piano
The New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos

This French Philips LP pressing documents  a 1955 performance in Paris.
The doyen of an extraordinary musical family, according to the record notes, 
prior to this recording pianist and composer Robert Casadesus performed this work in public some 160 times.

Zipped lossless FLAC file + .pdf of cover scans. (71 MB).



SR 90517
           John Corigliano - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (World Premier Recording)
                                    Richard Strauss - Parergon to the Sinfonia Domestica

Hilde Somer, piano
San Antonio Symphony Orchestra
Victor Alessandro

Excellent album notes by James Lyons.

A single 215MB download containing  lossless .ape files and album scans as a .pdf



Robert Schumann - Requiem für Mignon, Op.98b
Richard Wagner - Wesendonck Lieder
Johannes Brahms - Alto Rhapsody, Op.51
Gustav Mahler - Rückert Lieder

The dark, shining voice of Brazilian contralto Maura Moreira will be a delightful discovery for those those who don't know her.   A very generous, extremely well-recorded program of romantic lied and choral music, this early stereo recording by Vox is from the beginning of the 1960's.



RCA LSC-3177
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No.6 in A
Boston Symphony Orchestra, William Steinberg, cond.

Steinberg, who was born in Cologne in 1899, was Music Director of the BSO from 1969 to 1972, preceded by Erich Leinsdorf and followed by Seiji Ozawa.  During his 3 years in Boston Steinberg
programed much Mahler and Bruckner.  This recording was made on January 19 and October 19, 1970.  The 9 month gap is intriguing.  
It was during Steinberg's tenure that the BSO ended its long contract with RCA and began to record for DGG.  This disk was issued by RCA in 1972.  I believe it was the orchestra's last Red Seal recording until 2004, when James Levine took over (finally!) from Ozawa and RCA again issued the orchestra's recordings. 

The four movements are lossless .flac files.  Front and rear jacket scans as a .pdf

Revised working link:


Muzio Clementi
Sonatinas, Op. 36/37/38
Sidney Foster, piano

Whoever has taken piano lessons has probably confronted some of these delightful works. As the excellent record notes of this 2-LP set state, "These 'little sonatas' have a clarity of form, precision of thought, and freshness of spirit that cannot but endear them to the student.  The problems they present will challenge his fingers and his mind.  They make ingenious use of all the resources of the piano – scales and runs, arpeggios and trills, broken octaves and passages in thirds and sixths.  Above all, they are not too difficult, and serve as an ideal preparation for the easier sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven".   
Under American pianist Sidney Foster's fingers they sound much easier than they really are, and reveal all of their charm.  Unfortunately,  Foster made only a handful of recordings.  His recitals were legendary:  "(Foster) was everything the connoisseurs claim he is: an interesting, original pianist, a master of tonal shading, an artist." - Harold C. Schonberg
"Sidney Foster proved himself a richly gifted performer ... (his) approach to the keyboard was of the noble, heroic type; (he) gave the concerto a reading in the grand manner." - New York Times

The 12 tracks are lossless .ape files.  Record jacket and notes as a .pdf.
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Eight Piano Pieces, Op.76
Seven Fantasies, Op.116
Four Piano Pieces, Op.119

Nonesuch/Electra LP
Recorded in RCA's NYC studios in 1986.
Produced and engineered by RCA's Max Wilcox.

Richard Goode was the first American to record the complete Beethoven piano sonatas.  His interpretations of these lovely late works of Brahms are among the best I've ever heard.  The recording was made at RCA's studios in NYC, produced by the doyen of that company's engineers, Max Wilcox, who was responsible for most of Rubinstein's later recordings for that label. Pianophiles will, I believe, be particularly interested in Goode's highly informative jacket notes.

19 separate LP tracks as lossless .ape files (200MB)

Of course it requires much more time to digitize an LP this way, but I think downloaders will appreciate having it in this format.



L'Oiseau Lyre OLS152
Harpsichord Suites Nos. 1-4
Thurston Dart 

Thurston Dart was at the center of the early music revival in England during the 1950's and 1960's, revolutionizing performance practice and perceptions of Baroque and early Classical-era music.
In this 1959 recording he plays a two manual harpsichord manufactured by Thomas Goff in 1952.

20 tracks as flac files + album scans as a .pdf


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Joseph Haydn 
Symphony No.94 in G Major "Surprise"
Symphony No.103 in E-flat Major "Drum-Roll"
Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati

Recorded on June 2-3, 1958 in Marl, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.  Dorati would eventually  record all of Haydn's symphonies during the 1970's with this orchestra which he founded, composed of refugees from what was then the "Eastern Block" and of which he was Laureate Conductor.

The four movements of each work are separate .flac files.
LP cover scans included as a .pdf
New working links



Guest Performances of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Leningrad
Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor

Recordings of public concerts given at the 
Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic
 on February 9/10, 1979.

This 2-LP set was issued by Melodya

Brahms - Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor, Op.25
(orchestrated by A. Schoenberg)
                               Alfven - Shepherdess Dance from the opera "The Mountain Queen"

Sibelius - Symphony No.5 in E-flat Major, Op.82

Shostakovich - Suite from "The Bolt" ballet 

LP tracks are lossless zipped .flac files
LP cover scans as a .pdf

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RCA LM-1902
Horowitz Plays Clementi Sonatas (1955 LP)

Sonata in G Minor, Op.34, No.2 (1788)
Sonata in F Minor, Op.14, No.3 (1784)
Sonata in F-sharp Minor, Op.26, No.2 (1788)

In his comments on the jacket of this LP, Horowitz calls the Clementi sonatas "prophetic".  Indeed, the 3rd movement of the  F-sharp Minor sonata does contain the melody that Beethoven  adopted and used a number of times - most famously 20 years later in the 1st movement of his "Eroica" symphony.  

9 LP tracks as lossless .flac files
LP jacket scans as a .pdf

New working links: 


Franz Joseph Haydn
                                             Symphony No.100 in G major ("Military")
                                                   Symphony No.102 in B-flat major

                                                   The New Philharmonia Orchestra
                                                                    Otto Klemperer

Recordings: Sept. 25 - 26 ; Oct. 19 - 21, 1965.
Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London

When you think of Haydn interpreters, conductor Otto Klemperer may not be the first name that springs to mind. One tends to think of Klemperer in terms of grand, large-scale productions - his recordings of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, that kind of thing. Yet he had a felicitous touch with lighter material as well, as his discs of Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann demonstrate. If you haven't heard his Haydn, you're in for a treat.  In regard to this disk, in his survey of recordings of Symphony No.100, Peter Gutmann  ( states:  "His 1966 Military with the Philharmonia Orchestra is as uninflected as possible – serious, deliberate and steadfast yet never grim or severe. Even shorn of any rhetoric, Haydn's own humor and surprises emerge quite well, thus serving to testify to the quality of his conception and natural skill. While the sound unmistakably is that of a full, deep modern orchestra, from the prominent bass to the strident triangle, Klemperer's seating plan that spreads the first and second violin sections across the entire front of the soundstage lends an open, airy quality that avoids any sense of stifling thickness inimical to the music".

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
Album scans as .pdf


Respighi - Feste Romane
 Rachmaninoff - Symphonic Dances, Op.43
The London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Eugene Goosens, cond.

Normally, these two works could be accomodated on a single LP.  Everest included a technical note with this 2-disk  album to explain that it was issued this way  in order to reproduce without compromises the full 110db dynamic range that a symphony orchestra produces when playing these works.
The note concludes: "Because of the peak loudness levels in this recording, it is recommended that when first playing this disk, close attention be directed to your initial volume control settings.  We believe that for the foregoing reasons, we have produced a disk which, for sheer quality of sound, has no peer".

Album tracks as lossless .flac files
Album scans as a .pdf



The Chopin Scherzos

To quote an amateur pianist friend who struggles to play them, "the Scherzos are no joke".

This is the recording of the scherzos that I grew up with, and (perhaps due to "bonding") has become a reference for me.

                                                         New working link:

Brazilian pianist Robert Szidon (Porto Alegre, Septembe 21, 1941 - Düsseldorf, December 21, 2011) was a student of Ilona Kabos and Claudio Arrau.  He resided for most of his professional life in Germany, and was among the first of his country to have a recording contract with an international  label.  For some reason, his recorded output in Europe was quite small.  although there are a number of excellent recordings on Brazilian labels of works by Villa-Lobos, Nazareth, Mignone, and Gonzaga.

New working links:


Melodya recorded Richter in a Munich studio, and the recording was issued in the U.S. by CBS in 1977.

Corrected links for Chopin Scherzos/Richter below.   Thanks, Neil!




Sibelius Symphonies 5 and 6
Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra
                                                                 Sixten Ehrling, cond.

New York-based Metronome Records issued the first complete set of the Sibelius symphonies, on five LP's, played by the Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Sixten Ehrling. and all part of the Mercury catalog.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ehrling replaced Paul Paray as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for ten years. These historic Sibelius recordings are now quite rare, and are much sought after by collectors.  Here are Symphonies 5 and 6.

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MG 10141
Sibelius Symphony No.2
Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sixten Ehrling, cond. 

New York-based Metronome Records produced the first complete set of the Sibelius symphonies, on five LP's, played by the Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Sixten Ehrling. and all part of the Mercury catalog.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ehrling replaced Paul Paray as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for ten years. These historic Sibelius recordings are now quite rare, and are much sought after by collectors.  Here is the most popular Sibelius Symphony No 

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Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 3 and 7
Stockholm Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sixten Ehrling, cond.

This disk, with symphonies 3 and 7, along with uploads # 150, 151, 186, and 187 completes the presentation here of the  5 LP  Sibelius Symphonies set issued by Mercury in the early 1950's. 

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Champagne, Roses and Bonbons
Music by Johann Strauss, Ernst von Dohanyi, 
Franz Lehar, and Emil Walteufel
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati, cond.

This LP is from 1965.  
Six tracks as lossless .flac files
Album scans as a .pdf

New working link:



Haydn Sonatas
Alexis Weissenberg, piano

Sonata in E-flat major, Hob.XV1:52
Sonata in C minor, Hob.XVI:20
Sonata in D major, Hob.XVI:37

RCA Red Seal LP from 1969
8 LP tracks as separate lossless .flac files
Front and back cover scans as a .pdf file

Excellent liner notes by Haydn specialist H.C. Robbins Landon.  I've followed the Hoboken
catalog system in naming the sonatas.  On this LP they're numbered 62, 33, and 50, respectively.

Information on Bulgarian pianist Alexis Weissenberg:



Beethoven Symphony No.3 in E-flat, "Eroica"
transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt
Georges Pludermacher, piano

Liszt transcribed all nine Beethoven symphonies for piano, probably for his own recitals, and those who find in transcriptions a new and  interesting view of an orchestral work (and I do) are grateful. French pianist Pludermacher's recordings have earned him the Monde de Musique, Diapason, the Grand Prix de l'Académie du Disque, and the Grand Prize of the Charles CROS Academy for his performance of the Diabelli Variations.

Recorded in Paris, September, 1985
LP issued in 1986 by Harmonia Mundi
The four movements are separate lossless .flac files
Album scans as a .pdf file



Two Divertissements in C major, K.187 and 188
Twelve Duos for Horn
Harmonie de Chambre de Paris
Florian Hollard, cond.

Except, of course, for the horn concertos and the trombone solo in the Requiem's Tuba Miram, I don't think of Mozart as a composer who was especially attracted to writing for brass. That's not very much music within a total of over 600 catalogued works. 
Perhaps that's why I was attracted to this excellent out of print recording while flipping through the LP bins in one of my favorite local record haunts.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
Full album scans as a .pdf file
.pdf files of the scores of these works

New working links:


Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati, cond.
This Scheherazade is from 1952. 
There would be a later stereo make with the same forces, but this is the more vivid performance and  is truly a classic recording.  The single microphone mono sound is quite spectacular.  Of note are concertmaster Rafael Druin's violin solos.  No one has done this better.
I used a 1 mil monophonic stylus and tube preamplification to digitalize this LP.  As a result, one doesn't hear the harshness and the lack of bass of some other digital issues.
This is the same recording as #86 above, but is from an extremely rare apparently unplayed LP, with an earlier stamping number. 

4 LP tracks as lossless .ape files
Album scans as a .pdf



 Schwantner: Aftertones of Infinity
Druckman: Chiaroscuro
Albert: Into Eclipse

This LP, issued by New World Records in 1989, was part of Juilliard's excellent American Music Recording Institute series.

Seven tracks as lossless .flac files
Complete album scans as a .pdf


 Beethoven String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op.131 (1826)
The Paganini Quartet
RCA LP  LM-1736 (1953)

The Paganini Quartet was a virtuoso string quartet founded in 1946 by its first violinist Henri Temianka.   The quartet drew its name from the fact that all four of its instruments, made by Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737),  had once been owned by the great Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840).

In 1945 the renowned cellist Robert Maas, who had been with the Pro Arte Quartet, happened upon the four Paganini Strads at the Emil Herrmann shop in New York.   He mentioned this to Mrs. William Andrews Clark,, who promptly purchased the  instruments for the ensemble that Temianka planned to create.

 The four superb Strads were among the most cherished possessions of the famed virtuoso Niccolo Paganini. After their purchase by Mrs. Clark, further adjustments were made to them by the great craftsman Simone Fernando Saccone. The history of the instruments is as follows .
The first violin, the "Comte Cozio di SalabueStradivari’s Genius by Toby Faber.  It is currently played by Kikuei Ikeda.
The viola, the "Mendelssohn," was made in 1731, when Stradivari was 86 years old. It is one of fewer than a dozen surviving Strad violas, and was the instrument that inspired Paganini to commission Hector Berlioz to write his symphonic poem “Harold in Italy”. It is now played by Kazuhide Isomura. The cello is the “Ladenburg” of 1736. It was owned by the Mendelssohn family before coming into Paganini’s possession. It is currently played by Clive Greensmith.
When the Paganini Quartet disbanded in 1966 the four Strads reverted to the Corcoran Gallery of Art  in Washington, D.C. In accordance with Mrs. Clark's will, they were never to be separated. Beginning in 1992 they were loaned to the Cleveland String Quartet.  Since 1994 they have been owned by the Nippon Music Foundation, and continue to be played by the Tokyo String Quartet.

Zipped lossless .flac files and
LP cover HD scan
New working link:



Ein Heldenleben
Der fliegende Höllander Overture
Tannhäuser Overture
Vienna Philharmonic
Karl Böhm

Austrian conductor Karl Böhm (1894-1981) had a very special affinity for the music of Richard Strauss, and was perhaps the most accomplished and authoritative of all conductors of the Strauss operas.  The composer dedicated his opera Daphne to Böhm.  There's a video of Böhm rehearsing and then performing the  tone poem Don Juan with the Vienna Philharmonic in which you can witness his mastery of every nuance of the music as well his impressive ability to communicate with the orchestra. 
This Ein Heldenleben is from 1976, and has only been available in Japan.  I prefer it to the much more readily available Böhm 1963 Salzburg Festival recording with the same forces.  The only other performance of this work of comparable artistic quality is, in my opinion, that of Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic (Seraphim, 1961), an out of print record that I intend to offer here in the near future. 

Tracks as lossless .ape files
cover scans
New working links:


Tchaikovsky Symphony No.6, Op.74 "Pathetique"
New York Philharmonic
Dimitri Mitropoulos

The number MS 6006 idenfities this LP as among the first "Stereo Fidelity" issues of Columbia's classical catalog from the late 1950's.  Mitropoulos was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 1951 until 1958, when he was succeeded (some say "shamefully pushed out") by Leonard Bernstein.  This is truly a memorable performance, with sonics that remain spectacular.  The vinyl, extremely clean, is from an early stamper.

The zipped folder contains the four movements as lossless .ape files, as well as front and back cover scans.

New working link:


J.S. Bach
Quodlibet - Canons - Songs -  Instrumental Pieces
Gustav Leonhardt - The Leonhardt Consort

This German Telefunken pressing is from 1964.  It includes the fragmentary "Wedding Quodlibet", the "Tobacco Pipe Song", and preludes played on various keyboard instruments, including a small organ.  Particularly intriguing here is Wer nur den liebn Gott lässt walten in three different versions. 

Prelude in F, BWV 927
Quodlibet, BWV 524
Prelude in E, BWV 937
Prelude in G minor, BWV 929
So oft ich meine Tobacks-Pfeife, BWV 515a
Prelude in D minor, BWV 940
Canon in 2 Parts, BWV 1075
Canon, BWV 1078
Prelude in D, BWV 925
Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille, BWV 511
Canon in 4 Parts, BWV 1073
Canon in 3 Parts, BWV 1077
O Herzensangst, o Bangigkeit und Zagen, BWV 400
Nicht so traurig, nicht so sehr, BWV 384
Dir, dir Jehova, will ich singen, BWV 452
Prelude in C, BWV 939
Fugue in C, BWV 952
Was Betrübst du dich, mein Herze, BWV 423
Vergiss mein nich, mein allerliebster Gott, BWV 505
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 691
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 434
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 690 

 Tracks as separate .ape files.  Front and back jacket HD scans.



Mendelssohn - Incidental Music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.107 ("Reformation")
Haydn - Symphony No.96 in D ("Miracle")

I want to especially thank Andy for his kindness in sending me these recordings.
The Mendelssohn works are from 1958 sessions in Detroit's Old Orchestra Hall.  This, in spite of the fact that the orchestra had vacated that building in 1956, and moved to Ford Auditorium for its public concerts.  But the Mercury engineers preferred the acoustics of the vacated hall.  Originally issued as SR90174, with a cover that was preserved on the CD cover art here.  Paray's direction of the Haydn D major symphony is invigorating, and it's a pity that he didn't record more of them.  It was recorded in 1956, and issued as part of SR90129 ⬇

 Tracks as separate .flac files.  Full scans.



 Beethoven Symphony No.3 in E-flat, Op.55
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam
Pierre Monteux

This Dutch Philips pressing is from 1962.   Along with the symphony it includes a track of Monteux rehearsing the orchestra in the Marche funebre 2nd movement.  The five tracks are in .ape format.  Front and back cover scans.
Beethoven is a composer not usually associated with Monteux.  He left us one of the finest recordings of the 'Eroica' with the Concertgebouw (on Philips) and you can hear another excellent one from a live concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a 1960 performance on BBC 4112.   (ClassicalNet review).



 Saint-Saëns Symphony No.3 in C minor for 
Orchestra with Organ, Op.78
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Enrique Batiz, cond.
Noel Rawsthorne, organ

Of course there are many fine recordings of this symphony: Munch/BSO/Zamkochian , Paray/Detroit/Dupré, Ormandy/Phildelphia/Murray all have their virtues. But if you love this music you must listen to this recording
It deservedly received rave reviews when it was issued in 1984.  It was recorded in the Guildford Cathedral in Surrey on the wonderful main organ, which had been refurbished the previous year. 
The first thing you will notice is the pace, with Batiz taking the time to present all the beauties of the score.  Most conductors can't seem to resist frenetically rushing to the finish, and that's a mistake. Felicities abound. About 7 minutes into the 2nd part, there's a magical moment after a fortissimo organ chord, followed by two pianos playing filigrees over quiet low strings and organ.  I've never heard this brought out so well in any other recording. 
Another notable feature here is that the engineers were able to solve the knotty balance problems between orchestra and organ. The sound stage is crystal clear.

The file contains the LP tracks as .ape files, as well as album cover  HD scans.



Walton - Symphony No.2 (First Recording)
Stravinsky - Firebird Suite
The Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell

Szell and his Clevelanders recorded very few contemporary works.  Walton was an exception, and he even dedicated his Partita for Orchestra to the orchestra its conductor.  Szell's razor-sharp precision is on display here, and serves both works very well.
Lossless .flac files.  LP front and back cover scans.



Mahler - Das Lied von Der Erde
James King, tenor
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
The Vienna Philharmonic
Leonard Bernstein

Mahlerians are aware that performances of Das Lied usually feature a tenor and a contralto. But Mahler specified the option of a baritone rather than a contralto. Once you hear Fischer-Dieskau (with his voice in its prime in 1966) you might forever prefer it. There have been some legendary performances with the female voice (e.g. Ferrier and Ludwig), but for me, a male voce seems to be more appropriate for the text. The 5th movement drinking song just seems more appropriate for the male voice. Very few baritones can handle the vocal demands of the score, and that may be why one usually hears a contralto in the role.

At the time of this recording, Bernstein was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and he hadn't adopted the Celibidache-like tempos that would mar the Mahler that he recorded in Berlin, Amsterdam, and in Vienna toward the end of his life. The excellent notes by James Lyons merit the extra attention I've given to reproducing them.

Kenneth Woods' essay on the work is well worth a read:

LP tracks as lossless .flac files

HD covers scans and notes.



Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op.10
Ravel - String Quartet in F
Juilliard String Quartet

As violinist Robert Mann points out in the notes for this album, because they're superficially similar (both by French "Impressionists"), the Debussy and Ravel quartets are frequently issued on the same album.  This is in spite of the fact that they're quite different in style and content. "Debussy wrote his quartet in his romantic era, before he was really caught by Impressionism.  Ravel, on the other hand, is completely impressionistic in his mood and atmosphere, and sound". 

These 1960 recordings have always been highly esteemed by collectors. There's a "rightness" to both the performances and the ambiance. The venue was a small RCA studio in New York City ("Studio A"), reportedly using a pair of Neumann U77's.  the same microphones used


extensively in the Mercury Living Presence series.  Hearing is believing.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files.  Album scans as a .pdf.



Cello Concerto, Op. 85
Jacqueline Du Pré
Philadelphia Orchestra

Enigma Variations, Op.36
London Philharmonic
Daniel Barenboim

HMV released Du Pre´'s  first recording of the Elgar concerto, with Barbirolli and the LSO, in 1965.  This post is from public performances of November 27/28, 1970 .  The LP was issued by CBS Masterworks in 1976.   Barenboim began his career on records as a conductor with a Du Pré disk of the Haydn/Bocherinni concertos, some recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra (Mozart concertos) and these Enigma Variations recorded with the London Philharmonic.  The latter remains an impressive account.
Perceptive viewers will note the cigar in Barenboim's lapel.  It's no doubt a Cuban Montecristo No.3, a favorite of his and the first of which he received as a gift from Artur Rubinstein when the Barenboim was still a teenager. There's an interesting story behind the cigar, told by Barenboim during an interview at: (

 LP tracks as lossless FLAC files.  Full album scans as a .pdf.



The Sleeping Beauty Ballet, Op.66
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati
OL3- 103

Mercury taped these performances at Northrup Memorial Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus during April 10-11, 1955.  That's 59 years ago today!  Dorati later recorded this music for Philips in stereo with the Concertgebouw, but this, the first complete version on disk, remains  a classic.   My thanks to David for encouraging me to digitize and upload these disks. 

Six LP sides as lossless .ape files.  Full scans of the luxury booklet as a .pdf



Albéniz - Iberia (orchestrated by Arbós)
Falla - Interlude & Dance Nº1 from La Vida Breve

The Mercury LP jackets always included a "Hi-Fi Note", giving recording session details.  Here, they state that "One of the most unusual instrumental touches in Iberia occurs in the opening bars of El Albaicin.  The printed score specifies that the harpist give it a twangy sound similar to that of the guitar.  The choice of paper turned out to be highly critical.  Everything from crepe to newspaper, paper towels and slick magazine pages was tried before success was achieved.  The final choice went to a strip of paper towel folded over three times.  The others buzzed excessively or dampened the strings so the tone could not be heard above the other instruments." 

Recorded in Minneapolis on April 21, 1957. 

71.7MB zipped folder
LP tracks as lossless .flac files
cover scans as a .pdf



Music for the Theater
Joan Carlyle, soprano
Bath Festival Orchestra
Yehudi Menuhin, conductor
Angel S 36332

This 1966 LP contains selections from The Fairy Queen, The Indian Queen, and King Arthur, as well as "Dramatic Music" that Purcell composed to accompany various stage plays.
In regard to this ensemble, according to,  "After a dozen years of financial struggles (with no Bath Music Festival performances at all between 1956 - 1957), Yehudi Menuhin was engaged as artistic director for the 1959 season, bringing international attention through creative programming. It was he who formed the Bath Festival Orchestra, using players he had worked with in London recording sessions.  Menuhin's ambitious vision for the festival resulted in a return of financial problems and he resigned in 1968, taking the orchestra with him and renaming it as the Menuhin Festival Orchestra". 
This is elegant music, and some of it reminds me of Lully.  Indeed,  N.D. Boyling's informative notes state that "Undoubtedly, much of Purcell's orchestral music reproduces the elegance of the French ballet de cour.   There then follows a precious quote from the composer:
                               Poetry and Painting have arrived to their perfection in our own Country.  
                               Musick is yet but in its Nonage, a forward Child, which gives hope of what it may                                be hereafter in England ... Tis now learning Italian, which is its best
                               Master, studying a little of the French Air, to give it somewhat more of
                               Gayety and Fashion ...  We are of later Growth than our Neighbour Countries,
                               and must be content to shake off our Barbarity by degrees.

Some may well question whether British "barbarity" was ever subsequently so well "shaken off" as here.

  LP tracks as lossless .flac files
  Cover scans as a .pdf 



             Rhapsody in Blue
            An American in Paris 

In 1925, George Gershwin recorded the piano solo part of his Rhapsody in Blue on Duo-Art piano rolls.  Fifty-one years later, Columbia issued this LP in which Gershwin's piano rolls were reproduced on a concert grand, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Columbia Jazz Band using the original Ferde Grofé arrangementListeners will be surprised by Gershwin's tempi. 
The other side of the LP contains An American in Paris performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Tilson Thomas.

LP sides as lossless .flac 

HD cover scans as a .pdf



Wallingford Riegger - String Quartet Nº2 (1948)
Donald Harris - Fantasy for Violin and Piano (1957)
Lawrence Moss - Elegy (1969) / Timepiece (1970)

CRI (Composers Recordings, Inc.) issued this LP of chamber music by American composers in 1973.  The recording of the Riegger String Quartet Nº2, performed by the New Music Quartet, was originally released in mono by Columbia Records. On this LP, the work was "electronically re-channeled for stereo".  I've reverted it back to mono here.
The New Music Quartet was formed in 1948, and disbanded in 1956. Its members were Broadus Erle, who became leader of the Yale Quartet (1960-1977), Matthew Raimondi, leader of the Composer's Quartet (1965-1998), Claus Adam, cellist of the Juilliard Quartet (1955-1974), and renowned violist Walter Trampler. Naxos offers on-line only downloads of two albums by the group.
 Both Paul Zukofsky (violin) and Gilbert Kalish (piano) have recorded extensively, especially the works of contemporary composers. 

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD scans as a .pdf



Symphony Nº6 in F, Op.68 "Pastorale"
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Igor Markevich

Among the many attractions of LPs is that the large format invites creativity in the choice of 
cover art.  I confess that I was initially attracted to this French DGG album because of the wonderful
Dufy painting (Le Champ de Blé) on the cover.  The performance, recorded in Paris in the early to mid 1950's,  has a balance and "rightness" to it that makes it enchanting.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD album scans



Symphony Nº9 in D minor, Op.125 "Choral"

Joan Sutherland, soprano
Norma Procter, alto
Anton Dermota, tenor
Arnold Van Mill, bass
Chorale du Brassus and Choeur des Jeunes de l"Eglise
Nationale Vaudoise
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romand
Ernest Ansermet

This LP was issued in 1961 as London CS6143, and it was the first stereo recording of the work offered on a single disk.  London's "StereOphonic" banner certainly made sure you didn't miss the fact.  I suspect it was for economic reasons that I purchased it as a college student.   It turned out to be an excellent introduction to the 9th and has stood the test of time very well indeed.  Beethoven makes cruel demands on the voice in this work; nevertheless, the soloists, especially Joan Sutherland, are outstanding. In regard to this recording, states: His recording of the Symphony No. 9, in particular, is still singled out for critical praise. For many years, it was considered one of the two or three finest available on LP (back in the 1970s, if you found this record in someone's collection, you could be certain that they really knew their stuff and cared about their music).
LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD cover scan



The Creation (German: Die Schöpfung)  H.21/2)

Agnes Giebel, soprano
Richard Holm, tenor
Heinz Rehfuss, bass
Choirs of the Vienna Academy
Vienna Opera Orchestra
Directed by Walter Goehr

Guilde Internacionale du Disque (France)

The Creation  (German: Die Schöpfung) is an oratorio written by Haydn between 1796 and 1798  and considered by many to be his masterpiece. The work depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical  Book of Genesis and in Paradise Lost.  It is scored for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, chorus and a symphony orchestra, and is in three parts.
LP album scans + program notes in English

HD scan of cover:



The Seasons (German: Die Jahreszeiten) (H. 21/3)

 Teresa Stich-Randall, soprano
Helmut Kretschmar, tenor
Erich Wenk, bass
"Nord-Deutsches Symphonie" of Hamburg
NDR Choir
Direction:  Walter Goehr
Recording date: 1955?
In France this set was issued by Guild Internationale du Disque as MMS 2078
and in the U.S. by Nonesuch as HC-3009. 

 My rip is from the French LPs.

 HD album scans + full notes (in English) including German/English text  as a .pdf



Symphony No.9 in C Major, D.944

North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (NDR)
Hans Schmidt-Isserstadt, conductor

Clocking in at nearly 1h 06m, this performance qualifies as being of the "heavenly length" that Schumann ascribed to the work.  Yet it is always in motion, always developing, and it never drags; an attestment to Schmidt-Isserstedt's skill.   Here he directs the orchestra that he founded in Hamburg, with the encouragment of the British occupation forces, soon after W.W. II.  This recording is from 1959, a time when, as the cover attests, some people still gave this work the number 7.  Impressive Telefunken sound. 

LP tracks as lossless .ape files
HD cover scan



RCA LSC-6902
Eight Great Symphonies
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch
Pierre Monteux

This set, containing 7 "shaded dog" LPs and a deluxe booklet, was issued in 1959.  It contains some of the most iconic recordings of the  RCA Red Seal golden era. 

Beethoven - Symphony No.3 "Eroica" (Munch)
Mendelssohn - Symphonies No. 4 "Italian" and No. 5 "Reformation" (Munch)
Brahms - Symphonies No.1 and No. 4  (Munch)
Franck - Symphony in D Minor (Munch)
Tchaikovsky - Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6 "Pathetique" (Monteux)

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD album scans, including covers of the original LPs.
pw: billinrio
scans only:

New digitalizations and links.

Download and combine the following 6 split files:



The Nine Symphonies
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini

RCA Victor LM 6901 [1958]
7 LPs
Recorded from November, 1949 to November, 1952

Ripped from a pristine box.  I'm particularly pleased with this digital transfer, which has been highly praised by collector and musician friends whose opinions I value highly.

Lossless AIFF files.  Combine and then unzip.

HD cover scan:



The 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas - The Wigmore Hall Lectures
András Schiff

Now for a departure from the other posts.  From 2004-06 András Schiff performed complete cycles of the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas in twenty cities (the cycle in Zurich's Tonhalle was recorded live and issued on cd's by ECM). During this same period he also performed all of the sonatas in recital at London's Wigmore Hall, preceded  the day before each recital with a lecture given from the piano, during which he treated with erudition and humor the works to be played on the following day.  A truly astounding achievement, and it's a privilege to hear these works explained from the perspective of a master pianist. I'm particularly struck by his presentations of the "early" sonatas, works that I had always thought to be derivatives of Haydn.  But Schiff shows them to be truly new and even revolutionary.  In every lecture insights abound: whether he's comparing Beethoven with Bach and Schubert, pointing out piano voicings that recall other instruments, or expressing mordant views on Beethoven's contemporaries such as Czerny.  After hearing Schiff's explanations, even the most well-known sonatas become fresh.  I guarantee that after you have heard what he has to say about the "Moonlight", that warhorse will never sound the same. 

Lecture One:  Sonata in F minor Op. 2 No. 1  /  Sonata in A major Op. 2 No. 2  /  Sonata in C major Op. 2 No. 3 / Sonata in E-flat major Op. 7 Link:

Lecture Two:   Sonata in C minor Op. 10 No. 1  Sonata in F major Op. 10 No. 2  / Sonata in D major Op. 10 No. 3   / Sonata in C minor Op. 13 'Pathétique' Link:

Lecture Three:   Sonata in G minor Op. 49 No. 1 Sonata in G major Op. 49 No. 2  /  Sonata in E major Op. 14 No. 1  /  Sonata in G major Op. 14 No. 2  /  Sonata in B-flat major Op. 22  
Lecture Four:  Sonata in A-flat major Op. 26  /  Sonata in E-flat major Op. 27 No. 1  /  Sonata in C-sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 'Moonlight'  /  Sonata in D major Op. 28 'Pastoral' 
Lecture Five:  Sonata in G major Op. 31 No. 1  /  Sonata in D minor Op. 31 No. 2 'Tempest'  /  Sonata in E-flat major Op. 31 No. 3  /  Sonata in C major Op. 53 'Waldstein'  Link:
Lecture Six:  Sonata in F major Op. 54  /  Sonata in F minor Op. 57 'Appassionata'  /  Sonata in F-sharp major Op. 78  /  Sonata in G major Op. 79  /  Sonata in E-flat major Op. 81a 'Les Adieux' 
Lecture Seven:  Sonata in E minor Op. 90  /  Sonata in A major Op. 101  /  Sonata in B-flat major Op. 106 'Hammerklavier' (I)  /  Sonata in B-flat major Op. 106 'Hammerklavier' (II) 
Lecture Eight:  Sonata in E major Op. 109  /  Sonata in A-flat major Op. 110  /  Sonata in C minor Op. 111  Link:
.mp3 files, for those who wish to put these lectures on an iPod or memory stick and enjoy them portably.



Complete Piano Sonatas
performed on fortepianos by Anthony Newman
Issued by Newport Classics on 4 disks (now OoP)

Anthony Newman has always been an adventurous artist.  At the beginning of his recording career he was marketed by CBS as a "hip" long-haired Zen-inspired keyboardist meant to appeal to a generation that gave much importance to counter-culture valuesTo me, it still seems a bit strange to see him dressed in formal attire as per the photos above.  His recording of the complete Mozart sonatas, as well as those of the Beethoven piano concertos (also issued by Newport Classics) were pioneer efforts at a time when the "historically informed" movement was in its beginnings.  Two different instruments are used here, the choice depending on Newman's views of the work in question.  Listen to these performances and hear these works as Mozart heard them.



 Olympian MG50025
Stravinsky - The Firebird
Debussy - Nocturnes
The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati
This this is an early stamping of a 1953 Olympian issue that it has been 
played very seldom.  Its very silent surfaces required only the slightest manual touch-up of infrequent extraneous record noise.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD cover scans _______________________________________________________________

Piano Quartet in c minor, Op.60
Piano Quintet in F, Op.34
La Gaia Scienza
When they were released, these recordings received much comment, in part because they attempt
to reproduce the sound of the instruments available to Brahms at the times of their 
composition, and in part, probably, due to the rather irreverent front cover with a pistol pointing at the composer's head.
 The BBC Music Magazine reviewed this disk very favorably, saying,  "La Gaia Scienza offers ‘period’ Brahms.  Its pianist plays an 1842 Erard, presumably similar to the 1839 Graf that Brahms inherited from Schumann and on which he composed these works."  
Normally, comments about the C-minor piano quartet tell us how the young composer, depressed and even suicidal about the impossible situation in which he found himself in regard to Clara Schumann, compared himself to Goethe's Werther and his "sorrows".  Here the notes offer only a few oblique comments in this regard.  As for the Op.34 piano quintet, the reviewer states that 
"La Gaia Scienza turns in an absolutely first-rate interpretation of the F minor Quintet. Here the Erard truly comes into its own, allowing very flexible articulation and excellent balance so the inner string parts really make their full effect; and the players’ involvement is total. In a very lively acoustic, this riveting account is actually one of the best currently available".
The technical quality is excellent throughout and the playing captures and holds one's attention. 


Symphony No.3 in F, Op.90
Tragic Overture, Op.81
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Lorin Maazel
Last week I attended a performance of the Brahms 3rd Symphony performed by one of the country's major orchestras, directed on that evening by a Japanese guest conductor. It was very disappointing. This is a wonderful work, masterfully written. But too much lingering, too much drawing it out, can make you nod in your chair. On that evening, the opening Allegro con brio  had nothing allegro about it, much less any brio, and took nearly 13 minutes to play.  The others movements followed at a similar plodding pace. In this work there has to be urgency in the opening movement, liricsm and delicacy in the second and third, and a note of triumph in the finale.   The next day, as an antidote, I listened to this performance that I find to be practically ideal.  The recording took place in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin on January 11, 1959.  Lorin Maazel  was then 28, and would subsequently go on to lead the Deutsche Oper and Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestras and in the United States, those of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and the New York.  Currently, he's Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.  On this recording (quite rare and now only available as part of an 8-cd set) he leads the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra that many people (including, apparently, Maazel himself) expected him to take over after the death of von Karajan.    Here we do find expressed  in full the urgency, yearning, liricism, delicacy and triumph that a great performance of the Brahms 3rd  can deliver.

 5 LP tracks as lossless .flac files + HD cover scan


Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande Ernest Ansermet
Ansermet founded the Geneva-based orchestra in 1918 and remained its conductor until 1967.
During the 1950's London released a number of their recordings, particularly of ballets, that are still very highly regarded.  This Sacre is from 1958.
The cover photo caused such a scandal that London released another more modest one:
LP sides as lossless .flac files
Cover scans as .pdf

Alban Berg 
Violin Concerto 
Josef Suk, violin 
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra 
Karel Ancerl
 Chamber Music for Piano, Violin, and 13 Wind Instruments 
Prague Chamber Harmony
Originally released by Supraphon in 1965 and re-issued by Quintessence in 1980, this prize- winning disk contains two of Berg's most important works.  LP tracks as lossless .flac files Album scans as a .pdf

La Périchole
The most delicious of the Offenbach operettas, full of wit and melody, and set in a kind of Second Empire Peru. In this production, the extensive stage dialogues of the original have been replaced by a narrative text written and spoken by Académie member Alain Decaux. A stellar cast.  Crespin, with sumptuous lower notes, perfect in the title  (I can't imagine the "Letter Aria" being sung better), and Vanzo is excellent as her street-singer partner.

This two-LP set was issued by Erato, France, in 1977.

Full scans of the accompanying booklet with libretto as a .pdf

New links:


Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64
Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York
Dimitri Mitropoulos

Columbia Masterworks ML 5075, six-eye label, issued in 1956.  
Tracks as lossless .flac files
Album scans as a .pdf


Schumann - Carnaval 
Schubert Impromptus, Op.90
Nelson Freire

Nelson Freire was born in Brazil and trained in Europe. After having garnered a number of piano competition prizes he was contracted by Columbia Records and received an impressive debut, with the launch in 1969 of an unprecendented 4-concerto, three LP boxed set. This solo album of Schumann and Schubert soon followed.  It was never re-issued on CD.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD cover scans as a .pdf file

upgraded cover


MG 50007
Brahms Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Kubelik

A very early issue in the Olympian series, recorded during Kubelik's all too brief (1950-53) sojourn in Chicago, during which he was subject to unrelentless verbal attacks from Chicago Tribune music reporter Claudia Cassidy. Apparently, the symphony's board was of the same opinion. According to Kubelik's biographer Lionel Salter, "their foremost complaint, and that of Cassidy as well, was that Kubelík introduced too many contemporary works (about 70) to the orchestra; there were also objections to his demanding exhaustive rehearsals and engaging several black artists". The board dismissed Kubelik and hired Fritz Reiner, who brought with him a recording contract with RCA. Mercury moved north to Minneapolis.



MG 50139
Rossini Overtures
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

  • La Scala di Seta
  • La Cenerentola
  • La Gazza Ladra
  • The Barber of Seville
  • L' italiana in Algeri
  • Il Signor Bruschino



Swan Lake Ballet
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati



SDBR 3021
Carlos Chávez
Sinfonia India
Sinfonia de Antigona
Symphony Nº4
The Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York
Carlos Chávez

An Everest LP from 1959.  These are very high-quality disks that used the most advanced equipment of the time (35mm tape, etc) and compared in quality to the Mercury Living Presence issues. Unfortunately, after founder Harry Blalock left the company, the quality fell dramatically.  Collectors know that the record label tells the tale:  this one bears the silver and blue label, and is the most collectable.  Issues with the purple and silver label can also be very good. But beware of the later red, yellow and blue ones.  
The "Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York" is the New York Philharmonic (under the latter name the ensemble was under exclusive contract with Columbia Records).


 Nonesuch H-71203
Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op.22
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Lukas Foss

This early opus by Sibelius is also known as the  Lemminkäinen Suite and contains, of course,
The Swan of Tuonela.   In fact what we have here are four tone poems.  It's an exciting work, composed while Sibelius was exploring his county's folk legends, and several years before he attempted a symphony.  Even so, it's apparent that by this time he had already found his unique "northern solitude" voice.  Composer/conductor Foss and his orchestra do the work justice.  Recorded in March 1968 at  Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo NY.
The jacket notes tell us that the recording used Dolby A-300 - the professional broad-band noise reduction technology that was launched by Dolby Laboratories in 1966.   Dolby B noise reduction, for the consumer market,  would prove essential for the success of the audio cassette format.  It appeared two years later and become part of nearly all home tape recording and playback systems.



Symphony Nº34 in C, K.338
Symphony Nº38 in D, K.504 "Prague"
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Kubelik

This LP is from 1953, the final year of Kubelik's tenure in Chicago.  The recording of the "Prague" symphony included here was also to be featured on another Olympian disk issued a bit later as MG50042, and there accompanied by two parts of  Smetana's Ma Vlast.

Lossless .ape files
Cover scan



Angel S-36461
Symphony No.3 in E-flat ("Eroica') Op.55
The BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir John Barbirolli

Released in 1967, this LP contains a splendid recording of the Eroica.  Listeners who know it invariably list it among the best.  I especially like ClassicalNet reviewer Robert Stumpf's comments  (because of his quote of one of my favorite writers, H.L.Mencken), part of which I reproduce below: 

"H. L. Mencken wrote, in 1922, "The older I grow, the more I am convinced that the most portentous phenomenon in the whole history of music was the first public performance of the Eroica on April 7, 1805*." Mencken then goes on to give a really interesting analysis of the whole piece. In fact, I am tempted to quote all of what Mencken had to say about the Eroica but will add only one other passage: "…the feelings that Beethoven put into his music were the feelings of a god…He is a great tragic poet, and like all great tragic poets, he is obsessed by a sense of the inscrutable meaninglessness of life. From the Eroica onward he seldom departs from that theme." Any great performance of this symphony needs to capture the essence of that revolutionary moment and the depths and peaks of its inherent nature. I hope to share but a few thoughts about other recordings of the Eroica.
My collection includes 10 recordings of this piece. I have a special affection for the Giulini with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra because I watched it performed when he toured with that orchestra and stopped in Columbus, Ohio. I remember listening to it and during the second movement I realized someone was wrong. Then I realized someone was humming. Then I realized that somehow the orchestra had gotten temporarily lost and the conductor was brining them back together by 'singing'.  I also have a fondness for the Bernstein VPO recording. I recall being fascinated watching the performance on PBS. I found the recording, however, less riveting. I have a love of Bruno Walter's Autumn Summer recording. The two Furtwängler performances I own (1944 and 1952) are special. They are such a wrenching emotional experience that I have to be ready for them. Monteux's recording with the Concertgebouw is absolutely a must have for anyone who thinks they know this piece. Whenever I want to listen to the Eroica in the future, however, I will first reach for the Barbirolli"

*In fact, the first performance of the "Eroica" symphony was the subject of a 2003 movie:

LP tracks as Lossless .flac files
Cover scan



American Music for String Orchestra

Canning - Fantasy on a Hymn by Justin Morgan
Mennini - Arioso for Strings
Foote - Suite in E minor
Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson

A very early issue from Mercury's "Golden Lyre Series".

 this disk is from 1954.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
cover scans



Richard Strauss
Ein Heldenleben
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham

Recorded on April 17 & 22, 1958 at the Kingsway Hall, London.  Produced by the legendary
Victor Olof and Peter Andry and engineered by Robert Gooch.  As Orlov writes on the sleeve: 
"This recording ... is virtually the last major orchestral work that Sir Thomas Beecham taped ...
I don't remember his making fun at all during these sessions, as he was apt to do on most occassions.
Perhaps he considered this as his lasting memorial to an old friend, little realizing that it would also be his own ..."

In a 1961 GRAMOPHONE review Edward Greenfield wrote:

"No more fitting tribute to Beecham's memory could be imagined than this ... he finds greater richness, a more truly forceful heroism than any other conductor I know ... on almost every page he finds special felicities - the sensuousness of the harp glissandi in the love music that never deteriorates into sentimentality, the climax at figure 37 when the horns burst out and Beecham so much more effectively than anyone else lets them be heard through the complex web of the scoring ..."

For me, the fascinating thing about this recording is how Beecham somehow manages to create a seamless unity from a work that in the hands of most conductors sounds episodic.

Lossless .flac file 
Album scans as a .pdf



Bartok Violin Concerto
Yehudi Menuhin
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

"The recording session took place immediately after a concert of the same music in Carnegie Hall on February 18, 1957.  Following a short break for relaxation, the musicians  reassembled at midnight and played from then until almost dawn, five o'clock".  (from the LP jacket notes)

There's an interesting collector's review of this recording here.

3 LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD album scans as a .pdf
PW: billinrio



Mercury Olympian MG50141
Symphony No.3 in E-flat, Op.55 "Eroica"
Minneapolis Symphony
Antal Dorati

In his excellent Classical Notes review of a large number of recordings of the Eroica Peter Guttman says of this recording: "Dorati’s is a sharp, no-nonsense reading with prominent, insistent tympani adding both thrust and an appropriate suggestion of militarism. A sense of urgency drives a riveting finale with clipped notes toward the end of the adagio section."

4 LP tracks as lossless .flac files
HD album scans as a .pdf
pw: billinrio



The Six Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord BWV 1014-1019
Chaconne from Partita No.2 in D minor

Erick Friedman, violin
Bruce Prince-Joseph, harpsichord

2 "Shaded Dog" disks
Issued by RCA in 1965

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
cover + insert scans as pdf



 MG 50103
Elliott Carter - The Minotaur
Colin McPhee - Tabuh-Tabauhan 

This  LP is from 1956.  The subsequent CD issue (here as #38) uses this same photo for the cover and contains the McPhee work.

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
Front and rear cover scans as a .pdf



Eric Satie
Pieces for Piano
Evelyne Crochet 

A word about the pianist:  Paris Conservatory graduate and Medalist Evelyne Crochet received an Honorable Mention at the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 (the "Van Cliburn" year) and invitations to record in the Soviet Union.  She subsequently went to the U.S. where she studied with Rudolf Serkin, performed extensively as a soloist and with chamber ensembles, and became a faculty member at Brandeis and Rutgers universities.
Her small discography includes  disks of the complete piano works of Milhaud for Philips.   Her touch and phrasing made her an ideal interpreter of the music of Satie.  In her hands, even the overplayed  Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes are fresh as new bouquets.

Side 1:    Nouvelles pièces froides * (1907)
   ⁃   Sur un mur
   ⁃   Sur un arbre
   ⁃   Sur un pont
       Effronterie* (from Deux choses c. 1909)
Désespoir Agreáble*
      Prélude canin (from 2 préludes pour un chien (1912)
Trois Gymnopedies
   Avant-dernières Pensées (1915)
   ⁃   Idylle
   ⁃   Aubade
   ⁃   Méditation

Side 2

   Reveries Nocturnes (1910) *
   ⁃   Pas Vite
   ⁃   Très Modérément
Six Gnossiennes
   Première pensée Rose+Croix)* (1891)
    Petite ouverture à danser* (1897)
   Les trois valses distinguées
   ⁃   Sa taille
   ⁃   Son binocle
   ⁃   Ses jambes
Du Précieux Dégoûté (1914)

* World premiere recordings

LP sides as lossless .ape files
HD cover scan
Record notes



Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.47
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Constantin Silvestri

Controversy surrounds this work.  Shostakovich composed it in 1937 after having been severely and publically reprimanded by Stalin's regime for composing what it labeled  "decadent" music.  This symphony was supposedly intended to please the authorities, who required that music be "monumental", "optimistic", "life-affirming", etc.  Indeed, the last movement of this symphony has about it a parade-ground style that is supposedly meant to be a celebration of the New Soviet Man.  If we accept this interpretation, the composer turns out to be a lacky to the regime.  Perhaps he was; after all, he dedicated his 12th symphony to the memory of Lenin.

But after the composer's death other interpretations have appeared, including statements reputed to be by the composer that the 4th movement of this symphony, far from being a Stalinist victory hymn, is really a parody of one.   Of it Shostakovich is alleged to have said "The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in Boris Godunov. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, "Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing," and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, "Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing."

I know of no recording of this symphony that is more successful in giving this impression of "forced rejoicing" than this 1962 rendition from Silvestri and the VPO.



Harold in Italy, Op.16
Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London
Hermann Scherchen

 In reviewing recordings of this work in his "Classical Notes" blog, Peter Gutmann chose this above all others.  He wrote:
 But even amid the excellence of these recordings, my all-time favorite is the overlooked 1953 recording by Hermann Scherchen and the Royal Philharmonic (Westminster LP, briefly available in a 4-CD Tahra box). Sharing much of the sense of sheer adventure of the 1961 Bernstein, and with even greater visceral excitement than the 1939 Toscanini, his approach channels Koussevitzy's huge unbridled personality but adds wild extremes, boasting both the slowest second movement on record and the fastest fourth. After a deceptively placid methodical opening, the mood is shattered with a sudden shift to vast velocity and force, as soloist Frederick Riddle, in far better form than with Beecham, digs into his instrument and tosses off his figures with striking staccato amid orchestral snarls. The middle movements boast distinctive, humanizing touches – the second evolves into a profoundly religious rapture, as gingerly phrasing gradually gains confidence with the lengthening lines, and the third evokes the amateurism of Berlioz's serenader through labored pacing and choppy accompaniment. But it's in the finale that Scherchen pulls out all the stops, violently contrasting the sweet moments of repose with wild breakneck climactic tempos, fully conveying the volatility of the composer's psyche, torn between the stability of social expectations and his fevered imagination. Scherchen saves his biggest surprise for the very end, though – having led us to expect a truly ferocious finish, he catches us off guard with a thoroughly restrained final climax, as if to remind us that, after all, this is concert-hall music nestled in the conventions of a bygone era. Of all the performances on record, Scherchen's comes closest to conjuring for modern listeners the sheer shock and wonderment Berlioz's audiences must have felt when first encountering his music.

(Note: Although this Westminster jacket gives the name of the orchestra as the "Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London",  it is, in fact, as Gutmann credits it, the Royal Philharmonic.  Westminster couldn't use that name because at that time the RFO was under exclusive contract to EMI.)



Brahms - Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34
Orford String Quartet
Gloria Saarinen, piano

Brahms composed this music when he was 29, originally conceiving it for string quintet (a string quartet with an added cello).  Not satisfied, he  re-wrote it for two pianos and as such performed it in public.  He destroyed the string quintet version, but the 2 piano version survives as Op.34bis - I'll upload a recording of it here shortly.   He then had the happy idea of combining the two versions, keeping the strings and piano in this F minor Piano Quintet.
The fourth and final movement with its rather "spooky" opening is quite unusual; very "modern" for the young Brahms, and its harmonies remind me of some of the music of Schöenberg.
This LP is a 1984 (when it still seemed important to print "Digital Recording" on the cover) issue from Calgary-based Sefel Records.  Excellent performance and sound.

4 LP tracks as lossless flacs
Front and back cover scans



The Music for Solo Organ
E. Power Biggs

In 1766, the ten year-old Mozart performed a concert on the organ of the St. Bavo Church in Haarlem. This 1966 Columbia LP, containing all of Mozart's published music for solo organ, was recorded by Biggs on the instrument played by the chlid prodigy more than 250 years ago.  This magnificent instrument has 5,000 pipes, 64 stops, and 3 manuals.  There's an excellent description of it with photos here:

  • Fantasy in F minor, K.608
  • Fantasy in F minor, K.594
  • Adagio & Fugue in C minor, K. 546
  • Adagio for a Glass Armonica, K.350
  • Andante with Variations, K.616
  • Prelude on the Ave Verum, K.580a

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
Album scans as a .pdf



Appalachian Spring - Complete Ballet
Billy the Kid - Ballet Suite
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Ormandy were no doubt favorites of Copland, since he chose
them to perform the premiers of many of his works.  This LP carries no date, but according to the catalog number it's from the late 1950's. 

LP sides as lossless .flac files
Full cover scans as a .pdf



à huit voix, double choeur et quatre parties instrumentales

à  six voix et deux parties instrumentales


Direction:  Michel CORBOZ

Album issued in France in 1974
4 LP sides as lossless flac files
Cover + booklet scans



Legendary Masters of the Piano

 In 1915, Edwin Welte, working in Freiburg, Germany, invented a piano recording device able to capture every nuance of a live performance.  He installed electrical terminals in a trough of mercury below the piano keyboard, with each key and each pedal having below it a tiny carbon prong.  When the key or pedal was pressed, the prong dipped into the mercury, completing a circuit and signaling the exact force and duration of the stroke.  In other words, every subtlety of the pianist's expression was captured.  The data was recorded on rolls that were then played by a "robot" pianist, huge, oblong, and equipped with felt-covered fingers.  It could be rolled on casters in front of a piano - any piano - to play it.  Welte called the device a Vorsetzer, a "sitter-in-front". 
Famous pianists and composers of the time flocked to perform works using Welte's invention.  He installed the apparatus in a Rhine castle, where they could stay as guests and play on impulse.  The composers Busoni, Debussy, Ravel, Grieg, Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin, Richard Strauss, Mahler, and Granados did so.  The world's most famous piano virtuosos such as Hofmann, Carreno, and Lhevinne did as well.  
In the 1960's, the a Welte Vorsetzer player was completely restored and the rolls recorded were brought together.   The player was positioned next to the Steinway that Artur Rubinstein used when he recorded in California, and the recordings were made and then pressed on these three LPs.    These recordings do indeed sound like modern live performances.

25 individual LP tracks + complete booklet scans:


Piano Quintet in A, Op.81

 Peter Serkin, piano
Alexander Schneider, violin (former member of the Budapest Quartet)
Felix Galimir, violin (founder of the Galimir Quartet)
Michael Tree, viola (founding member of the Guarneri Quartet)
David Soyer, cello (founding member of the Guarneri Quartet

All of the members of the  ensemble on this 1968 Vanguard LP were frequent participants at the Marlboro Festival

LP tracks as lossless .flac files
Scans as a .pdf


Castelnuovo-Tedesco:  The Lark
Gabriel Fauré:  Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13
Tomasso Vitale:  Chaconne

Jascha Heifetz, violin
Richard Ellsasser, organ (Vitali)
Emanuel Bay, piano (Castelnuovo-Tedesco)
Brooks Smith, piano (Fauré)

This 1957 LP is among the rarest in my collection.



Bach on the Harpsichord & Clavichord
Igor Kipnis

Igor Kipnis was among the most eminent American harpsichordists of the mid XX century, and through his recordings, teaching, and radio program on the New York Times station WQXR did much to further interest in early keyboard music.  This 1973 LP contains works by J.S. Bach played on both the harpsichord and the clavichord.  The jacket notes recognize the fact the the listener may be obliged to turn up the volume a bit for the works played on the clavichord.  To avoid this problem, I've provided two folders: one with the works that are played on the harpsichord, and another with those played on the clavichord. 


Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971
"Little" Prelude No.1 in C Major
English Suite No.2 in A Minor, BWV 807

12 "Little" Preludes:
Prelude for keyboard in C major BWV 924
Prelude for keyboard in C major BWV 939
Prelude for lute in C minor, BWV 999
Prelude for keyboard in D major (disputed, perhaps by W.F. Bach), BWV 925
Prelude for keyboard in D minor BWV 926
Prelude for keyboard in D minor (from Five Preludes No. 2), BWV 940
Prelude for keyboard in E minor (from Five Preludes No. 3), BWV 941
Prelude for keyboard in F major BWV 927
Prelude for keyboard in F major BWV 928
Trio, for keyboard in G minor BWV 929
Prelude for keyboard in G minor BWV 930
Prelude for keyboard in A minor (Five Preludes No. 4; doubtful), BWV 942

Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 1 in C major BWV 870
Prelude (Fantasia), for keyboard in A minor, BWV 922

Tracks as lossless .ape files
Album scans as a .pdf



Complete Incidental music to "Rosamunde"
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Gustav Kuhn

In December 1823 in Vienna, the premiere of Helmina von Chezy's play "Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus" was a failure and was cancelled after only one additional performance. No doubt the torturous plot of the play (described in the jacket notes included here) was the reason.  But the music that Schubert composed for it (especially that to be  played between the acts) has always been popular,  This 1981 LP offers the complete music, instrumental, choral, and solo.  

Overture "Die Zauberfarge"
Entracte (after Act I)
Entracte (after Act II)
Entracte (after Act III)
Shepherds' Melody
Chorus of Shepherds
Chorus of Huntsmen



SRI 75111
Elliott Carter - The Minotaur
Henry Cowell - Symphony No.4
Wallingford Riegger - New Dance

"Golden Imports" are excellent Dutch pressings of re-issues of select albums, and are vastly superior to the budget-priced Mercury Wing re-issue series.

Front and back LP jacket scans included


Borodin Symphony No.2
Stravinsky The Firebird Ballet Suite (1919 version)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati

This early Olympian Series LP is from 1954, recorded shortly after Mercury had transferred its main venue from Chicago to Minneapolis.  I've coddled this disk over the years, and it has very clean surfaces and low background noise.  Mercury subsequently issued this Firebird on MG50025 (selection #220 above).
Album scans
LP tracks as lossless .flac files

Thanks, Peter, for notifying me about problems with some of the tracks of this album.
I've resolved them and re-upped it.  The new link is the one below:


J.S. Bach
Four Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-1069
Collegium Auream

The conductor-less ensemble Collegium Aureum was among the pioneers in employing what was called at the time simply "Original Instruments".  Apparently, the current "in" expression is "Historically Informed Performance".
Among the instrumentalists are such eminences as Franzjosef Maier (leader), Hans-Martin Linde (flute), and Edward Tarr (trumpet).
Recorded in the visually and acoustically magnificent Zedernsaal in Kirchheim in Schwaben (Bavaria). 
This 2-LP set is a 1969 French issue, in excellent German pressings.  In digitizing it I've provided the various movements of the suites (or "overtures") as separate tracks.

Lossless flac files - 347MB



Mozart Symphony No.40
Haydn Symphony No.45 "Farewell"
London Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Everyone knows the story behind Haydn's "Farewell Symphony" - how the composer wrote it to convince his patron to permit the musicians (and the composer) to depart the summer residence and go home to their families.  What's amazing is Haydn's ability to "throw off" such an extraordinary work in so very little time.  The dominant key is F-sharp minor - very unusual for an orchestral work, and requiring the brass players to fashion special crooks for their instruments in order to play in it.

Recording notes:
"Haydn’s Farewell and the Mozart 40 were taped in Watford Town Hall, with the London Symphony seated in their normal positions. Three extremely sensitive omni-directional microphones were suspended in front of the orchestra in such a manner as to capture the entire panorama of orchestral sound. Throughout the sessions, after some preliminary level checks, these microphones were never moved, nor was the flow of sound from them onto the three-channel tape impeded at any time by electronic controls. Later the three channels were combined by a special Mercury process into a two-channel tape."  This disk is from 1963.

Lossless .ape files


Ives Symphony No.2
New York Philharmonic,
Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein was very much responsible for the "discovery" of Charles Ives.  There is a 1951 NYPO broadcast recording available through the orchestra's web page, but it was this stereo version, recorded in-concert and released in 1960, that truly was a landmark in the Ives revival. As a bonus, it includes Bernstein's edifying lecture on the composer and this work.  He would record it with the same orchestra 30 years later, this time issued by Deutsche Grammophon (and with longer timings for all of the movements).  Personally, I much prefer the fresher, more raw-boned Columbia recording here.

LP tracks as lossless .ape files
Front & rear album scans



MG 10055
"Jena Symphony"
Namensfeier Overture

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Robert Heger
Consecration of the House Overture
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra,
Gotthold Lessing

This early Mercury issue is from 1952, when it was still widely believed that the manuscript of a symphony discovered in 1909 by Fritz Stein in the German city of Jena was an early work by Beethoven.  Today we know that it was written by a contemporary, Friedrich WittThe work is very closely modeled on Haydn's Symphony No.97 (1792).  Namensfeier means "Name Day".  Beethoven's dedicatee was Polish prince Antoni Radziwill.  Beethoven composed the"Consecration of the House Overture"for Vienna's Josefstadt Theater.  It was first performed at the theatre's opening on October 3, 1822.



String Quartet No.1 in F major, Op.18 No.1
String Quartet No.9 in C major, Op.59 No.3 "Rasoumovsky"
The Barchet Quartet

Here are two of my favorite Beethoven string quartets in a vinyl transfer that came out very well. 
The jacket back informs us: "Of the Barchet Quartet, which was founded in 1952, the Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote in April, 1961: 'When one considers that here we have playing together four concertmasters who normally lead their own groups or orchestras, then we are even more astonished at the outstanding talent for chamber music which they bring to one of the most convincing ensembles of its type.  Intelligence and musical temperament are held perfectly in balance.' Reinhold Bachet, first violin, was concertmaster of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra from 1946-52 and since 1955 has conducted master classes for violin at the Darmstadt Academy of Music; as soloist he regularly undertakes concert tours both in Germany and abroad ... Will Beh, second violin, is concertmaster of the Stuttgard Philharmonic ...  Hermann Hirshfelder, viola, was a member of the Strubs Quartet from 1939-5,  first solo violist of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1945-48, and professor at the Northwest German Academy of Music in Detmold, 1948-51 ... Helmut Reisman, cello, was cellist of the Zernick Quartet for eight years.  The Barchet Quartet was awarded a Prix du Disque in 1959 for its complete recording of the twenty-eight string quartets and five string quintets of Mozart."

Lossless .flac files + LP cover scan

Malcolm Arnold
Four Scottish Dances
Symphony No.3
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Malcolm Arnold

Issued in 1959, during the time when Everest was still a serious audiophile label, with excellent pressings having substantial vinyl weight.  The silver and blue LP label is a green light for collectors who have discovered that one must be very wary of Everest pressings issued after 1960, when founder Harry Belock left the company. 

The Scottish Dances were composed early in 1957 and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival.  They are all based on original melodies, except one, which was composed by Robert Burns.  The first dance is in the style of the slow strathspey. The second, a lively reel, begins in the key of E-flat, and rises a semitone each time it is played until the bassoon plays it, at a greatly reduced speed, in the key of G.  The final statement of the dance is at the original speed in the home key of E-flat.  The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean song and attempts to give an impression of the sea and mountain scenery of a calm summer day in the Hebrides.
The last dance is a lively fling, which makes a great deal of use of the open strings of the violins.

Arnold's 3rd Symphony, which was composed between 1954 and 1957, is written for a normal symphony orchestra without harp or percussion.  It is in 3 movements.
The 1st movement has two main subjects, the first of which is played by the violins, violas, flutes, and bassoon at the very outset of the piece.  Later on, the 2nd subject is initially stated by the oboe, accompanied by violins.  Toward the end of the movement the tempo abruptly changes and the same material is developed in the scherzo.
The 2nd movement, elegiac in character, is a set of variations based on a series of chords more than a melodic theme.
The last movement is based on three main themes and could be loosely described as a rondo. 
The work was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and first performed by the Royal Liverpool Orchestra, conducted by John Prichard at the Royal Festival Hall in London on December 2, 1957.



Scarlatti, Soler,
Rafael Puyana

1. Fray Antonio Soler - Fandango in D minor   2. Fray Manuel de Sostoa - Allegro in D major  3. Fray José Galles - Sonata in G major   4. Padre José Galles - Sonata in C minor   5. Joaquin de Oxinaga - Sonata in C major   6. Manuel Blasco de Nebra - Sonata in F sharp minor   7. Fray Antonio Soler - Sonata in D minor, R15   8. Sonata Rondon in F major, R109   9. Domenico Scarlatti - Fandango del Sr. Scarlate  10. Sonata in D major K.119   11. Sonata in D minor K.120   12. Fray Antonio Soler - Sonata in G major R.45   13. Sonata en Modo Dorico R.49   14. Mateo Perez de Albeniz - Sonata in D major

In regard to Spanish harpsichord music people often note the link between the sound of the harpsichord and that of the guitar.  There does indeed seem to be a kind of strumming and often foot stamping dance rhythms in much of this music.

Antonio Soler spent practically his entire life within the Catholic Church.  At the age of six he entered the Escolania (Boys Choir) of Monserrat

where he remained until he was 15 (presumably, when his voice broke).  His musical talent obviously flowered very early, since upon leaving Monserrat he was appointed organ master at La Seu d'Urgell, in the Pyranees, chapel master at the cathedral in Lleida, and then at the Royal Court in Escorial, 

where he took holy orders as a Hieronymite monk at the age of 23. There he remained for the rest of his life, somewhere within the enormous palace above assiduously writing over 500 sonatas, some for his talented pupil, the Infante Gabriel, son of King Charles III. 

Article about Puyana

Download link:



Mozart Serenade in G major, K.525 "Eine kleine Nachtmusik"
Symphony No.36 in C major, K.424 "Linz"

One of the advantages of digitizing LPs is that it gives one the opportunity to listen very carefully to the recordings, since the process, at least in my case, involves manually removing any extraneous noises that may be present in even the most pristine vinyl such as this one (I realize that the digital process has made people quite intolerant of any clicks and pops). 
Mozart's K.425 symphony is one of his grandest.  Dorati's leadership here is outstanding, although it should be no surprise, coming from a conductor who specialized in, and was the first to record all of the symphonies of Haydn. It's a pity that he didn't record more of the late Mozart symphonies.

Download link:



Prokofiev Symphonies 3 & 7

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Karabits

I love these works, particularly the 7th Symphony, with its wonderful, sweeping melodies. There is some controversy regarding the ending.  Should it be subdued and somewhat disturbing as Prokofiev originally wrote it, or upbeat and "optimistic" as the Soviet authorities demanded? (one to which Prokofiev eventually complied). In the excellent notes included, Karabits (new to me and a revelation) calls the 7th Symphony "a very tragic work", and provides the alternate ending on a separate track so we can decide for ourselves, while obtaining a virtuoso performance from his orchestra. 


Haydn Symphony No.83 Arranged for Quintet
Schubert String Quartet in B-flat, D.112
Raphael Kwartet

An interesting 1988 issue from the Dutch label Xenophone, with excellent text that informs us that besides being the impresario who brought Haydn to London, John Peter Solomon was a musician whose talent was recognized by Beethoven (they were both born in the same house in Bonn) who also made arrangements of some of Haydn's symphonies so that they could be more widely performed. This arrangement of the Symphony No.83 is one example.  If you Google "Raphael String Quartet", you will see musicians other than those here (Ronald Hoogeveen, Rami Koch, Zontan Benyacz, Henk Lambooy), who were apparently its first generation.