LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI Acoustic Recordings 1919 - 1924
J. STRAUSS: . On the Beautiful Blue Danube. DVORAK: Largo from Symphony No. 9. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade excerpts. SAINT-SAÉNS: Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah. . SIBELIUS: i. BRahms: Hungarian Dance No. 1. Third movement from Sytmphony No. 3. STRAUSS: Dance of the Seven Veils. SCHUBERT: Moment Musicale No. 3. German Dances. MUSSORGSKY: Entracte from Khovanchina. EICHEM: Oriental Impression. PUCCINI: Excerpt from Madama Butterfly. HOFFSTETTER: Andante Cantabile
Philadelphia Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond,.

VERDI: Il trovatore (Met broadcast January 11, 1941)
Jussi Björling (Manrico). Norina Greco (Leonora). Frank Valentino (Count di Luna). Bruna Castagna (Azucena). Nicola Moscona (Fernando). Maxine Stellman (Inez).
Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Feeruccio Calusio, cond,.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 134 (2 disks) TT: 2 hours 16:13

MOZART: Symphony No. 31 in D,K. 297 :Oaris." HANDEL-BEECHAM: Piano Concerto in A. CHABRIER: España.
Betty Humby, piano. Blue Network Symphony Orch/Sir Thomas Beecham,, cond.

SHAKESPEARE - MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Old Vic 1954 production with all of Mendelssohyn's incidental music performed by soloists with the BBC Sympohony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent
PRISTINE AUDEIO PACO133 (2 disks) TT: 2 hours 25:23

This 1941 Met broadcast of Il trovatore is indeed something very special. The cast is extraordinary particuylarly for the opportunity to hear a very young Jussi Björling as Manrico, fearless on all, those high notes, always with a youthful sound. The Leonora is a soprano long forgotten, Norina Greco who had quite a career in Europe before coming to the Met in 1940. Born in Italy in 1915, she sang only 17 performances at the Met, difficult to explain, as her voice is perfect for Verdi. At the Met she sang in Trovatore, Pagliacci and Aida; it would be intriguing to know why she sang so little. Incidentally, her brother was the well-known dancer, José´Greco.We also have the thrilling Azucena of Bruna Castagna, and a very young Frank Valentino as Count di Luna. Milton Cross's announcements are included. This performance has been issued before, but Andrew Rose's XR remastering has enhanced the audio; he could do nothing about the balances between voices, chorus and orchestra—it is unfortunate that Bjöerling's trilling ending to Di quella pPira is very distant. A commendable reissue!

I remember when this recording of A Midsummer Night's Dream was first issues and how impossible it was to find a copy totally from clicks and pops. No such problem here, as producer Mark Obert-Thorn has worked his usual magic in the transfer. What a pleasure it is to experience Shakespeare's play (although cut a bit) performed by British stars of the time including Robert Helpman, Moira Shearer, and Stanley Holloway. The orchestral part was recorded in July 1954, the play the following month h in EMI's Abbey Road Studio. Those who love this Shakespeare masterpiece treasure the 1935 film that starred a very young Mickey Rooney as a truly impish Puck, and featured music of Mendelssohn adapted masterfully by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This Pristine reissue is a welcome addition to the catalog sounding bet†er than ever thanks to the MOT revitalization..

Pristine continues their memorable issues of the earliest Stokowski/Philadelphia;hia Orchesgtra recordings with this disk of the earliest, recorded 181801924 in RCA's Camden studios. Of course at the time only a relatively small part of the orchestra could be used, just what could be squeezed on into a small studio in front of the recording horn. Because of time limitations of the disk, all works were truncated, so most of these are "highlights" of the music. But they are intriguing to hear, and Andrew Rose's transfers do what can be done to get as much as possible from original ancient grooves. Audio here is far removed from the remarkable restoration of the 1924 recording of Stokowski with Rachmaninoff as soloist in his Piano Concerto No. 2 (REVIEW).

The prime interest on this latest Pristine Beeham disk is inclusion of a work in which his wife, Betty Humby, is piano soloist. Humby, born in 1908 was a fine pianist and teacher. She married Sir Thomas in 1943 (he was her second husband); she died in 1958). Beecham arranged this "piano concerto" from various works of Handel, one of his favorite composers. They made a recording of it, which no longer is available (they also recorded the Delius piano concerto). This lively four-movement Haydn pastiche is brilliantly played here. We also have a richly detailed account of Mozart's Symphony No. 31, and a vivacious account of España. Andrew Rose's remastering is state-of-the-art. Beecham's legion of admirers surely should investigate this.

R.E.B. (July 2016)