MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor.
London Symphony Orchestra / Jascha Horenstein, cond.

WAGNER: Lohengrin
Lauritz Melchior (Lohengrin). Elisabeth Rethberg (Elsa). KIrsten Thorborg (Ortrud). Julius Huehn (Telramund). Emanuel List (King Heinrich). Leonard Warren (Herald). Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Erich Leinsdorf, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 160 (3 disks) TT: 3 hr. 8:22

PUCCINI: Manon escaut
Licia Albanese (Manon). Jussi Bjöerling (Des Grieux). Frank Guarrera (Lescaut). Fernando Corena (Geronte). Thomas Hayward (Edmundo). George Cehanovsky (Inkeeper). Rosalind Elias (Solo madrigalist). Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Dimitri Mitropoulos , cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 158 TT: 2 hr. 13:13

DOHNANYI: Variations on a Nursery Tune (Victor Aller, piano). KHACHATURIAN: Piano Concerto in D fkat (Leonard Pennario, piano). BRITTEN: Young Person's Guide to the Orthestra. VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5. (Marni Nixon, soprano). BACH-VIILLA-LOBOS: Prelude and Fugue No. 8. CHAVEZ: Toccata for Percussion. MILHAUD: Concerto for Percussion and Small Orchestra.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC218 (2 disks) TT: 2 hr.19:10

Jascha Horenstein, acknowledged as a master interpreter of Mahler, made few commercial recordings of the composer's music. How unfortunate RCA was negative to Charles Gerhardt's wish to record all of the symphonies! Pristine Audio is doing their best to make available existing live performances in best possible sound. Already they have issued Symphonies 1,3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, all praised on this site. About five years ago this site mentioned a 1961 performance of Symphony No.5 with the Berlin Phiharmonic from the Edinburgh Festival (REVIEW). Now we have annother performance of Symphony No. 5 . CD notes by Misha Horenstein, the conductor's cousin, explain the peculiar circumstances of this recording,. The London Symphony originally planned to record it for Vox. the label withdrew and Everest stepped in. For unknown reasons, even though Horenstein had meticulously rehearsed the symphony, Everest chose Rudolf Schwarz to conduct the recording. Schwartz (1905 - 1994) had a distinguished career, particularly in England; his interpretation of this Symphony, originally issued on Everest, doubtless reflected to some extent, Horenstein's concept of the music. What we have here is a BBC recording October 30, 1958 in BBC's Maida Vale Studio 1. This was the LSO's first performance of the work, and they play brilliantly. Barry Tuckwell leads the horn section,s so important in this music. The BBC engineering is well-balanced enhanced by Pristine's XR remastering. This is a major release. Let us hope more of Horenstein's Mhler will follow.

This live performance of Lohengrin broadcast January 27, 1940, is essential in any collection. This was the great era of Wagnerian singing at the Met, at a time when singers didn't have to deal with some of the stupid, inappropriate Wagner productions devised by directors in recent years. Lauritz Melchior at the neigh of his powers as leading heldentenor of all time shows great sensitivity as well in this role. Lohengrin was one of his favorite roles; he sang it 87 times at the Met ! Elisabeth Rethberg is a perfect Elsa, and here we have Leonard Warren at the beginning of his fabulous career, singing the smaller role of the Herald. And at the helm is Erich Leinsdorf a true master of Wagner, who leads a n exciting performance, inspiring everyone to the heights. Andrew Rose's XR remastering has worked wonders with the audio, which is well balanced and captures the glorious singing. There is another live historic Met Lohengrin broadcast with a sterling case issued in Sony's Wagner at the Met series. This is from a broadcast January 2, 1943. It features Melchior and Thorborg , but this time Asrid Varnay is Elsa, Norman Cordon is the King, Mark Harrell the Herald and Alexander Sved is Telramund, again with Leinsdorf on the podium. No question that the Pristine issue offers the more satisfying audio picture, but surely Wagnerians will wish to have both.

Another highlight of the Met is the broadcast of March 31, 1956 of Puccini's Manon Lescaut. This is of major interest as it features the impassioned conducting of Dimitri Mitropoulos, and the perfect singing of Jussi Bjöerling. His Donna non vidi mai is unforgettable and throughout he is the perfect Des Grieux. Bjöfrling and Albanese had just made their RCA recording which is highly regarded. Albenase's voice was never known for its beauty; operatic drama wes her forte. In this live performance there course were no retkes. Her singing is sometimes off-pitch, hardly an appropriate match for the Swedish tenor. The rest of the class is excellent vocally. Opera lovers will wish to investigate this release for the opportunity to hear the great Swedish tenor in one of his major roles. Andrew Rose's XR remastering makes the best possible audio image.

Some years ago, Pristine issued a 2-disk set of recordings conducted by Felix Slatkin (1915 - 1953). Slatkin, a major figure on the musical scene during his time, was a superb violinist. He once was concertmaster of the St. louis Symphony (of which his famous son, Leonard. later was music director. Felix founded the Hollywood String Quartet in 1949. His wife, Eleanor Aller was the cellist. The HSQ made many superb recordings and received many awards. Felix formed the Concert Arts Orchestra and they gave many concerts, performed for movies, on radio and TV, and made numerous recordings in the early days of high fidelity and stereo audio.This set contains some of them. Dohnanyi's Nursery Tune Variations, recorded in stereo September 29, 1956 features pianist Victor Aller, Eleanor's brother. Then Khachaturian's Piano Concerto with Leonard Pennario recorded in stereo October 5-6, 1967, followed by one of the earliest stereo recordings of Britten's Young Person's Guile to the Orchestra. Then music of Villa-Lobos, his familiar Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 featuring soprano Marni Nixon, who so often sang in movies for actresses who couldn't. We also have Villa-Lobos' transcruotuib of Bach. The Chavez Toccata for Percussion recorded October 17, 1954, and Milhaud's brief two-movement Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra recorded January 10, 1955, both were early high fidelity display demos. m abd Nukhaud's. This is a valuable set for colectors offering important early recordings of the high fidelity era in spendid performances.

REB. (July 2019)