KORNGOLD: Die tote Stadt
Carol Neblett (Marietta). Benjamin Luxon (Frank). René Kollo (Paul) Hermann Prey (Fritz). Rose Wagemann (Brigitta). Patricia Clark (Lucienne). Tölzer Boys Choir. Bavarian Radio Chorus. Munich PhilharmonicOrchestra / Erich Leinsdorf, cond.
DUTTON EPOCH 2CDLX7376 (2 disks) TT: 2 hr 17:25

STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (complete). Le sacre du printemps.
New York Philharmonic / Pierre Boultz, cond. (Fire ird). Zubin Mehta, cond. (Sacre)

STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor Op. 78 Organ Symphony
Philadelphia Orchestra / Eugene Ormandy, cond.

Korngold was only 23 when his opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City )had simultaneous premieres in Hamburg and Cologne.He was the rage of Vienna, mentored by both Gustav Mahler and Bruno Walter. The opera is based on the 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte by Georges RodenbacMarlis , the story about is about Paul who is living in the past, obsessively reliving his happiness with his wife, Marie,who died. He now lives by himself in a dark mansion in Bruges. Belgium, where he lived with Marie. He still keeps a strand of her hair as a reminder of their life together. One day he sees the dancer Marietta who resembles his late wife; he invites her to his home and falls in love with her. From that point on, the opera is a dream sequence in which Paul kills both Marietta and his good friend Frank. In the final scene, Paul realizes, all was but a dream and he resigns himself once again to a life of loneliness. Highlights include the famous Marietta's Lied and the poignant Pierrot's Lied in Act II. The opera was an instant success and performed often, although in later years for some reason it was rather neglected. The opera is occasionally revived, most recently by the Bavarian Opera wit Jonas Kaufmann and Maris Peterson as the lovers. This is a modern production by Simon Stone. This has yet to be issued on DVD. There is a fine DVD from the Berlin Opera with Karen Armstrong g and James King (REVIEW). There also is an unusual video from the Rihn National Opera (REVIEW).

This RCA recording was made in June 1975 in the Bavarian Radio Concert Hal. It is a magnificent presentation of Korngold's masterpiece. Originally it wa released on three LPs; now it fits on two SACDs. The cast is strong throughout, and Erich Leinsdorf luxuriates in the score's rich orchestral textures. Singers are not overly prominent. It was produced by Charles Gerhardt, whose many recordings of Korngold's film music have been praised. Church bells and organ heard in the Prelude to Act II were overdubbed at St. Abans Cathedral Jertfordshire. There is a 28-page booklet with photos of sessions and a detailed synopsis of the plot. This is a major addition to the SACD catalog, essential in any collection.

Pierre Boulez was a master conductor of Stravinsky, and here we have his spectacular recording of the origina 1910 vrsion of The Firebird. This wasrecorded in New York's Mnhattan Center January 20, 1975. The conductor opens Firebird with a surprisingly brisk tempo, but later presents the score at more appropriate slower tempi. The New York Philharmonic is in virtuoso form, and the engineers have captured an extraordinarily effetive muti-channel sonic picture with widely separated groups of instruments. Sacre was redorded in the same venut September 26, 1977. Zubin Mehta leads a dynamic performance and again the NYP shows it virtuosity. This recording also is a multi-channel showpiece that will delight audiophioes. There are 36 cuing tracks. Thank you, Dutton/Eoch1 This is another essential SACD.

This site recently mentioned a Sony budget reissue of many of Eugene Ormandy's last recordings of music of Richard Strauss with the Philadelphia Orchestra made from 1961 - 1966 (REVIEW). Now we have the opportunity to experience RCA recordings made immediately after the famed orchestra switched to that label. RCA's engineers rightfully realized that the venue is very important: a majority of previous issued recordings were hardly sonic showpieces. Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra was recorded by RCA February 26, 1964 in Philadelphia's Scottish Rite Cathedral. An Allen Organ was used. The Saint-Saëns symphony also was recorded in the Scottish Rite Cathedral, December 5, 1973. The organist was Virgil Fox playing on the Rodgers Touring Organ. Performances are superb, and engineers have done their work well. The multi-channel sound is highly directional and very satisfying. Audiophiles will enjoy his. The CD's cover, a replication of the original LP issue of the Saint-Saëns, has absolutely nothing to do with the music. This is another major addition to the SACD catalog.

R.E.B. (July 2020)