EUGENE ORMANDY CONDUCTS SHOSTAKOVICH
BOULEZ CONDUCTS BERLIOZ
VLADIMIR HOROWITZ - THE CHOPIN COLLECTION
JUKKA-PEKKA SARASTE CONDUCTS SIBELIUS
Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra made many memorable recordings of music of Shostakovich, including the first American recording of the powerful Symphony No. 4. In this set we have not only that, but Syphonies 1, 5 and 10. Of particular importante is the Cello Concerto No. 1 written for Mstislv Rostropovich who is soloist in this recording made shortly after these artists gave the American premiere in 1959. Ormandy's recoreing of the Polka from The Age of Gold also is here. First-class all the way, and even though these recordings were made 1959 - 1986 the sound is well-ba lanced if not of exceptional sonic display. . This 3-disk set is a welcome colletion althouh presentation does not impress. There are no program notes, no accompanying booklet. Disappointing.
The late Pierre Boulez was a master interpreter of Romantic music of the 20th Century and made many recordings of this repertory. This fine set contains all of his Berlioz recordings, in particular the Fantastic Syjphonynand Lelio, its relatively unknow sequel.The overtures and Trojan March are given dynamic readings, and Yvonne Minton is an ideal soloist in the two vocal works assisted by tenor Stuart Burrows. This is a very basic bueget set. There are no program notes, no photos, no texts for the vocal works. Boulez deserves a better presentation.
Vladimir Horowitz (1903 - 1989) made countless recordings during his long career, and this Sony set offers all of them made for RCA and Columbia. The earliest dates from 1928; the last were in his final year. The great pianist had a spectacular but rather odd career. Most virtuoso pianists have dozens of concertos they play everywhere. Horowitz was limited. He was known for his Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff 3. He also played the two Brahms concertos several times, recorded Beethoven's Emperor for RCA with Fritz Reiner, and Mozart's Concerto No. 23 with Carlo Maria Giulini for DGG. It is reported that very early in his career he played the two Liszt concertos once with the Chicago Symphony, but then abandoned them. He loved Chopin and made many recordings of his music, preferring large-scale dramatic works. This set contains 46 tracks, and of course there are duplicate performances of some works, along with some mazurkas and waltzes. Sound quality is better on the later recordings. Sony has skimped considerably on this issue. Each of the cardboard slip envelopes has the same cover and a list of contents and recording information No booklet, no program notes. Collectors probably would have most of these recordings, but if you want them here they are at budget price.
Conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste (b. 1956) has had a distinguished career, not only in his native Finland but internationally as well. He has made numerous fine recordings of varied repertory, and now this Sony collection presents virtually all of the orchestral works of his countryman, Jean Sibelius. It is odd they didn't record two of Sibelius' major works, Luonnotar (for soprano and orchestra) and Kullervo (for soprano, baritone,chorus and orchestra. Performances are by the excellent Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Recordings were made 1987 - 1990 in Helsinki's Culture House, and engineers have captured a rich orchestral sound. These recordings were made for another label but now are the property of the Sony conglomerate, and here they are. This is a bare-bones presentation. The 8 disks are in simple cardboard jackets each with the same illustration, a photo of Saraste. There is no program booklet, no program notes. Should you be looking for an inexpensive way to acquire all purely orchestral works of Sibelius, here it is.
R.E.B. (March 2020)