BIZET: Carmen
Lily Djanel (Carmen). Raoul Jobin (Don José). Licia Albanese (Michaela) Leonard Warren (Escamillo). Thelma Votkpka (Frasqquita). Helen Oihem (Mercedès). Metropolinta Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Sir Thomas Beeham, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 176 (2 disks) TT: 74:42 / 77:50

SOMM CD ARIADNE 5011-2 (2 disks) TT: 69:44 / 73:13

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Piano Concerto N.3 in D minor Op 30.
Walter Gieseking, piano. Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra / Willem Mengelberg, cond.

We are indebted to Pristine for this issue of an exciting 1943 broadcast of Bizet's Carmen when the Metropolitan Opera was on tour in Chicago's Civic Opera House. Opera was a primary interest of Sir Thomas Beecham eary in his career. He was Music Director at Covent Garden 1932 - 1939, and he conducted more than 80 performances at the Met 1941-1944 mostly French repertory. There were 24 performances of Carmen including this one from March 27, 1943. In the title role we hear the exciting Belgian soprano Lily Djanel, who was famous as Carmen, Salome, Tosca nd other dramatic roles. You can hear excerpts from this performance of Carmen on You Tube, along with the audio from a 1952 RAI complete Salome. Djanel is a strikingly beautiful soprano very popular during her time. It seems odd that she apparently made no recordings. She is a fiery, assured Carmen, joined by the famous French-Canadian tenor Raoul Jobin, who is in top form. We also have Licia Albanese and Leonard Warren early in their careers. Milton Cross's radio introduction is included. This is a major addition to the Carmen discography. Beecham's Chicago Met performances also includes Tristan and Isolde with Lauritz Melchior and Marjorie Lawrence. Is a recording of that lurking somewhere in the archives? We can hope.Pristine already has in their catalog a Tristan with Melchior and Flagstad conducted by Erich Leinsdorf (PACO 150); but a Beecham performance surey would be of interest.

Some year ago Sony issued an important 106-disk set of George Szell's recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra, a major issue that unfortunately was a limited edition and sold out quickly. It seems unlikely Sony will reissue it which is unfortunate a it was a handsome edition that incuded many phtos and a 146-pge booklet with profuse program notes. Should you be fortunate enough to own that set surely you will be interested in this new SOMM set that contains the famed conductor's earliest Cleveland recordings most of which here appear for the first time on CD. . Szell led the orchestra first in 1946 and remained until 1970. It has been suggested that Szell was a tyrant to his orchestra, but doubtless that is very much an exaggeration. He did indeed insist on technical perfection. Lani Spahr's informative program notes give details of the Orchestra's recording history on various labels. This important release offers all of these early recordings,repertory long associated with Szell (except for the Bach). Alf of these were recorded in Cleveland's Masonic Auditorium as the Orchestra's regular home, Severance Hall, was being rebuilt for improved acoustics. The Bach, Smetana Strauss are mono reordings made December 24 1954; others re stereo and were recorded October 19 - 21, 1955. This is a major issue for the true collector.

About two decades ago, this site mentioned a MUSIC&ARTS CD of Walter Gieseking live performances of Debussy;s Fantasie and Trapp's Piano Concerto both with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg, and Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with the New York Philharmonic directed by Sir John Barbirolli (REVIEW) Here is a fascinating ARCHIPEL CD, issued in 2003, of Rachmaninoff's Concertos 2 and 3 played by Gieseking with the Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by Mengelberg. One usually does not associate Gieseking with the big Russian concertos, but he offers individual readings of both Rachmaninoff concertos; see the earlier review for comments. Concerto No. 2 is a concert October 31, 1940; Concerto No.. 3 is from March 28, 1940.These obviously are from sometimes rather noisy acetates, but the sound is adequate. This is the only CD release of the Gieseking/Mengelberg Concerto No. 3, a major addition to the discography. Both of these disks might be difficult to find, but worth the effort. It is rumored that Giesseking was scheduled to make a recording of this concerto with Karajan on the podium. How unfortunate that never materialized!

R.E.B. (March 2021)