TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake Ballet Suite.
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Anatole Fistoulari, cond.


A cause for rejoicing!  A superb transfer to CD of Anatole Fistoulari's February 1961 recording of a suite from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet, strangely absent from the CD catalog except for a Japanese Decca issue that was poorly transferred (London/King Record Co. K30Y 1545).  Now this magnificent performance can be heard in its full glory via this expert transfer by Sound Dynamics Associates..  Not a click or pop to be heard from the pristine LPs from which this carefully equalized CD was made. 

For years the ACO had recorded for Decca, but in 1951 was enticed to switch to the Dutch Philips label, for a distinguished series of recordings including Paul Van Kempen's Tchaikovsky, Antal Dorati's Mussorgsky and Smetana and, of course, many splendid recordings with Eduard van Beinum.  At the same time the Orchestra was recording for Philips, in February 1961 Decca was able to make their first stereo recordings with the Orchestra:  Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with  George Solti conducting (with soprano Sylvia Stahlman), and a suite from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Ballet with Anatole Fistoulari on the podium.  John Culshaw was producer, the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson the engineer.  Both are among the finest recordings sonically ever made in the Concertgebouw.  Solti's Mahler 4 was issued on a London CD  in 1988 (417 745) long discontinued in favor of his later Chicago Symphony version.

The Swan Lake performance is inspired.  All solos are brilliantly played by leaders of the Concertgebouw (Steven Staryk, concertmaster; Tibor de Macula, principal cellist; Phia Berghout, principal harp).  I've heard that the timpanist was a young player -- and as you can hear from the recording, he really "let loose" in the final pages, which are electrifying in their intensity.

It's an extraordinary listening experience displaying the Amsterdam orchestra at the height of its powers back in the years just after Van Beinum was principal conductor -- and the recorded sound leaves nothing to be desired.  You can get this CD from Sound Dynamics Associates, P. O. Box 608, Dennis, MA 012638.  The cost is $8.50 plus $1.50 S&H.  You can write to them: or go to their website:  A bargain, indeed, and essential for any Concertgebouw collection.

R.E.B. (March 2001)