J. S. BACH: Orchestral Transcriptions. BARTÓK: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta. IBERT: Escales. MARTIN: Petite Symphonie concertante. FARBERMAN: Evolution. PERSICHETTI: March. DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Three Nocturnes. Clair de lune. Ibéria. SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11 "The Year 1905." BARBER: Adagio for Strings. HOLST: The Planets. SCHOENBERG: Transfigured Night. GLIÉRE: Symphony No. 3 "Ilya Murometz." STRAVINSKY: Petrushka Suite. Firebird Suite. DUKAS: La Péri - Fanfare. TURINA: La Oración del torero. LOEFFLER: A Pagan Poem. RAVEL: Alborado del gracioso. Rapsodie espagnole. SIBELIUS: Finlandia. The Swan of Tuonela. ORFF: Carmina burana. RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome. KHACHATURIAN: Symphony No. 2 "The Bell." FRESCOBALDI: Gagliarda. PALESTRINA: Adoramus te Christe. SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1. Prelude in E flat minor. Entr'acte from Lady Macbeth. BLOCH: Schelomo (George Neikrug, cello). CESTI: Tu mancavi a tormentarmi. GABRIELI: Sonata pian e forte. STRAUSS: Gavotte from Suite for Wind Instruments. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Scherzo from Symphony No. 8. TCHAIKOVSKY: Scherzo from Symphony No. 4. MUSSORGSKY: The Great Gate of Kiev.
Leopold Stokowski conducting various orchestras
EMI ICON 98555 (10 CDs)

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor." SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 64.
Myra Hess, piano; Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond.
TAHRA TAH 672 TT: 71:28

BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis
Lois Marshall, soprano; Eugene Conley, tenor; Nan Merriman, contralto; Jerome Hines, bass; Robert Shaw Chorale; NBC Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.

ARNOLD: Eight English Dances. BAX: Tintagel. ELGAR:Three Bavarian Dances. Chanson de matin. Chanson de nuit. HOLST: The Perfect Fool, Op. 39. BUTTERWORTH: A Shropshire Lad. The Banks of Green Willow. WALTON: Siesta.
London Philharmonic Orch/Sir Adrian Boult, cond.

RESPIGHI: Roman Festivals. Church Windows. The Fountains of Rome.
Minneapolis Symphony Orch/Antal Dorati, cond.. Philharmonia Orch/Alceo Galliera, cond. (Fountains).

Stokowski collectors doubtless already will have contents of this new budget-priced issue in EMI's Icon series. The ten disks contain many of the Maestro's finest recordings, and all couplings are generous. All were recorded 1956-1960.Many previous issues of some of these have been covered on this site. Sonic quality is generally excellent, although not much could be done with the shallow sound of The Planets recorded in Hollywood in 1956. Complete recording information is provided, and producers might have been more careful in their listings. The Shostakovich Prelude in E flat minor was a favorite of Stokowski's. He made four commercial recordings of it, first with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1935, second with the All American Orchestra in 1940, and the last was in 1976 with the National Symphony. The one heard here, made in 1958 with the Symphony of the Air, is identified as Prelude and Fugue for piano No. 14 in E flat minor, Op. 87 which is incorrect; EMI got it right when they issued this recording in 1994 listed simply as Prelude in E flat minor. If you aren't familiar with this magnificent transcription, check it out. It is perhaps the most earth-shattering 3:08 of music you'll ever experience. At any rate, this is a very inexpensive way to acquire many of Stokowski's most important recordings at a very reasonable price.

What a pleasure to find two more treasurable performances by the great Dutch conductor Eduard van Beinum. From a private source in Holland that apparently recorded many broadcasts on excellent equipment, we have Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965) playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 from October 15, 1952, and Schumann's Concerto in A minor from November 15, 1956. These are remarkable performances in every way. The accompaniments are glorious—just listen to the interplay between soloist and orchestra, particularly in the Schumann. There are a few minor slips here and there, but they are of no consequence. This is music-making at the highest level, and the mono sound is remarkably well-balanced. Don't miss this one, and let us hope Tahra will find other such treasures lurking in private collections.

The remaining three historic reissues are on the adventurous Pristine Audio label, and are available only from them: www.pristineclassical.com

There are three live recordings of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The earliest is a BBC performance recorded in Queen's Hall May 28, 1939 with the BBC Symphony, soprano Zinka Milanov, alto Kirsten Thorborg, tenor Koloman von Pataky and bass Nicola Moscona. The following year (December 28, 1940) there was a performance in Carnegie Hall with Milanov, alto Bruna Castagna, tenor Jussi Björling and bass Alexander Kipnis. The latest is the one featured on this new CD, from Carnegie Hall March 28, 1953, with soloists listed above. Program notes point out that an organ malfunction during the Kyrie made it inoperable for the rest of the performance (the Maestro must have been furious!). And, in order to get the performance on a single CD, it was necessary to edit announcements and applause. Audio is surprisingly good. A much later recording couples British music conducted by Sir Adrian Boult recorded for Decca October/November 1954. The British conductor knew all of these composers intimately, and at the time of the recordings was at his peak. All of the recordings are from the Edward Johnson collection, remastered by Andrew Rose, who has captured with uncommon clarity the richness of London's Kingsway Hall.

Audio quality is quite different on the third Pristine Audio issue, a Respighi collection highlighted by Antal Dorati's 1954 recording with the Minneapolis Symphony of Respighi's Roman Festivals and Church Windows. These rare recordings have been available since mid-2002 on Sound Dynamics in a splendid transfer (REVIEW). It is hard to believe that two such demanding works were recorded on a single day - November 20 - but apparently they were. The players must have been exhausted! The mono sound is a bit hard and unresonant, lacking in low bass, but the impact of the vivid performances is vividly conveyed - and we do have that stunning gong—perhaps the loudest and longest ever recorded—at the end of the second movement of Church Windows. The disk is filled out with Alceo Galliera's superlative recording of The Fountains of Rome recorded March 18-21, 1955 in Kingsway Hall. Collectors will welcome all of these Pristine Audio issues.

R.E.B. (November 2009)