Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 9. May 21 1968
Another big sound from America
Another big sound from America
The biggest surprise on the English recording scene is the recent news that Decca have exclusively contracted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at present being directed by Decca conductor Zubin Nehta. This enigmatic orchestra has suddenly blossomed forth as one of the best in the U.S.A. English critic Edward Greenfield has attributed its success to the "determination of the fabulously rich film city to make its mark in the field of culture." Certainly the city, with the intrepid fund raising "Buffy" Chandler, has spared nothing to give the Philharmonic the best facilities that money can buy. So far in England four discs have been released—Tchaikovsky's 4th, Petroushka, Pictures at an Exhibition (on side one the orchestral version, on side two Vladimir Ashkenazy plays the piano version), Scriabins Poem of Ecstacy and Schoenberg's Transfigured Night. I would think that at least the Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky should be released in New Zealand fairly shortly.
Mehta and Ashkenazy have also recorded a stunning performance of Brahm's second piano concerto with the London Symphony (Decca SXLM 6309 Stereo). This is a marvellous work comparatively neglected in local catalogues.
Ashkenazy handles the difficult and exhausting solo part with great aplomb, blending lush romanticism with a light delicate touch. Mehta is the 'compleat accompanist'—sympathetic, attentive; he gets a beautiful warm string tone. An excellent recording with good balance between piano and orchestra.
I must confess that until I received a copy of an album by pianist Peter Cooper, I had never even heard of him. According to the sleeve note he is a New Zealander who has been in England since 1946. He has studied under Ignaz Friedman and Edwin Fischer and has recently become a champion of contemporary British piano works. This disc (Pye Golden Groove Collector series GSGC 4085 Stereo) contains the Bax, Sonata No. 2 in G (1919); Tippet, Sonata No. 2; and Mozart, 10 Variations on Unser Dummer Ponel K455. The Bax doesn't appeal to me—a mediocre work sounding like a twentieth century version of something Liszt scribbled out in a hurry and promptly threw away in disgust. The Tippett is much more recent (1962) and more worthwhile. Cooper seems at ease with this and the piano tone improves considerably. The Mozart fill up isn't played up to the standard expected from a pupil of Fischer, the doyen of Mozart interpretators.
The recording is rather harsh with a hollow sound. However, beggers can't be choosers; the Tippet makes the disc a worthwhile audition to the sparse ranks of recordings of contemporary English music.
Last year R.C.A. issued a glorious album Leontyne Price, Prima Donna: Great Soprano Arias from Purcell to Barber (LSC 2898 Stereo). Now they have released Volume 2 "Great Arias from Handel to Puccini". (LSC 2968 Stereo). Once again Miss Price displays her fantastic range of capabilities-she sings Cara Selle from Handel's Atlanta with a beautiful 18th Century style and then switches to Verdi with Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene. I cannot think of another soprano so successful with such a diversity of operatic roles—the female equivalent to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Also tossed in are the arias by Mozart, Weber, Boito, Debussy, Giordano and Zandenai. A good recording.
Strauss Waltzes in Phase Four Stereo (PFSM 34117) is a sumptuously recorded collection of all the old favourites—Blue Danube, Tales from the Vienna Woods, Voices of Spring, Artists' Life and Wine, Women and Song. My only complaint is that Antal Dorati has been a little too serious—much of the lilt and the gaiety of the waltz is lost in these "concert hall" performances. The London Philharmonic revel in the brassy, exhilarating music, but I sense that they are restrained and would have enjoyed a little more 'gay abandon' in interpretation.