Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 14. June 25, 1968
Records — Old favourites—new sounds
Old favourites—new sounds
Don Hewitson reviews new releases of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and Schubert.
Willi Boskovsky and the Vienna Mozart Ensemble have recently recorded the complete Dances and Marches of Mozart and have now begun a series of all the Mozart Serenades. According to all overseas reports these are fabulous, and noted American Mozart/Haydn authority H. C. Robbins-Landon cabled Decca "Your Mozart Dances and Marches contain the most beautiful Mozart playing and most sophisticated sound I know!" With a bit of luck one or two of the serenades should appear here.
All this is a roundabout way of commenting on the very small percentage of Boskovsky recordings released in New Zealand. For years he has been recording dozens of Strauss albums, all beautifully laved in the inimitable Viennese style. Instead of these being released here, we seem to end up with a mass of concert-hall renditions of Strauss—last month in Phase Four, this month is Columbia Studio Two sound—"Viennese Prom Concert: Sir John Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra" (TWO 180). All the old favourites are here—Blue Danube, Thunder and Lightning, Gypsy Baron Overtures, Radetzky March and of course the Champagne Polka. The stereo sound is excellent—but these are not authentic versions likely to appeal to real Strauss lovers. Let's hope that the record companies' policies change a little.
I have previously raved on in this column about Daniel Barenboim and H.M.V.'s intention of recording the complete Mozart piano concertos and Beethoven Sonatas with him. Last year the first of the sonatas were released—the Moonlight, Appasionata and Pathetique (HQS 1076 Stereo). Now comes the second disc with the E Flat op 81A "Les Adieux", G Minor Op 49 No. 1 and C Minor Op 111 (HQS 1088 Stereo). Barenboim doesn't treat Beethoven as a God who must be approached on bended knees. When he plays "Les Adieux" (surelv the most underrated of all Beethoven Sonatas?) the work takes on a completely new dramatic scale. As one English critic has said 'in an age of rushed slow movements, of last period adagios that trip along jauntily, it is an exciting experience to find a young pianist who has the courage as well as the power to give these movements the necessary weight, a sense of stillness and 'inner' intensity". An excellent recording, this is a must for any serious collector of piano recordings, especially at the cut-rate price of $3.50.
Fifty per cent of music lovers are prepared to put up with Leopold Stokowski's musical butchering, the others condemn it and I'm afraid I fall in with the latter. It is a pity that Decca are devoting so much of their lavish Phase 4 catalogue to his efforts—Munch's "Gaite Parisienne" is one of the few released where musical quality and musicianship matches the splendid stereo recording techniques. One good example of wasted effort is on PFSM 34124—Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons"—this should be subtitled "Stokowski and a hundred and one bloody strings". At no stage has the maestro attempted an idiomatic performance, and the result is a massive orchestra trying to play chamber music.
With Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony (PFSM 34129) the textual transgressions abound; however the main ingredient still remains—real blood and guts type Tchaikovsky, with some of the most immaculate stereo sound captured on this label, and that's saying something! Old Leopold's interpretation—dynamic, climactic crescendoes, with lush sweeping strings and vociferous brass is suited to this type of recording.
Schubert symphonies are rather out of fashion at present. Few new recordings are appearing, the majority of pressings being re-releases. Last year HMV (NZ) Ltd. brought back the old Munchinger Vienna Philharmonic recording of numbers 2 and 8 'The Unfinished", (Decca Ace of Diamonds SDD 130 Stereo). This year brings forth the ninth 'The Great" (SDD 153 Stereo: retail price only $3.50). Josef Krips and the London Symphony give a solid, dependable account. Many Schubert recordings have been unsuccessful because the woodwind hasn't received enough attention in rehearsal or in the studio; there is nothing worse than listening under these conditions. Krips has kept strict control and extracts precision work from this section—clean phrasing and impeccable intonation. The original recording dates back as far as 1959, however the engineers have touched up everything well. It might lack the dynamism of a new top-budget Decca recording but it's a dollar cheaper.