Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 1. 1962.
Tchaikovsky. Symphony No. 4, in F Minor, Op. 36. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan. World Record, Tz 156.
This is a very fine disc indeed—Karajan achieves perfect unanimity between trumpets and trombones in the opening phrases and some marvellous horn playing later on in the same movement. His style has not appreciably changed since his earlier version with the Philharmonic (on Columbia); its characteristics are a deeply thoughtful approach to the music, a refusal to use any mannerisms to jazz up the performance and meticulous obedience to the markings on the score.
It is good to hear that recorded rarity—a truly soft pianissimo in the opening movement and spot on pizzicati in the third movement. There is fine contrast between the drive of the opening and the reticence of the later sections. Karajan does not take the final Allegro con fuoco at the ridiculously fast speed that Mravinski inflicts on the Leningrad Philharmonic (on Dgm) but nevertheless obtains an exciting finish to the symphony.
The performance receives an excellent recording—there is some particularly tine string and brass tone—and the sleeve is both informative and beautifully designed.
"Sabre Dance." Suites from Gayaneh and Masquerade by Khachaiurian and The Comedians by Kabalevsky. The Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman. Capitol P8503.
This Russian Leroy Anderson music is the kind which does not admit of much subtlety in interpretation; it does demand virtuosity and an extravert approach, both of which Newman gets from the Hbso (actually the Los Angeles Philharmonic). The performances are bright and expert, though recorded in a rather distant perspective, as though the listener were in the back of the hall. The string sound is not the best I have ever heard, but the cymbals and other percussion are sufficiently prominent to have you tapping your foot. The clarinet and xylophone sound somewhat dry, but there is some excellent sound from the horns in the Lesquinka in Gayaneh. [The Nocturne is not included in Masquerade and the Gayaneh suite contains seven of the composer's thirteen selected numbers.]
Tchaikovsky. The Sleeping Beauty—Suite. The Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Efrem Kurtz. Solo violin by Yehudi Menuhin. Hmv. Malp 1790.
This is the best record of excerpts from the ballet I have yet heard—the performance is superb and the selection is wide and contains a generous helping of both familiar and unfamiliar. Within a few moments of hearing the magnificent ensemble work in the opening passages, the realistic harp, excellent horn calls and vividly present drum rolls, one knows that Kurtz is going to give a superlative performance—I sat back and just enjoyed it. Though he receives star billing, Menuhin plays only a few passages (he is excellent, of course), but all the orchestral soloists are good, especially the clarinetist and oboist.
There is nothing to cavil at in the whole disc. The engineers have matched the performance with a vivid recording, a wide range and yet easy and informative and the surfaces inaudible.
Strauss, Richard. Don Quixote and Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rudolf Kempe. Solo 'cello by Paul Tortelier. World Record Tz 157.
I used to have Don Quixote on a set of 78's by Tortelier and the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. That was one of the finest 78 sets ever issued. Here is a performance which matches that one and completely overshadows the other versions on Lp by Munch, Krauss and even Toscanini. Kempe's reading is a quiet and restrained one. He emphasises the Knight's nobility with sympathy and without undue emphasis on the more picturesque sections of the score. There is beautiful playing from the soloists, excellently balanced against the orchestra, and the texture of the Berlin Philharmonic is so clear that the soloists within the orchestra arc also clearly audible. (Excellent oboe, tuba and bassoon playing make even the sheep sound well tuned!) This is a performance which irresistibly recalls to mind the performance by Cherkasov in the recent film.
The fill up. Till Eulenspiegel, is also very well done (not quite so well though, the Editor tells me. as Furtwaengler's on Hmv). I think it is eminently satisfactory and wears very well indeed. The recording of both works is well balanced and realistic, with perfectly quiet surfaces.