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NATHAN MILSTEIN, w.Joseph Seiger (Pf.): 'Kreutzer' Violin Sonata in A, Live Performance, 18 Oct., 1955, Osaka; w.Ferencsik Cond. Los Angeles Phil.: Violin Concerto in D, Live Performance, 3 May, 1963 (both Beethoven). [A magnificent pairing, featuring Milstein with Elman's devoted accompanist, Seiger] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-678. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (S0736)
Ward Marston celebrates
Yves St Laurent offers
NATHAN MILSTEIN, Vol. 3;
ARTHUR GRUMIAUX, Vol. 5 (incl.Ysaye's
Unaccompanied Sonata); JORGE BOLET, Vol. 2;
plus many Books & CDs
now added to our 50% SALE
"There can be no argument about Nathan Milstein's exalted place in the hierarchy of 20th-century violinists. To many, Mr. Milstein - the last surviving pupil of Leopold Auer, considered the 20th century's pre-eminent teacher of violin, was the greatest of all exponents of the 19th-century violin repertory, though he played music from Bach to Prokofiev and had achieved a special affinity for the Bach unaccompanied sonatas.
From the beginning, his playing was constantly described as ‘flawless’, 'aristocratic’ and ‘elegant’. A supreme technician, he nevertheless refrained from flaunting his extraordinary bow and finger dexterity. Instead he concentrated on the substance of the music, interpreting it in a warm, unaffected, personal manner. As a Romantic violinist he had in his repertory any number of virtuoso works, including his own ‘Paganiniana’, a wild melange of violinistic stunts based on the famous 24th Caprice by Paganini. But even in works like these he managed to imbue the music with a kind of elegance that completely transcended any hint of vulgarity.
He could well have been the most nearly perfect violinist of his time. Jascha Heifetz had a more electrifying technique, but there were those who considered him, rightly or wrongly, too cool and objective. Joseph Szigeti, who may have had a more probing musicianship and a wider repertory, never had the tone or technique of Mr. Milstein, who was able to bring everything together in a way matched by very few violinists of his time. His playing, virtuosic as it could be when the music demanded, always gave the feeling of intimacy. It was characteristic that he elected to use a Stradivarius. The Stradivarius is a more subtle instrument with a smaller sound than the Guarnerius del Jesu instruments favored by more exhibitionistic players.
Joseph Fuchs, the veteran American violinist and pedagogue, said that he had observed some significant changes in Mr. Milstein's playing during the 50 years they were friends. Mr. Milstein's tempos were faster when he was young, but as he grew older he slowed down, though he never could have been considered lethargic. But one thing Mr. Milstein always had, Mr. Fuchs said, was a natural, unforced way of handling the instrument. ‘There is a difference’, Mr. Fuchs said, ‘between facility and technique. Many violinists have facility. Technique is all-encompassing, taking in finger, bow and everything else. Milstein was a great technician. One reason he played so well at so advanced an age was because of his completely natural way of playing. He never forced the instrument, he never threw his muscles into strained or awkward positions. And as a musician he never stood still. He was always experimenting, changing, probing. He never stopped working’.
To Glenn Dicterow, the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and a representative of the younger generation, Mr. Milstein ranked with Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler as one who set all-time standards. ‘Milstein was the complete violinist’, Mr. Dicterow said. ‘You heard three notes of the man and you knew who was playing. It was pure, uncluttered, honest playing free of any technical problems. He set a standard that nobody today can touch. He had such incredible flow, such incredible fluency. And he always sounded so spontaneous. I know of no other violinist in history who was playing with such security at so advanced an age. He was a tremendous inspiration to me. I idolized that man’.
Whenever Mr. Milstein gave a concert, it always turned out to be a violinists' convention. Every violinist in the vicinity would attend, marveling at the ease and security of his playing. Mr. Milstein never worked much on technique. ‘The technique I acquired when I was 7’, he once told an interviewer.
As an interpreter he had certain mannerisms that marked his training and the musical period in which he grew up. As an exponent of the Romantic style, he did use certain slides that the younger generation considered old-fashioned, and his conceptions were in line with his Russian schooling. Mr. Milstein understood, as many literal-minded musicians today do not, that music has to be brought to life through the fingers, brains, ears, heart and experience of a performer who must necessarily express himself as well as the composer. ‘What makes an artist?’ he once asked. ‘In the end it is temperament, personality, character that count most. Some musicians are not great technicians, but they give you a rich point of view’.
As with all Romantics, it was with the expressive side of music that Mr. Milstein was primarily concerned. But he never paraded any spurious emotions onstage. His interpretations were marked by a sweet, pure tone produced by an infallible bow arm, by vaulting melodic phrases and a keen sense of the music's structure. In an age when the new generation of critics tended to despise the performances of pre-Beethoven music by such towering figures as Heifetz and Horowitz, Mr. Milstein's Bach remained immune to criticism. And in his Romantic repertory he was acknowledged as a supreme master and the last great active exponent of the Auer school.”
- Harold C. Schonberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 22 Dec., 1992
SIDNEY FOSTER, w. Aaron Copland, Maurice Abravanel, John Barbirolli & Michiaki Okuda Cond.: Rediscovering an American Master, incl. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Hummel, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Grieg, Franck, Debussy, Weber, Moszkowski, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Paderewski & Dello Joio . 7-Marston 56001, recorded 1941-73, Live Performances. Transfers by Ward Marston. Notes by Alberto Reyes. (P1297)
“We tend to place pianists neatly into pigeonholes. Flashy virtuoso. Introspective poet. Master colorist. So what to do with American pianist Sidney Foster (1917–1977)? Foster defies easy categorization by virtue of the remarkable breadth of his interpretive personality; he contains equal portions of each of those qualities. It is hard to understand why a pianist of this caliber had no recording career to speak of (except for two discs for the Musical Heritage Society) and a somewhat limited performing career. He was an important pedagogue at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, and he was known by piano connoisseurs. Ill health played a role in limiting his concertizing, beginning with a heart attack at the age of 38, going on to a broken leg at age 50 and most crucially, a bone marrow disease (myeloid metaplasia) that weakened him considerably, ultimately killing him at 60. Were I to compare him to any other American pianist, it would be William Kapell; they have similar virtues.
My first exposure to him was hearing ‘Ovation’ to Sidney Foster, a two-disc album published by the International Piano Archives at Maryland, culled from recitals given at Indiana University. Now Ward Marston has produced a remarkable documentation of Foster’s work with this generously programmed 7-disc compilation (the timings average out to just under 80 minutes per disc).
The majority of tracks derive from Indiana recitals, recorded with a single mike hung in the auditorium. One stereo original is the Tchaikovsky Concerto #1 with Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony from 1966 (despite a brief episode of the right track missing, which Marston has saved remarkably well by using the left track for both channels). As the first piece in the set, it started out a bit underwhelmingly, but one soon realized that Foster and Abravanel were holding back in order to build to some ferocious climaxes, with brilliantly flying octaves. At the same time, the poetry in the second movement is unusually lovely and intimate.
As one listens to this set one appreciates more and more what a special talent Foster was. He seems to play everything with an intense concentration, displaying an immense range of dynamic shading. Lyrical passages are exceptionally poetic, with a legato that contradicts the reality that a piano is a percussion instrument. When virtuosity is called for, he displays it almost to excess. The tempo for the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata is very fast, but you never have the sense that this is for display purposes. In general Foster leans toward fast tempos in fast movements and more deliberate ones in slow movements. Everything, though, is unified by an overall concept and by the careful way he shapes the line. Foster also understands the principles of tension and release, using that principle to heighten dramatic impact. The contrast, for example, between slow and fast tempi in the finale of Beethoven’s Op.110 Sonata are extreme, but the movement is held together because of the carefully judged shifts from one to the other.
Some of the best examples of the combination of qualities that make Foster’s playing special are found in the Liszt Sonata. We hear muscular drive and fierce drama, but right alongside it is the most ethereal and delicate sense of poetry. In his Chopin, too, Foster clarifies the contrapuntal writing, creates a huge range of color, and never lets us forget that Bellini was one of Chopin’s favorite composers. The two sonatas and the f minor Fantasie are gems, but it is the group of four Etudes that totally dazzles. He again clarifies all the inner voices with a perfect ear for balance and sonority, while always maintaining a focus on the sheer beauty of the pieces.
There are four concerto recordings in this set, the only surviving performances by Foster with orchestra. The earliest is the 1941 New York Philharmonic broadcast, with John Barbirolli on the podium, of the Beethoven Third Concerto. Foster was the winner of the very first Leventritt Competition, and the prize included a New York Philharmonic concert. The long ovation after the first movement makes clear that this was a genuine success for the young pianist, a success confirmed by great reviews. He plays his own cadenza in the first movement, and the performance has the fire and intensity of youth. But even in his mid-twenties he had the maturity and poise to probe the interior of the music, particularly in the middle movement. The Tchaikovsky concerto also blends incendiary virtuosity with quiet poetry.
The Schumann Concerto from 1962 is not quite as successful; there are a few technical bobbles on Foster’s part early on, though he settles in after the first eight or ten minutes. Michiaki Okuda and the Japan Philharmonic accompany him well enough without bringing anything special to the performance. The transition from the second to the third movement is a bit clumsy. The last of the four concertos (not chronologically but in terms of where it is placed in the set) is Bartok’s Concerto #3, a 1965 performance with the Boston Symphony under Aaron Copland. In the 1960s Copland built a bit of a career as a guest conductor, directing his own music and other works as well. There is a gentle lilt about this performance that closely matches the recording the composer’s widow, Ditta Pasztory-Bartok (for whom the work was written), made under Tibor Serly’s direction in the 1960s. There is an intense sense of communication between Foster and Copland, and I found the performance very engrossing and beautiful.
In fact, what keeps coming back to me as I think about everything in this set is the way Foster’s playing holds you, commands you to listen. All but forgotten, Foster is a major discovery. Thanks to Marston’s transfer skills and musical instincts, the art of an important American pianist has been kept alive. The superb booklet contains a penetrating essay by Alberto Reyes, a student and colleague of Foster’s. It goes without saying that the sound quality is superb considering the variety of sources and range of dates.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
ARTHUR GRUMIAUX: Sonata for Violin Unaccompanied, Op.27, #3 (Ysaye); w. Kubelik Cond. RTF S.O.: Violin Concerto (Bartok), Live Performances, 23 Feb., 1956, Paris; w.Istvan Hajdu (Pf.): Romanian Dances (Bartok), Live Performance, 24 April, 1961, Tokyo; w.Kersjes Cond. Kunstmaand Orch.: Symphonie espagnole (Lalo), Live Performance, 2 Feb., 1964, Amsterdam. [The inimitable highlights of this program are the Ysaye Unaccompanied Sonata and the Bartok Concerto, rendering the rapturous Paris audience in ecstasy!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-642. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (S0737)
"Of the Franco-Belgian school, Artur Grumiaux is considered to have been one of the few truly great violin virtuosi of the twentieth century. In his relatively short life his achievements were superb. He brought to performances guaranteed technical command, faithfulness to the composer's intent, and sensitivity toward the intricate delineations of musical structure. His fame was built upon extraordinary violin concerto performances and chamber-music appearances with his own Grumiaux Trio
He trained on violin and piano with the Fernand Quintet at the Charleroi Conservatory, where he took first prize at the age of 11. The following year he advanced his studies by working with Alfred Dubois at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, and also worked on counterpoint and fugue with Jean Absil. He received his first few major awards prior to reaching the age of 20; he took the Henri Vieuxtemps and Francois Prume prizes in 1939, and received the Prix de Virtuosi from the Belgian government in 1940. During this time he also studied composition privately in Paris with the famous Romanian violinist Georges Enescu, Menuhin's teacher. His debuts were made in Belgium with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Mendelssohn Concerto, and in Britain with the BBC Symphonic Orchestra in 1945. Due to the German invasion of his homeland, there existed a short time gap between these two important events. During that time he played privately with several small ensembles, while refraining from public performance of any kind. Regardless of this slight delay in the initiation of his international career, once started, it quickly developed. Following his British debut, he advanced into Belgium academia when he was appointed professor of violin at the Royal Conservatory, where he had once studied. There, he emphasized the importance of phrasing, the quality of sound, and the high technical standards of artistry.
One of his greatest joys in life was his partnership with the pianist Clara Haskil. On occasion, the two would switch instruments for a different perspective and relationship. Grumiaux was left with a professional and personal absence when she died from a fall at a train station, en route to a concert with him. In addition to his solo work, he has recorded Mozart quintets with the Grumiaux Ensemble, and various selections with the Grumiaux Trio, comprised of the Hungarian husband-wife duo Georges Janzer (violin) and Eva Czako (cello). His successful performance career led up to royal recognition in 1973 when he was knighted baron by King Baudouin for his services to music, thus sharing the title with Paganini. Despite a struggle with diabetes, he continued a rigorous schedule of recording and concert performances, primarily in Western Europe, until a sudden stroke in Brussels took his life in 1986, at the age of 65. Grumiaux left behind the memory of his elegant and solid musicianship."
- Meredith Gailey, allmusic.com
JORGE BOLET: Chopin, Mendelssohn & Liszt Recital (including a magisterial performance of the latter's Sonata in b). [A magnificent recital, but given the state of the duly appreciative audience one feels the provinces, not New York!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-751, Live Performance, 5 Jan., 1972, Alice Tully Hall, New York. (P1296)
"Jorge Bolet, a Cuban-born virtuoso considered one of the leading contemporary exponents of Romantic pianism, last [played in] New York at Carnegie Hall on 16 April, 1989; his final performance was a solo recital at the West Berlin Philharmonie on June 8, 1989.
Despite his accolades, Mr. Bolet had a peculiar career in that he did not achieve international success until he was in his 60's. From his days as a child prodigy at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, there never was a doubt about his phenomenal talent. His technique ranked with that of any living pianist, he drew a rich sound from the instrument, and he even won a major competition - the Naumburg, in 1937.
Not until the 1970's was he recognized as a great master. Many who had followed his career from the beginning saw a deepening in his musical thought around that time. Whatever the reason, he suddenly started to receive rave reviews; he signed a big recording contract with Decca in England and played a series of engagements that took him all over the world. At one point he was giving some 150 concerts a season. He himself professed to be puzzled about his sudden fame.
One of the factors in his sudden success was a shift in musical values. When Mr. Bolet was young, the musical climate was largely anti-Romantic. Liszt, especially, was regarded as a meretricious, show-off composer. It followed that musicians were trained in an anti-Romantic style, a style in which little metrical or even expressive latitude was allowed. The idea was to play all the notes exactly as written, bring out the architectural design of the music and keep expressive devices to a minimum. Mr. Bolet described this kind of interpretation as bound to ‘a rigid set of absolutes’. Its exponents, he said, ‘have computerized mechanisms, but so many seem to have no idea of what the notes actually mean’. To the new generation, his playing must have seemed anachronistic.
At age 12 he was sent to the Curtis Institute, where he studied with David Saperton, Leopold Godowsky, Moriz Rosenthal and Josef Hofmann. These were remarkable pianists who were exponents of the Romantic school, and Mr. Bolet grew up to be a worthy successor to his great mentors. The two pianists he admired most were Hofmann and Sergei Rachmaninoff. As Mr. Bolet pointed out many times, the true Romantic style was anything but anarchic or self-indulgent. The great Romantic pianists of the past were aristocratic artists who never distorted music, who had tonal beauty, who used expressive devices that consisted largely of delicate fluctuations of tempo. ‘Flexibility within the pulse of the music’ was how he described it.
In the 1970's musicians started looking at the once-derided music of Liszt and other Romantics, and a wave of neo-Romanticism was in the air. Then Mr. Bolet finally came into his own. He was one of about a half-dozen veterans who could convincingly bring Romantic music to life. He had a colossal technique that never was used for its own sake; at all times his playing was subtle, refined, elegant. He could summon great masses of sound when necessary, but like the great Romantic pianists he never pounded. In a day when the prevailing piano sound was percussive, his hands seemed made of velvet, and he drew luminous, tinted sounds from the keyboard in great washes of color. It might also be said that his tall, stately, dignified figure brought to the concert stage an element of glamour that had been missing from the younger generation.
His playing was not admired by purists, with whom he had a continuing battle for years. He pointed out that the greatest composers of the past would give a trusted performer considerable latitude. He stated that music on the printed page meant nothing: it had to be brought to life by a performer, and any decent performer had to work through thought and instinct, ending up reflecting the composer through his own personality. He had no hesitation making changes in some of the music he played, though the changes were so discreet that none but professionals could have noticed them. ‘It is a performer's responsibility’, he said, ‘to do what will best put across the piece he is playing’.
He also tried to pass his style to his students. Mr. Bolet did a great deal of teaching. He was active for some years at Indiana University and then went to Curtis, where he eventually succeeded Rudolf Serkin as the head of the piano department. He felt a moral obligation to teach. ‘I have received knowledge and experience from the great masters’, he once said, ‘and it is now my responsibility to pass it on to the next generation’.
Mr. Bolet recorded a large part of his repertory, both solo and concerto. His series of Decca/London records include major and minor Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, Schumann and Rachmaninoff works, encore pieces and French music, especially Franck and Debussy. He was one of the few pianists to record the Godowsky arrangements of the Chopin Etudes; these Godowsky transcriptions may be the most difficult pieces ever written for solo piano.”
- Harold C. Schonberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 Oct., 1990. . . REPEATED . . . FROM THE RECENT PAST . . .
FEODOR CHALIAPIN: The Complete Feodor Chaliapin, 1898 - 1936, live and studio recordings. Transfers by Ward Marston. Invaluable notes by Michael Scott & Michael Aspinall; reprint of an essay by the great accompanist, Ivor Newton - all included in a lavishly illustrated 324pp. hardcover book in handsome boxed set! 13-Marston 51301 (V2593)
“After Enrico Caruso, arguably no voice had a greater impact on the early development of the phonograph than Feodor Chaliapin. And yet, whereas Caruso has had his complete recordings issued in complete sets multiple times on LP and CD, the first edition going back decades, it is only now that Chaliapin has similarly been so honored. Thanks to financial subsidies from several generous underwriters, Marston has been able to spare no trouble in producing a monumental edition that is a veritable model which all subsequent similar projects must aspire to match, but few or none will even approach in so doing.
The logistics of this set are astounding: 200 tracks containing 211 sides, all remastered from original cylinders or shellac disc sides, from the catalogs of several companies: Gramophone and Typewriter (18 tracks from 1902–07), Gramophone (156 tracks from 1908–34), Victor (16 tracks from 1922, 1924, and 1927), and RCA Victor (two tracks from 1936), plus transcriptions of eight private cylinders held in Russian archives and dating from about 1898–1902. This compilation includes several unissued test pressings, plus a very few sides of choral scenes from BORIS GODUNOV in which Chaliapin himself does not sing but were recorded in the same sessions and are included for the sake of context and completeness. Need I add that, with Ward Marston at the console, the remastering of every item is pitched to an impeccable standard of excellence?
The results, laid out in chronological and matrix number order with the private cylinders forming an appendix on the last disc, are presented on 13 very generously filled CDs. These are housed in six double and one single gatefold cardboard jackets, lavishly decorated with photos of Chaliapin and providing track lists with titles and timings. The jackets are in turn housed with an accompanying book in a heavy-duty laminated and similarly decorated cardboard box with a pull-off top lid. The CD-sized book is a veritable marvel: 324 pages, with sewn signatures rather than glued single sheets, printed on laminated paper and housed in a laminated heavy-duty cover. The initial 60-page table of contents - which provides composers, selection titles, recording dates and venues, names of assisting artists where known, matrix numbers, and timings - is followed by 68 pages of essays and reminiscences by Michael Scott, Gerald Moore, Ivor Newton, Tully Potter, and Ward Marston himself. The remainder of the book provides texts in original languages (Russian is transliterated) with English translations, plus names and dates of composers, titles and dates for the works in question, and informative notes where needed. Interleaved throughout all this are literally hundreds of photos, posters, cartoons, and notes of and by Chaliapin, many provided by collectors worldwide. While Marston’s genius presides over the enterprise as a whole, this set is truly a collaborative effort of many generous minds, hearts, and hands, all of which deserve our thanks.
Chaliapin was one of the most arrestingly individual, as well as thoroughly schooled and deeply thoughtful, vocal artists of the previous century. Although trained in Russia by the tenor Dmitri Andreevich Usatov, Chaliapin was in fact through Usatov an heir of the authentic bel canto tradition; Usatov’s teacher was the noted Belgian baritone Camille François Everard, who was in turn a pupil of the celebrated and exceptionally long-lived baritone Manuel Garcia II, the brother of Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot and the inventor of the laryngoscope. Although Chaliapin would later become known for his pointed criticisms of bel canto singing, his animadversions were not directed against the technique itself but rather against its debased use for empty displays of vocal prowess rather than genuine artistic expression. From his training under Usatov (who, impressed by Chaliapin’s raw talent, taught him for free and earned the basso’s lifelong veneration), Chaliapin acquired the secure foundation and manifold facets of his art that he would retain throughout his long career: seamless production from the bottom to the top of his range, immaculate breath control, steady emission of breath and sound, precise intonation, clear diction and articulation, and fluid legato. While his voice was not a sepulchral ‘black’ Russian bass, it was richly sonorous, with a rapid but not fluttery vibrato, and a somewhat nasal coloration due to facial mask inflection. Although he did not have the sheer size and power of a Francesco Tamagno, he projected his voice with great facility and could cut through the most dense musical textures to make himself clearly heard. One special trademark was his ability to sing long-held high notes pianissimo.
A noticeable feature of Chaliapin’s discography is its relatively small compass and repeated recordings of certain items. Although the headnote for this review lists 42 composers, many of those are represented by a single selection, whereas a few names and titles predominate: Russian folk songs, Boito, Borodin, Glinka, Gounod, Mussorgsky, Rossini & Verdi. Sixty of the 200 tracks in this set come seven operas, with some selections being recorded at least six times. Similarly, although Chaliapin mastered a significant amount of folk song and Lieder material, his concert recitals as well as his records usually featured a small, select group of items over and over again.
While Chaliapin was mercurial in temperament (he was famous for alternating between titanic temper tantrums and beguilingly winsome charm; his wife and the recording producer Fred Gaisberg were the two people who knew how to rein him in), he could sometimes be somewhat eccentric in his interpretations. Compare, for example, the two very different Victor recordings from January and November 1922 of King Philip’s ‘Dormiro sol...Ella giammai m’amo’ from Verdi’s DON CARLO, where in the second one he takes the central section at an almost absurdly fast tempo to express the monarch’s growing emotional agitation. But he was never uninvolved or boring, and almost never slipped below the very highest standard of technical excellence. In this entire set, only most of the private cylinders (very hard to hear in any case) and the song on CD 1, track 1 (where Chaliapin appears not to be fully warmed up for his very first commercial recording session) failed to be of mesmerizing interest to me. Of striking interest is an unreleased side from 1922 in which Chaliapin recites, instead of sings, a text titled ‘Dreams’; his inflections of the words are absolutely riveting, and revealing of the similar capacity evinced throughout all his singing. That he was a veritable stage animal is made clear by comparing his celebrated 1928 sides from BORIS GODUNOV recorded live on stage at Covent Garden; as superb as his many preceding studio recordings of excerpts from that opera are, those almost pale compared to the larger than life, transfixing power of him in actual performance. Still, if I were to select just one cut from this entire set for demonstration purposes of the scope and depth of Chaliapin’s art, I would go to his 1921 recording of Mussorgsky’s ‘Song of the Flea’, where the array of interpretive devices and voice colorations brought to bear on elucidating the text is positively mind-boggling.
Does it even need saying that this set has ‘2019 Want List’ stamped all over it?....the fabulous book will be a reference standard for decades to come. On those terms, this is one of the bargains of the century - not to mention indispensable for dedicated mavens of historic singers. Grab this limited edition set now before it disappears forever. You’ll never regret it, and you’ll thank your lucky stars (or preferred deity) that you did. Highest possible recommendation, in every possible way.”
- James A. Altena, FANFARE
MARTTI TALVELA, w. Ryan Edwards (Pf.): Songs by Schumann, Kilpinen & Rachmaninoff. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-755, Live Performance, 17 Oct., 1968, Hunter College, New York. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (V2594)
“Martti Talvela, a Finnish bass who appeared regularly at the Metropolitan Opera and was the director-designate of the Finnish National Opera, was most highly regarded in the Russian operatic repertory, and was considered a peerless interpreter of the title role in Modest Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV, which he sang many times at the Metropolitan Opera. He also enjoyed considerable success as Dosifei in the Met's production of Mussorgsky's KHOVANSHCHINA.
Wieland Wagner, the composer's grandson and a noted stage director, heard one of Mr. Talvela's early performances and invited him to appear at Bayreuth in 1962. In 1963, he made his debut with the Deutsche Oper, in Berlin, and toured Japan with that company as Seneca in Monteverdi's INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA. By 1965, he had made debuts at La Scala, in Milan, and at the Vienna State Opera, and was performing regularly at Bayreuth and Salzburg. Mr. Talvela made his American debut with a recital at Hunter College in 1968 [above], and with performances at the Metropolitan Opera that same year.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 July, 1989
ALEXANDER ALEXEEV: Songs by Schubert, Tschaikowsky, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Rubinstein (the latter’s ‘Persian Love Song’ – fondly remembered from Chaliapin’s recording), Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Strelnikov, Prozovsky, Oppel, Artemyev, Gerdel, Zubov & Mikhailov; Arias & Duets (w.Borovskaya & Barsova) from La Traviata, Rigoletto & La Belle Helene); ELIZAVETA BOROVSKAYA: ‘The Canary’ & ‘Berceuse’ (both Tschaikowsky); Arias from Rigoletto & Lakme. (Russia) Aquarius AQVR 411, recorded 1929-39, Muztrest, GPT & Film. [A wonderful collection of all known recordings by this sensitive lyric tenor! Alexeev is just another example of wonderful artists of the Stalin era who were overshadowed by their contemporaries Lemeshev, Kozlovsky and Vinogradov . . . and the politics of that period!] (V2595)
REGINE CRESPIN, w.John Wustman (Pf.): Songs by Schumann, Wolf, Canteloube, Faure, Rosenthal & Sauguet. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-742, Live Performance, Weston Country School Auditorium (MA), 10 Feb., 1967. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (V2579)
PELLEAS ET MELISANDE, Live Performance, 29 December 1962, w.Ernest Ansermet Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Nicolai Gedda, Anna Moffo, George London, Jerome Hines, Blanche Thebom, Teresa Stratas, Clifford Harvuot & William Walker. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-794. (OP3293)
"The Metropolitan Opera has a distinguished tradition of presenting performances of PELLEAS with the world's greatest singers. Previously issued broadcasts include a dimly recorded but fascinating performance dating from 1934 with the virginal Melisande of Lucrezia Bori, the Pelleas of the Canadian tenor Edward Johnson and the unexpectedly convincing Golaud of the great Italian bass Ezio Pinza. This was followed in 1945 with another distinguished but largely unidiomatic cast. The Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayao with her little cries and sobs sounds like she has strayed off the set of Massenet's MANON, and the fine bass Alexander Kipnis as though he has come in from PARSIFAL. In 1960 it was the turn of another non-francophone cast including Victoria de los Angeles, Theodor Uppman and George London conducted by Jean Morel. In this performance dating from 1962, authenticity is guaranteed in the orchestra pit by the conducting of Ernest Ansermet for whom Debussy's opera had been a life-long passion. Ansermet recorded the opera twice commercially and was planning a third recording when he died in 1969. George London's black-voiced and virile Golaud is familiar both from Ansermet's second recording and from the 1960 Met broadcast . The chief interest in this performance therefore lies in the unconventional casting of the title roles.
Debussy conceived the role of Pelleas for a 'baritone Martin' - a high-lying light baritone. Above all he wished to avoid the cliche of the swaggering, crowd-pleasing tenor. The tessitura lies between tenor and baritone and can be sung by either, though not necessarily with ease. The slancio with which Nicolai Gedda attacks the alternative high 'A' in the phrase 'Ils m'aiment plus que toi' in Act III offers precisely the kind of operatic thrill that Debussy was apparently keen to avoid. Purists might object to Gedda's tenorial ardour in the pastel shades of Debussy's delicate score, but it would have to be a very resolute 'Pelleaste' who could resist the sheer beauty of his singing. Indeed this might also be just the performance to break down the prejudices of those who resist the charms of Debussy's score.
Anna Moffo's vibrant and luscious tone is also far from what one expects in the role of Melisande. In 1961 Moffo was just into the third year of her glorious career at the Met and at the very height of her powers. The young Italian-American soprano seemed to be endowed with every gift that nature had to offer - a lovely voice that was at once warm and fresh in timbre, breathtaking physical beauty, intelligence and musicality. She was a singer we associate more with the flesh and blood heroines of Verdi and Puccini, and indeed her Melisande is more corporeal and passionate and less fey than most. It is a performance that makes it clear that there is more than one way to interpret the highly ambiguous role of Melisande. The very young Teresa Stratas at the beginning of her career, singing the role of Yniold sounds like a Melisande in waiting."
- Patrick Bade
ERNANI, Live Performance, 29 Dec., 1956, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Mario Del Monaco, Leonard Warren, Cesare Siepi, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-687. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (OP3246)
“This famed performance is admittedly not likely to be anyone’s first choice for a recording of ERNANI. It is afflicted with the usual stage cuts practiced at the time, and perhaps even more than the norm; but then, for compensation in a rather odd way, a ballet sequence is interpolated near the beginning of the normally very short act IV that is comprised of music drawn from ballet sequences from other early Verdi operas! The singing likewise is not flawless, though exciting. By this time Zinka Milanov was on the downward side of her long Met career, and her top has lost some of its luster (no trademark pianissimos here, and some difficulty in negotiating fioratura), but she knows her way around the part, and really comes into her own in the Act IV love duet. Her fans will get their money’s worth here. Mario Del Monaco to some degree fulfills the unfair stereotype of him as hectoring and brash; but then, Ernani is generally a pretty desperate character, so it fits the part, and he too scales back for some more tender singing in Act IV. More importantly, his is a voice of sovereign authority that is completely lacking on the operatic stage today, and he’s exciting!
Perhaps the most important reason to acquire this recording, however, is the Don Carlo of Leonard Warren. Arguably, no other baritone of the post-World War II era has had such a complete understanding and command of the true Verdian line and style, allied to such a rich and potent voice. Every time he opens his mouth he offers a masterclass in the true Verdi tradition, and no nuance of characterization escapes him. Cesare Siepi is similarly authoritative as the evil Don Silva, sable if sometimes slightly diffuse of voice. Among the three comprimario roles one notes a name destined for future greatness, tenor James McCracken as Don Riccardo. Finally, Mitropoulos conducts likes a house afire; it is hard for me to recall any other recording of a Verdi opera in which there is such a perfect maintenance and culmination of dramatic tension. The chorus sings with notably precise unanimity and clarity under his baton, and the orchestra plays with passion; the interpolated ballet sequence is electrifying and earns repeated applause.
The excellent recorded sound here is light-years ahead of the cloudy sound on the LPs I acquired many years ago. This performance competes with another excellent one (in quite decent sound) starring Del Monaco and Mitropoulos, from Florence in 1957, with Anita Cerquetti, Ettore Bastianini, and Boris Christoff. This one has better sound, del Monaco in better form, Mitropoulos at a higher peak of inspiration, and the incomparable Warren; the Florence performance has the superior Elvira and da Silva in Cerquetti and Christoff, and an estimable Don Carlo in Bastianini. Overall I’d take this one, but you can’t lose either way. What opera house could field a remotely comparable cast today? In those days there were vocal giants in the land. Firmly recommended to all devotees of historic opera performances.”
- James A. Altena, FANFARE
"Mario Del Monaco addressed [Milanov] respectfully on many occasions as 'Maestra di canta', especially as they came offstage together after singing the tomb scene of AIDA. During rehearsals for that scene and for the final scene of ERNANI, to name but two examples, he was observed frequently requesting her assistance in learning how to sing certain passages softly."
- Bruce Burroughs
"It was always a given that del Monaco possessed a remarkably powerful, steady voice with unsurpassed brilliance and power. He was, however, often criticized for singing with little finesse, for using his power unrelentingly. That was never true (his many live broadcast recordings give even stronger evidence of his ability to sing with light and shade). I found myself thrilling to the sheer sound of the voice and to the commitment and passion with which he sang. What will surprise many is the variety of dynamics and color that the tenor did bring to his singing. It is easy for critics to comment on the method of a singer and to forget the most important element - the sound of the voice....His diction was a model of clarity and crispness, his intonation was almost always centered, and his rhythmic pulse was extremely strong. In many cases one listens to this kind of singing and longs for the days gone by when there were singers like this....old-timers...reminisce over one of the great operatic tenor voices to be heard in the 1950s and 60s, and younger listeners discover what a great 'tenore di forza' sounds like. We have nothing like him today."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Leonard Warren emerged as the principal baritone of the Met's Italian wing in the early 1940s and remained so until his untimely death on the Met's stage, 4 March, 1960, at the peak of his career. His smooth, velvety, and beautiful voice was powerful and had an unusually large range in its high register. It was easily and evenly produced, whether he sang softly or roared like a lion.
Warren acted his roles primarily by vocal coloring, expressivity, and his excellent diction...his singing was unusually consistent. Warren's legacy should be of interest to all lovers of great singing."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2006
“Mr. Siepi was a classic Italian basso cantante, or ‘singing bass’, with a warm, slightly dark voice that was ideally suited to Mozart. Yet his voice was so robust that he could easily summon the power for King Philip II in DON CARLO, Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL and the title role in BORIS GODUNOV. In his prime, the tall, handsome Mr. Siepi, a natural onstage, was a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, where he gave nearly 500 performances, singing 17 roles during a 23-year association. Bing wrote in his 1972 memoir, 5,000 NIGHTS AT THE OPERA, [that Siepi] ‘made an overpowering debut and a well-deserved great career at the Metropolitan’. After his first Don Giovanni at the Met in 1952, Mr. Siepi became the Giovanni of choice in houses around the world, bringing a sly blend of vocal refinement and animal magnetism to his portrayal.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2010
GEORGE SZELL Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Amor und Psyche – Overture (Hindemith); w.ROBERT CASADESUS: Piano Concerto #2 in A (Liszt); w.LYNN HARRELL: Cello Concerto in a (Schumann). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-620, Live Performances, 1968-70, Severance Hall. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (C1680)
ARTUR RODZINSKI Cond. NYPO: Mefisto Waltz (Liszt), Live Performance, 11 Feb., 1945, Carnegie Hall; In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bernard Rogers [World Premiere]); Leonore Overture III (Beethoven); w. Dorothy Kirsten, Nan Merriman, Donald Dame & Todd Duncan: 'Choral' Symphony #9 in d (Beethoven), Live Performance, 4 April, 1946, Carnegie Hall. [Bernard Rogers is remembered for his opera THE WARRIOR which premiered at the Met Opera in 1947, just after 'In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt' the year before.] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL 78-589. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (C1681)
EMIL GILELS: Sonata in b (Liszt); Sonata #25 in G; 'Les Adieux' Sonata #26 in B-flat; Sonata #27 in e (all Beethoven). [This glorious recital offers a magesterial performance of the Liszt Sonata!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-701, Live Performance, 8 Aug., 1975, Salzburg. (P1295)
ANNIE FISCHER, w.Erdelyi Cond. Hungarian National Phil.: Piano Concerto #13 in C, K.415/387b (Mozart); Piano Concerto #2 in f (Chopin). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-771, Broadcast Performance,15 Jan., 1973, Erkel Theatre, Budapest. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (P1294)
NATHAN MILSTEIN, w.Patane Cond. Vienna S.O.: Violin Concerto in D (Brahms), Live Performance, 11 June, 1979, Musikverein; w. Hollreiser Cond. Orchestre de la Suisse Romande: Violin Concerto in D (Tschaikowsky), Live Performance, 24 Oct., 1972. Geneva. [A magnificent pairing, the Brahms being a monumental, unforgettable performance!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-671. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (S0733)
KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. NDR S.O.: Coriolan Overture (Beethoven); Tod und Verklarung (Strauss); w. WOLFGANG SCHNEIDERHAN: 'To the Memory of an Angel' Violin Concerto (Berg). [The Berg Concerto’s Bach Chorale variations is ethereal!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-767, Live Performances, 1978-92. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (C1678)
KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. Mecklenburgischen Staatskapelle Schwerin: Symphony #1 in C - Live Performance, 1968; KLAUS TENNSTEDT Cond. NDR S.O., w. GIDON KREMER: Violin Concerto in D [with cadenzas by Shnittke] (both Beethoven). [Ravishing performances, to say the least . . . the Schnittke cadenzas are a unique trip . . . captured in brilliant sound!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-766. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (C1676)
FIDELIO, Live Performance, 7 Jan., 1984, w. Klaus Tennstedt Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eva Marton, Jon Vickers, Franz Mazura, Paul Plishka, Roberta Peters, etc. [Tennstedt's final Met Opera performance of the seven FIDELIOs he conducted during his brief 3-week Met career!] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-794. (OP3290)
“In sixty years of attending operas, I cannot remember a more enthusiastic ovation for an orchestral overture or interlude than what one hears after the Leonore Overture #3 that Klaus Tennstedt places before the final scene of this Met broadcast from 1984. Tennstedt’s entire Met career consists of seven performances of FIDELIO in the 1983–84 season. He was much in demand around the world, and it is good that the Met administration persisted to the point where it obtained even this single run.
As for Florestan, Jon Vickers was certainly the finest interpreter of that role in my lifetime. His desperate outburst at ‘Gott! welch’ Dunkel hier!’ sounds like it comes from deep within him. And no tenor in my experience has been as persuasive in the transition from desperation and gloom to ecstatic hope at the thought of his rescue. Vocally, Vickers is in fabulous shape. As fine as his studio recordings with Klemperer and Karajan are, this is on an altogether different plane. As you get to know this performance and start listening closely on repeated hearings, you can sense both Marton and Vickers playing off of Tennstedt, and vice versa, with the kind of dramatic sparks that can occur only onstage in an inspired performance with great artists. This is a magnificent example of the possibilities in a great opera house when the right ingredients are assembled. It is also the only Tennstedt performance of FIDELIO of which I am aware, which makes it even more special.”
- Henry Fogel. FANFARE
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S0736. NATHAN MILSTEIN, w.Joseph Seiger (Pf.): 'Kreutzer' Violin Sonata in A, Live Performance, 18 Oct., 1955, Osaka; w.Ferencsik Cond. Los Angeles Phil.: Violin Concerto in D, Live Performance, 3 May, 1963 (both Beethoven). [A magnificent pairing, featuring Milstein with Elman's devoted accompanist, Seiger] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-678. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
P1297. SIDNEY FOSTER, w. Aaron Copland, Maurice Abravanel, John Barbirolli & Michiaki Okuda Cond.: Rediscovering an American Master, incl. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Hummel, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Grieg, Franck, Debussy, Weber, Moszkowski, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Bartók, Paderewski & Dello Joio . 7-Marston 56001, recorded 1941-73, Live Performances. Transfers by Ward Marston. Notes by Alberto Reyes. - 638335700120
S0737. ARTHUR GRUMIAUX: Sonata for Violin Unaccompanied, Op.27, #3 (Ysaye); w. Kubelik Cond. RTF S.O.: Violin Concerto (Bartok), Live Performances, 23 Feb., 1956, Paris; w.Istvan Hajdu (Pf.): Romanian Dances (Bartok), Live Performance, 24 April, 1961, Tokyo; w.Kersjes Cond. Kunstmaand Orch.: Symphonie espagnole (Lalo), Live Performance, 2 Feb., 1964, Amsterdam. [The inimitable highlights of this program are the Ysaye Unaccompanied Sonata and the Bartok Concerto, rendering the rapturous Paris audience in ecstasy!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-642. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
P1296. JORGE BOLET: Chopin, Mendelssohn & Liszt Recital (including a magisterial performance of the latter's Sonata in b). [A magnificent recital, but given the state of the duly appreciative audience, one feels the provinces, not New York!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-751, Live Performance, 5 Jan., 1972, Alice Tully Hall, New York.
Renata Scotto, Vol. I Hunter College, 1970; John Wustman (St Laurent Studio YSL T-665)
Bruno Walter - Treasury of Little Known Broadcasts (Steber, Tourel, Simoneau, Forrester) (4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1099)
Faust (Pelletier; Richard Crooks, Helen Jepson, Richard Bonelli, Ezio Pinza) (2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1097)
Fritz Reiner - Schubert, Delius & Tschaikowsky (St Laurent Studio YSL T-607)
Salome - Two Performances (Reiner; Welitsch; Krauss; Cebotari) (4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1089)
Fidelio (Tennstedt; Marton, Vickers, Mazura, Plishka) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-794)
Walkure, Act III (Traubel, Janssen) - Tristan, Act II, 1944 (Melchior, Traubel) (2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1093)
Regine Crespin; Karl Kritz, Thomas Schippers, John Wustman (2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1085)
Don Giovanni (Bruno Walter; Pinza, Rethberg, Lazzari, Dino Borgioli) ( 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1091)
Die Walkure (Szell; Bampton, Traubel, Melchior, Janssen, Thorborg, Kipnis) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1081)
Madama Butterfly (Patane; Scotto, Aragall, Edwards) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-658)
I Vespri Siciliani (Levine; Renata Scotto, Elvira, Ochman, Raimondi) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-677)
Der Fliegende Hollander (Steiner; Janssen, Bohme, Friedrich, Andersen) (2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1080)
Zinka Milanov - Final Recital, plus Interview with William H. Wells (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-648)
Erich Leinsdorf, Vol. IV; Idil Biret - debut (St Laurent Studio YSL T-380)
Marian Anderson, Vol. III (St Laurent Studio YSL 78-629)
Istvan Kertesz, Vol. I; Birgit Finnila & Simone Mangelsdorff (Mahler) (St Laurent Studio YSL T-451)
George Szell, Vol. VII; Erica Morini; Geza Anda (St Laurent Studio YSL T-426)
Die Meistersinger (Szell; Janssen, Steber, Thorborg, Kullman, List, Harrell) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1088)
Tannhauser (Leinsdorf; Melchior, Janssen, Flagstad, Thorborg, List, Harrell) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1101)
Gotterdammerung (Boulez; Jones, Thomas, Kelemen, Ridderbusch) (4-St Laurent Studio YSL T-723)
Carmen - 9 Jan., 1937 (Papi; Ponselle, Rayner, Bodanya, Huehn) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-649)
Giuseppe Campanari (St Laurent Studio YSL 78-728)
Das Lied von der Erde (Rodzinski; Thorborg & Kullman) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD-1090)
La Navarraise; Griselidis (Moizan, Vanzo, Mollien, Roux, Mars) (2-Malibran 813)
Vocal Record Collectors' Society - 2017 Issue (VRCS-2017)
Sergei Rachmaninoff (3-Marston 53022)
Mignon / Carmen (Swarthout, Vinay, Hackett, Albanese, Pinza) (4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1096)
Siegfried (Boulez; McIntyre, Jones, Kollo, Kelemen, Zednik, Rundgren) (3-St Laurent Studio YSL T-670)
Forza (Molinari-Pradelli; Leontyne Price, Corelli, Merrill, Hines, Corena) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-652)
Il Trovatore (Cleva; Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Dalis, Sereni) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-650)
Tosca (Adler; Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Cornell MacNeil) (2-St Laurent Studio T-681)
Elektra (Christopher Keene; Olivia Stapp, Natalie Costa, Chookasian, Crabb, Cross) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-762)
Klaus Tennstedt, Vol. I (Bruckner 8th - Boston) (St Laurent Studio YSL T-332)
Renata Scotto, Vol. III Philharmonic Hall, 1972; Ryan Edwards (St Laurent Studio YSL T-683)
Lohengrin (Rosenstock; Konya, Crespin, Rankin, Cassel) (3-St Laurent Studio YSL T-662)
Der Rosenkavalier (Szell; Jessner, Novotna, Conner, List) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1092)
Nozze (Panizza; Rethberg, Albanese, Stevens, Pinza, Brownlee, Baccaloni) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1094)
Arturo Toscanini - Victor Records Restored (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1087)
Pelleas et Melisande (Haitink - Boston; Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Keenlyside, Finley) (3-St Laurent Studio YSL T-521)
Walkure (Boulez; McIntyre, Hofmann, Jones, Bode, Salminen, Randova) (3-St Laurent Studio YSL T-645)
Forza (Stiedry; Milanov, Tucker, Warren, Hines) (2-St Laurent Studio T-679)
Peter Grimes (Colin Davis; Vickers, Amara, Evans, Madeira, Chookasian, Plishka (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-720)
Rheingold (Boulez; Donald McIntyre, Zoltan Kelemen, Bengt Rundgren, Matti Salminen) (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-590)
Landmarks of Recorded Pianism, Vol. I (Lipatti, Cortot, Novaes, Rosenthal, Horowitz, Niryeghazy) (2-Marston 52073)
St Matthew Passion - Charles Munch, Vol. XXIX; Endich, Kopleff, Cuenod, Mack Harrell (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-689)
Charles Rousseliere (The Record Collector TRC 46)
Zara Dolukhanova, Vol. II, Nina Svetlanova (Pf.) - Leningrad (St Laurent Studio YSL T-719)
Mario Lanza; Licia Albanese; Elaine Malbin (St Laurent Studio YSL T-746)
Tristan (Leinsdorf; Melchior, Traubel, Thorborg, Huehn, Kipnis) (3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1102)