OP2760. PORGY AND BESS (Gershwin), recorded 1951, w.Lehman Engel Cond. Lawrence Winters, Camilla Williams, Inez Matthews, Warren Coleman, Avon Long, etc. (Austria) 2-Sony MH2K 63322, Slipcase Edition has 51pp. Brochure, w.archival photos & complete 36pp. Porgy and Bess Libretto; Discs feature facsimile original Columbia LP labels. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 074646332221
“Some people at Sony have used their ears and eyes wisely to come up with ‘Masterworks Heritage’, a mid-price reissue series drawing on treasures from the Columbia/CBS/Epic vaults and packaging them not in the usual fragile, space-consuming jewel boxes, but in slim, sturdy cardboard folders that suggest the sleeves of old. Furthermore, the funky charming cover illustrations and disc label art of the original 78s and/or LPs is reproduced as well.
Sony has chosen interpretations not previously available on CD, most from monophonic recordings of the 1940s and '50s.”
- Herbert Glass, LOS ANGELES TIMES, 5 Jan., 1997
“…some of the singers had been in the original stage company so they were able to bring to this recording the true traditions of this masterpiece. Larry Winters (Porgy) and Camilla Williams (Bess) were recruited from the New York City Centre Opera and are first class actors/singers so too is Avon Long outstanding as the charming yet slippery-as-a-snake Sportin’ Life. The contract orchestra is splendid too with no less than seven concert masters within the ranks of its first violins. Sony have done a marvellous job in mastering this historic mono recording using 20-bit technology to produce first class realistic sound with plenty of presence.”
- Ian Lace
“It had a striking, multi-colored graphic on the cover, and the enclosing box was thick enough to hold a bound booklet and three gleaming black vinyl LPs with their shiny dark-blue labels. It exploded into my life in 1951, and it changed my life forever. There had never been a recording like this: the first ‘complete’ recording of this staggeringly beautiful opera with a musical language all its own, magnificently performed and dramatically enhanced – introducing us to unfamiliar and richly conceived recitatives between the well-known songs, arias and ensembles.
The invention of the long-playing record had occurred only three years earlier, and its technical parameters were exploited here far beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations. This recording was the landmark that has become the archetype against which all future ‘dramatic’ recordings must be measured.
Goddard Lieberson had defined creative record producing for all of us who followed him. When he and Lehman Engel and their extraordinary cast produced this album, they succeeded in putting us so deeply inside PORGY AND BESS that the illusion was created that there is no recording and equipment! It’s just Porgy, Bess, Crown and Sportin’ Life going through their lives as we, the listeners, are placed in the middle of them, inside the piece itself. Lieberson, Engel and Co. have brought us inside Catfish Row as the story, the music and the drama surround us. It is deeply moving to revisit this astonishing 1951 studio cast recording and to assist in bringing it to new life in CD form. It is the best way I know to pay tribute to the authors of PORGY AND BESS, our greatest American opera, and to those creative pioneers of recording who made this production possible.”
- Thomas Z. Shepard