Dimitri Mitropoulos;  Lucretia West  - Mahler 3rd, Brahms & Debussy   (2-Archipel 0517)
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Dimitri Mitropoulos;  Lucretia West  - Mahler 3rd, Brahms & Debussy   (2-Archipel 0517)
C0994. DIMITRI MITROPOULOS Cond. Kölner Rundfunks S.O., w.Lucretia West: Symphony #3 in d (Mahler), Live Performance, 31 Oct., 1960; Mitropoulos Cond. Concertgebouw Orch.: Symphony #3 in F (Brahms), Live Performance, 10 Aug., 1958, Salzburg; Mitropoulos Cond. Berlin Phil.: La Mer (Debussy), Live Performance, 21 Aug., 1960, Salzburg. (Germany) 2-Archipel 0517. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4035122405170


“Captured in decent mono sound, Dimitri Mitropoulos’ account of Mahler 3, a studio performance broadcast live, is gripping, atmospheric, suspenseful and genuinely symphonic; the latter quality no mean feat in this long and diverse six-movement work. It was also the last music that Athens-born Mitropoulos conducted. From Cologne he traveled to Milan to begin rehearsals on the same Mahler symphony with the La Scala Orchestra but suffered a fatal heart-attack during the first session (on 2 November). As it happens there was a scheduled interval after the long first movement during which a doctor advised the conductor not to continue with the performance. He refused. Although Mitropoulos’ consideration to complete the concert is understandable, it does seem strange that he then journeyed to Milan seemingly without further medical attention. Perhaps he was unaware of his potentially critical condition, although he had previously suffered heart-attacks and endured stays in hospital.

It is good to return to an era when something like Symphony 3 would have been a relative novelty. Mitropoulos sees the work whole, the first movement beginning with a real call to attention from some commanding unison horns. From there the pastoral and up-roaring contrasts are melded into a cohesive whole, primeval vigour being built in long paragraphs with many thrilling releases that never lack for poise (although there is a wilder side to this music that Mitropoulos keeps slightly buttoned up). The brass sections are notable not only heroic horns but also a fine trombone solo. There is here a rough-hewn sophistication, a glorious march-past, and if Mitropoulos seems allergic (as was Toscanini) to trombone glissandos he always has a very clear sight of where the music is going.

The remaining movements are all compelling in their realisation, given with edge and vividness. The third movement’s posthorn solo is less-worthy though. It seems to be essayed on a trumpet (quite common), but is too loud, not distant enough, and also rather roughly played as if from the barracks (perhaps deliberately – it fits Mitropoulos’ unvarnished approach), strenuous rather than calming. The close of this outdoors movement, which breathes Alpine air, is one of very few performances in which the strings are audible; the recording may be limited (if perfectly good), but Mitropoulos ensured clarity at this point and the microphones captured it. Lucretia West’s contribution to the Nietzsche-inspired fourth movement is inspired, intense and exquisite, the violin solo also very fine, and the ‘bim-bam’ of the fifth finds ladies and boys as a lusty crew, bells to the fore. The finale, not dragged to heavenly length, is radiant and (appropriately) loving, if not without pain, and the glorious final bars, despite being rather strident (the brass not ‘golden’-sounding enough) is a magisterial processional to the altar and very inspiring. Still, as recorded performances of Mahler’s 3rd go, Mitropoulos’ comes very high on the list.”

- Classical Source

“Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos stood apart from the European traditions that dominated first-rank American orchestras for much of the twentieth century. After attending the Athens Conservatory, where he studied piano and composition, his opera BÉATRICE was presented there. The French composer Saint-Saëns was in the audience, and was so impressed that he arranged a scholarship that enabled the 24-year-old to study composition with the Belgian composer Paul Gilson and piano with Busoni in Berlin. Busoni persuaded him to abandon composition and concentrate on becoming a conductor.

From 1921 to 1925, Mitropoulos assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and on Kleiber's recommendation, was appointed conductor of the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in Athens. In 1927, he became conductor of the Greek State Symphony Orchestra and in 1930 was engaged to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he instituted the practice of conducting from the piano.

In 1937 Mitropoulos succeeded Eugene Ormandy as musical director of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and remained in America until 1959. After 12 years in Minneapolis, he was invited to share the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Stokowski, becoming its conductor when Stokowski resigned in 1950. Mitropoulos resigned the post after sharing the podium with Leonard Bernstein, his co-principal conductor, in the Orchestra's 1958 tour of Latin America. From 1954, he was a dynamic force as Bruno Walter's successor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he introduced many new operas, including ones by Richard Strauss and Samuel Barber.

Mitropoulos never conducted his own works, but considered his best composition to be a Concerto Grosso written in 1929. He lived simply and took little part in social activities. His conducting style was passionate, highly-charged and demonstrative; he had a phenomenal memory and rarely used a baton. He programmed much modern music and particularly admired Schönberg and the Second Viennese School, such as Webern and Berg, as well as twentieth century American and British composers. His recording of Mahler's First Symphony made with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1941 was the first ever made in the U.S. of that work, and Mitropoulos was awarded the American Mahler Medal of Honor in 1950 for his work in promoting the composer's music. He died while rehearsing Mahler's Third Symphony with Toscanini's famous La Scala Orchestra.”

- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com