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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 20th Century Music, Vol 1 Box set


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  • Conductor: Ernest Ansermet, Igor Markevitch, Rafael Kubelík, Zubin Mehta, Karl Böhm, et al.
  • Composer: Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg, Arthur Honegger, Egon Wellesz, et al.
  • Audio CD (14 July 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Naive
  • ASIN: B00009YW8Y
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 616,168 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Arthur Honegger, Symphony No. 5 "Di tre re": I. [Ernest Ansermet (conductor), 2 December 1951]
2. Arthur Honegger, Symphony No. 5 "Di tre re": II. Allegretto - Adagio - Allegretto [Ernest Ansermet (conductor), 2 December 1951]
3. Arthur Honegger, Symphony No. 5 "Di tre re": III. Allegro marcato [Ernest Ansermet (conductor), 2 December 1951]
4. Igor Stravinsky, Le Sacre du printemps. 1er partie: L'adoration de la terre [Igor Markevitch (conductor), 26 April 1952]
5. Igor Stravinsky, Le Sacre du printemps. 2ème partie: Le sacrifice [Igor Markevitch (conductor), 26 April 1952]
6. Leos Janácek, Sinfonietta: I. Allegro [Rafael Kubelík (conductor), 3 March 1955]
See all 10 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Anton Webern, Passacaglia, Op. 1 [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
2. Anton Webern, Six Movements for Orchestra: I. Langsam [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
3. Anton Webern, Six Movements for Orchestra: II. Bewegt [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
4. Anton Webern, Six Movements for Orchestra: III. Zart bewegt [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
5. Anton Webern, Six Movements for Orchestra: IV. Sehr langsam. Marcia funebre [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
6. Anton Webern, Six Movements for Orchestra: V. Langsam [Zubin Mehta (conductor), 3 December 1983]
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Franz Schmidt, Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major: I. Lebhaft [Erich Leinsdorf (conductor), 29 October 1983]
2. Franz Schmidt, Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major: II. Allegretto con variazioni [Erich Leinsdorf (conductor), 29 October 1983]
3. Franz Schmidt, Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major: III. Finale [Erich Leinsdorf (conductor), 29 October 1983

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry VanDeSande on 25 July 2011
The Andante collections made waves throughout the early 2000s for bringing collectors heretofore unproduced recordings of music caputred in concert and produced through the auspices of Austrian radio. The series has declined in recent years with many of the better collections disappearing from circulation and now costing collectors a pretty penny to acquire through the classical music aftermarket via Amazon and other Internet outlets.

In this scenario, I was very pleased to see Andante was still producing this 2003 release of 20th century music played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Howev,er I was very disappointed with this interesting collaboration on many levels. I bought this 20th century collection principally to hear Zubin Mehta's Berg selections. I anticipated recordings that were vivid, in my face, driven and arch-romantic.

Instead, these performances recorded in the 1980s are anti-romantic, flaccid and hardly the representation of the dodecaphonic era's most romantic composer. They are, instead, representative of everything Mehta became after his wunderkind recordings of the 1960s when he took the helm of the New York Philharmonic. Once again, Mehta reminded me of the athlete that is hungry when young and on the rise but, once he gets a big contract, becomes fat and lazy. Contractitis, I call it.

Perhaps this collection could have been saved beyond this letodwn but it was followed by more setbacks. I have listened to Rafael Kubelik's stereo Janacek: Sinfonietta for many years; recorded 1971 in Bavaria, it is a more thrilling, outgoing and far better recorded version than the one on this recording.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A valuable set full of rewarding performances, a few being first-rate 19 Sept. 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is a unique and in many ways invaluable set. Andante.com began as a French webiste with overreaching ambitions. Based on a large private collection of historical recordings, Andante also forged special connections with the archives of several major orchestras, among them the London Sm., the Philadelphia Orch., and the Vienna Phil. A streaming radio broadcast was added, and suddenly in the early days of classical music sites offering downloads, andante was a multi-purpose omnium gatherum. They even published updated classical music news. As an early member, I was delighted, but anyone could see that it was a risky venture. Much cheaper resources were becoming available, and there is that nagging demand in the blogosphere that everything be free (hence these forums at amazon where even professional writers submit reviews gratis).

Andante's own label was ultra deluxe, with hard-cover books enclosing the program notes and usually a stiff cardboard sleeve. The performances being released were about half archival and half from their 78 RPM colleciton. This set, Vol. 1 of the Vienna Philharmonic playing 20th century music (there was o Vol. 2) is a deluxe production but without the cardboard box. It sells at considerably reduced price, as it must given the public's aversion to modern music. the previous reviewer finds andante's prices too high, with a premium being asked for out-of-print sets; that is often true but not for this issue. Closer to home is his criticism of the level of performances. I wasn't as disappointed. However, it must be said that these are subscription concerts, the bread and butter of every orchestra, not special events or recording sessions.

Since this is an important release, let me go disc by disc.

CD 1: 79 min.
Honegger - Sym. 5 (Ansermet, 1951) This was considered the composer's most gloomy work, a reaction to the post-atomic era, but Ansermet's reading is mild-mannered. The sound is good broadcast mono from before the FM era. the orchestral playing is, on the whole, unexceptional.

Stravinsky - Rite of Spring (Markevitch, 1952)
Igor Markevitch made this work into a specialty, and here we have a good example of his thoughtful, often lyrical approach (not at all the hard-driving reading that the previous reviewer detects). but with good alternatives on other labels like Testament, the drawbacks of Andante's version stand out. It's in clear-enough broadcast mono, but the miking hides the horn section, and in addition the playing seems a bit tentative. The reading picks up confidence as it proceeds and has many virtues.

Janacek - Sinfonietta (Kubelik, 1955)
As with Markevitch and Le Sacre, Kubelik made a specialty of this late showpiece by Janacek, which requires a dozen skilled trumpet players in several key places. Austrain Radio must have had a standard microphone setup, because here in 1955 we get the same submerged horns as in 1952. It's striking how mellifluous the massed trumpets sound. They play effortlessly and (mostly) in tune, a fairly rare achievement. One wonders if Janacek wanted something more savage and raw. the reading moves quickly and nimbly; it's quite enjoyable on its own terms. There are any number of Kubelik accounts in better sound but none with such Viennese lilt, even when the orchestra scrambles. I'm sorry to report that the string section, which was scrawny for a decade after the war, here seems hard-pressed and thin at times.

CD 2: 75 min.
Webern - Passacaglia Op. 1, Six Movements Op. 6 (Mehta, 1983)
Suddenly we find ourselves with a much better orchestra captured in excellent FM-radio stereo. Mehta has always had a particularly affinity for the Second Viennese School and for this orchestra. Both readings are first rate, and although the previous reviewer finds them anti-romantic, I find the Passacaglia thoroughly affectionate and dream-like. It builds to its climaxes with energy and passion, too. The Six Movements, done at the same concert, are more challenging, of course, and Mehta does very well in guiding our ears in how to listen. Webern felt that all the elements of the musical past were contained, highly compressed, in his orchestral works, and here one knows what he means: this reading is full of expression and intensity. It represents a huge advance from the disorganized and baffling way that Webern was performed on disc in the sixties and seventies.

Berg - Der Wein (Bohm, 1969)
Despite their conservative reputation, the Vienna Phil. was willing to follow conductors they trusted into challenging territory. They trusted Karl bohm, and his commercial recordings of wozzeck ad lulu were pioneering in the stereo era. Here with soprano Dorothy Dorow we get a fascinating, extremely expressive performance of Berg's long orchestral setting of "The Wine," taking his text from three poems by Baudelaire translated into German. the idiom is Expressionist but, in keeping with his reputation, Berg's equivalent to Schoenberg's vocal monodrama 'Erwartung' is more lyrical and easier to follow. Dorow is such an exceptional soloist that one wonders where her career went. Bohm and the orchestra are fully engaged, so the performance is an outright winnter.

Schoenberg - Pelleas und Melisande (Bohm 1969)
Continuing from the same concert, and in very impressive sound, comes some "easy" Schoenberg, his massive tone poem based on Maeterlinck's play, using pure orchestral means to take us through the drama that Debussy turned into an opera. Happily, the comilers offer track numbers for each significant event, because even though the work is based on separate themes for the major characters - not far from Wagner's leitmotif method - Schoenberg's writing is so dense that the ordinary listener will have a hard time following his scheme; the motifs are not simple melodic snatches. But no one will find it hard to enjoy Bohm's sweeping reading, full of warmth and intensity. As an example of the Vienna Phil. playing the music they were born to play, this is a cherishable example.

CD 3: 79 min.
Schmidt - Sym. #2 (Leinsdorf, 1983)
Franz Schmidt is one Viennese institution whose music doesn't seem to travel well, yet n home ground e seems great. I wouldn't expect Erich Leinsdorf, a dry, time-beating conductor, to succeed in Schmidt's lavishly romantic idiom, but he does. Perhaps the orchestra is carrying him, because this reading, in excellent broadcast stereo, has all the goods. We are in the same swooning world as Korngold but with simpler textures and less dizzying chromaticism. Devotees tend to say tat the Schmidt fourth is his masterpiece, but the more engaging, less mournful Second catches the ear agreeably and has enough integrity to keep the mind negaged.

Wellesz - Prosperos Beschwörungen (Haitink, 1985)
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) was Austrian but escaped the Nazies by leaving in 1938; this orchestral suite set to Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' was conducted in Amsterdam by Bruno Walter on the very day of the Anschluss, and the composer was fortunate to be there. He later made a wide-ranging musical career in England. The suite's five movements evoke the play's main characters, in a conservative but inventive idiom that meshes easily with Schmidt's. Composers we consider minor from the inter-war period were often highly skillful but weren't able to find a language that proved as radical or far-reaching as the three giants, Bartok, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. On its own, Wellesz's score belongs with any number of romantic ones by Schreker, Zemlinsky, von Einem, and Hartmann that are well worth exploring. Yet nothing here is very striking, which may explain why, despite a sizable output, Wellesz isn't played today outside Austria. Haitink's reading is energetic and vivid, in very good broadcast stereo; some parts sound like a run through, probably due to insufficient rehearsal. Still, the composer would have been thrilled, I think, at this level of execution.

In the end, except for the scrappy playing on CD 1, this is a terrific and unusual collection. At its bargain price, either new or used, anyone interested in haring the Vienna Phil. playing off-the-beaten-track modern music will be thoroughly rewarded.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A disappointment 23 July 2011
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The Andante collections of varying European music made waves throughout the early 2000s for bringing collectors heretofore unproduced recordings of music caputred in concert and produced through the auspices of Austrian radio. The series has gone into serious decline in recent years, with many of the better collections disappearing from circulation and now costing collectors a pretty penny to acquire through the classical music aftermarket via Amazon and other Internet outlets.

In this scenario, I was very pleased to see Andante was still producing this 2003 release of 20th century music played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Howev,er I was very disappointed with this interesting collaboration on many levels. I bought this 20th century collection principally to hear Zubin Mehta's Berg selections. I anticipated recordings that were vivid, in my face, driven and arch-romantic.

Instead, these performances recorded in the 1980s are anti-romantic, flaccid and hardly the representation of the dodecaphonic era's most romantic composer. They are, instead, representative of everything Mehta became after his wunderkind recordings of the 1960s when he took the helm of the New York Philharmonic. Once again, Mehta reminded me of the athlete that is hungry when young and on the rise but, once he gets a big contract, becomes fat and lazy. Contractitis, I call it.

Perhaps this collection could have been saved beyond this letodwn but it was followed by more setbacks. I have listened to Rafael Kubelik's stereo Janacek Sinfonietta for many years; recorded 1971 in Bavaria, it is a more thrilling, outgoing and far better recorded version than the one on this recording. In addition, Igor Markevitch's 1952 Rite of Spring is brutal, hard-bitten, hard-driven. Perhaps you like the music this way -- as concert music impossible as dance -- but it was also produced in colorless, monochrome sound.

In fact, colorless and monochrome defines most of the sound in this set. With a reputation for capturing live events that transcends FM radio, these recordings consistently sounded to me like I was listening to my NPR station in the 1970s. This was true even for the most current performances -- the Schmidt Second Symphony and Egon Wellesz's interesting but inconsequential Prosperos Beschwörungen from the 1980s.

I knew when I bought this set that it was an odd grouping -- something from the post-Schoenberg revolution tied to nationalist music and fairly straightforward post-romantic 20th cenutry works. I normally don't go in for an unrelated collection but thought I'd give the declining Andante series another shot after having success with historic Debussy and Bruckner recordings from Austrian radio. This time, it was a bust. I cannot recommend this to anyone except completists for the various performers in this package.
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