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Showing 101-125 of 128 posts in this discussion
Posted on 24 Jun 2012 15:10:07 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Heads up on some new Chandos DOWNLOAD bargains; the Deneve/Debussy 2 discs - £5.99; the 6 disc-equivalent Hickox edition of the Frank Bridge he did - very fine and I'm not often a Hickox fan - a stunning £6.99. Also spotted for £6.99 a remarkable BIS collection of Sibelius called Sibelius (The Essential) - great name eh! - 19 hours+(!!) of BIS sourced Jarvi/Vanska plus some piano and songs. Lots of duplication if you've snapped up other BIS bargains but a no-brainer if you've been prevaricating ........ as long as you don't find Sibelius bland....... Also Naxos Delius/Mass of life for £4.99. Temptation is creeping my way.

Posted on 24 Jun 2012 19:04:57 BDT
JayJayDee says:
If anyone hasn't invested in the BIS 15 CDs-for-the-Price-of-4 Essential Sibelius, then this mp3 offering is a long as nothing's missing again!
I thought £40 for 15 BIS discs was good six years ago, but the price advised by Nick is a steal. Just the last three symphonies justify the outlay. And I'm surprised at how much I liked the almost unknown chamber music!

Posted on 24 Jun 2012 20:52:12 BDT
A few other bargains worth mentioning - Borodin Quartet's complete Beethoven cycle for £6.99; ditto the Vegh Quartet's 1952 (mono) cycle. Also, a series called Vintage Classical Greats, each featuring (as well as some truly appalling cover art) recordings by such as Fournier, Cortot, Haskil, Gilels, Arrau, Fischer and others - again £6.99 for each set.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jun 2012 23:24:21 BDT
Re the Sibelius set, I've twice encountered problems in downloading very large files from In both cases, these were items where the details showed a minus sign in front of the file size figure. I notice that this is also the case with the Sibelius set. I did eventually get a refund on both my purchases but it took a fair bit of persistence.

Posted on 24 Jun 2012 23:51:40 BDT
JayJayDee says:
My advice is to buy the CDs if you like Sibelius.

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 23:07:46 BDT
Malx says:
In the 'new downloads' section of Amazon is a uninspiringly named 'Classical Essentials' by the Melos Ensemble, it is a superb bargain. It is in fact the EMI Icon box of 11CDs track for track.
I have downloaded it this evening and have sampled a number of works everything seems to have downloaded ok. As you can imagine I have only heard snippets so far, but 13 hours + of excellent music for a very reasonable fee seems like a good deal to me.

Posted on 8 Jul 2012 01:45:47 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Here's the full track listing

Quite an eclectic collection!!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2012 08:50:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jul 2012 08:51:10 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Malx: excellent spot - just the thing to spend my birthday amazon voucher on! Also, the slightly lower Amazon bit rates are much less of an issue with music on this scale. Spectacularly bad 'cover' design. Why they can't - even at that price produce something a tad more appealing escapes me. Just listened to the Mendelssohn Octet Scherzo - worth the admission price alone. Thanks again.

Posted on 8 Jul 2012 11:34:30 BDT
Malx says:
Nick: Agreed the cover 'artwork' is exceptionally awful, I have copied the original from the Icon box and substituted it for the offending cover on my files. Much nicer to look at!
Looking forward to listening to some pieces I am unfamiliar with, mainly the works by Bliss, Richard Rodney Bennett, Maxwell Davies. I'm not so sure if I'm looking forward to the Birtwhistle, but who knows it could be revalatory.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2012 13:35:36 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
The Bliss is a very easy listen - from his "bright young iconoclast" period in the 20's. Fun but far from important. Part of the joy of sets like this for me is that the money is well spent on a few favourites and then you get all the 'bonus' stuff effectively for free.

Posted on 14 Jul 2012 11:27:58 BDT
Malx says:
Another couple of EMI Icon boxes seem to have turned up under a different guise and equally poor covers as the Melos Ensemble.
Firstly Pierre Fournier Cellist Extraordinaire
Second Fritz Kreisler Master Violinist Collection

I haven't checked out every track but I believe them to be the same.

Posted on 5 Aug 2012 21:40:43 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
For what its worth - I've recently downloaded two of the "big boxes" - Tchaikovsky & Mahler. These are all Vanguard-sourced 60's/early 70's recordings in the main by Maurice Abravanel & the Utah SO. By no means best of the best but at the £7.99 price point with Amazon's OK VBR they sound pretty good. Main interest for me was to hear a young Beverley Sills in the Resurrection and the glorious Natania Davrath in the Finale of Mahler 4. The Tchaikovsky box includes complete Swan Lakes and NUtcracker both of which get very good reviews on The bonus is the Stokowski Symphony 4 and a live Monteux/LSO double LP (originally) of Romeo & Juliet, Symphony 5 & Piano Conc. 1 with John Ogdon. Not listened to this yet but the original Gramophone review was very positive. All in all I'm very happy with the buy - just the kind of set MP3 lets you explore at a very good price - only sorry that I can't get the same Mahler set off the American site for just 99 cents!

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Aug 2012 12:31:10 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Nick, I tried that $0.99 link and was similarly rebuffed. Annoying. They took my internet mail-order for the Dvorak and messed me about for two months, but can't allow a download.

Now you've told me Davrath is on the Mahler 4 I think I will invest.

Posted on 6 Aug 2012 12:54:11 BDT
Nick/JJD: If you are tired of living go to the mp3 forum and read the long, tedious, repetitive thread on this very subject.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Aug 2012 13:10:04 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
sorry - too busy watching my favourite tin of paint dry.

Posted on 6 Aug 2012 15:05:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Aug 2012 15:06:29 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Aha the Gramophone reviewed the Lorna Sydney performances (from the Abravanel box) as follows in October, 1952

- - - -&&& - - -
Magic Horn." Lorna Sydney (mezzo-soprano), Alfred Poell (bari tone). Vienna State Opera Orchestra (Prohaska). Vanguard VRS41 2/3 (2 12 in.). Not available in this country.

Mahler's enchanting settings of German folk-poetry-so much more attractive than the symphonies in which he inflated the same style so unduly-receive a classic performance ; both the singers and the orchestra are well on the way towards perfection. Lorna Sydney sounds as if she had worn a dirndl all her life, instead of hailing from an area as remote from the Austrian countryside as Boulder, Australia ; the accomplishment of Alfred Poell is, if no less, more to be taken for granted.

Add recording that is sometimes superb, sometimes merely very good (the characteristics of two different sessions are fairly easily discernible) ; production that runs to an album with four pages of notes, including good essays on Mahler in general and these songs in particular, biographies of the artists, the complete German text of the songs and also English translations and it will be clear that this issue is destined to set standards for Mahler performance and recording. M. M
[end of quote]

Egg on the faces of Gramophone reviewers must be of the Curate's variety!

Posted on 6 Aug 2012 15:51:02 BDT
JayJayDee says:
The Vanguard website ....
Mahler and Vanguard Classics

The music of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) is seen by many as having fallen into relative neglect following his death. If one were to base that notion on the recording industry, one might buy that argument completely - consider that the total playing time of all Mahler recordings issued in the era of the 78rpm record comes to only about 25 hours of total listening compared to, say, the over eight hundred hours of Beethoven's music commercially released on disc prior to 1950.

However, recent research into early performances of Mahler's music by Sybille Werner included in Henri-Louis de La Grange's "Gustav Mahler, Volume IV: A New Life Cut Short, 1907-1911" indicates that live performances were in fact frequent in Europe from the time of Mahler's death - particularly in Germany and Austria up until the rise of Nazism.

The scale and scope of Mahler's music were an overwhelming challenge to the early recording industry (Polydor actually made an acoustic recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in 1924 with Oskar Fried leading heavily trimmed-down forces from the Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra), but two technological breakthroughs changed the game. One was the invention of magnetic tape recording, developed in the mid-1930s in Germany and in frequent use by broadcasters there and in Austria throughout the war era; tape made long takes and easy "cut-and-paste" editing possible on a medium with lower noise and less susceptibility to damage than mechanical disc media. The other was the successful relaunch of the long-playing record format by Columbia in the early 1950s (RCA had tried to launch the medium in the mid-1930s but it failed miserably). Twelve-inch diameter LPs could accomodate well over twenty minutes of uninterrupted music on one side of a record as opposed to the 78, which in the pre-tape-era was limited to about five minutes a side (by 1950, Deutsche Grammophon had developed a mastering system using a tape player with a "leader" head that controlled the spacing between instances of the groove to extend a 78 side with quieter passages of music to as much as ten minutes in duration). As author Jonathan Carr argues in his brief single-volume biography of Mahler, "it was the long-playing record ... which made a comprehensive breakthrough [of Mahler's popularity] possible. Mahler's work became accessible and repeatable in the home."

Mahler's music was championed far more by independent labels in the early days of the LP than the "majors." For Columbia, Mahler's protégé Bruno Walter made important recordings of the Fifth (originally issued on 78) and First Symphonies with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, but most of the other notable Mahler champions of the pre-stereo era were recording for independent labels. F. Charles Adler made recordings of the Third and Sixth Symphonies (both debut recordings), plus movements from the incomplete Tenth, for his own SPA label; Hermann Scherchen recorded Mahler for Westminster, and Jascha Horenstein, Otto Klemperer, and Hans Rosbaud all made important recordings for Vox.

Vanguard established its bona fides as a champion of Mahler with one of the label's very first releases, releasing a 78 (catalogue number 3) of Wer hat dies Lieblein gedacht? from Des knaben Wunderhorn, sung by Mary Paull accompanied by Kenneth Hieber, in 1948.

The earliest LP release of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 appeared nearly simultaneously on two labels - Vanguard and Urania - in 1953; the recording, originally made in 1949 for broadcast, featured the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin (billed as the Berlin Radio Orchestra, now the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester) conducted by Ernst Borsamsky. Like many early classical LPs issued by independent labels, the circumstances surrounding the origins of the recordings and the nature of the business transactions that led to the recording's release remain, to put it politely, a bit of a mystery. Many labels of that era issued recordings pseudonymously (most notoriously the Royale imprint, whose house conductor "Joseph Balzer" could turn out to be anyone from Hans Rosbaud to Hans Schmitt-Isserstedt to Karl Böhm). Vanguard's pioneering Mahler LP was thought by some collectors and scholars to be pseudonymous, but a letter in the Spring 2001 issue of International Classical Record Collector reveals that Borsamsky was indeed a conductor who had had a brief career in East Germany. According to blogger "Problembär", in a more recent e-mail to his blog from record collector "High Pony Tail":

I have in my possession a copy of a Berlin Philharmonic program from 1948 that has a brief biography of [Borsamsky].

He was born 1905 in the former Yugoslavia (in Belgrade if I'm not mistaken). He studied violin at the Vienna Hochscule fur Musik and then made his way as an orchestral violinist, eventually attaining the position of concertmaster at the Warsaw Radio Orchestra. That he must've done some conducting also at this point is probable as he came to the attention of Hermann Abendroth, who took Borsamsky under his wing and gave him some conducting lessons. He also earned favorable attention from Günter Wand, who invited Borsamsky to conduct his Cologne Radio Orchestra. After the 1950's, Borsamsky's name disappears.

The Berlin Philharmonic program notes also explained that Borsamsky was well known for his interpretations of 20th century music, and indeed, that program featured the German premiere of Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. Also in that program were Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe Suite No.2 and Stravinsky's Firebird.

Other early Mahler recordings on Vanguard include twelve songs from Des knaben Wunderhorn sung by Lorna Sydney and Alfred Poell accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Felix Prohaska (first released as double LP VRS 412-413 in 1951 and reissued as single LP VRS-476 in 1956), the Rückert-Lieder sung by Poell with Prohaska and the VSOO (VRS-421), and Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit sung by Anny Felbermayer and Poell with pianist Viktor Graef (VRS-424).

Vanguard also licensed two Mahler recordings from other labels: from Pye, Sir John Barbirolli's recording of the First Symphony with the Hallé Orchestra (Vanguard Everyman Series SRV-233 SD), and from VEB Deutsche Schallplatten (now Berlin Classics) Vaclav Neumann's Fifth Symphony with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Vanguard Cardinal Series VCS-10011/2).

Vanguard's first stereo Mahler recording had a familial link to the composer. It was the first stereo recording of the two-movement version of Das Klagende Lied, released in late 1959 and featuring soloists Margaret Hoswell, Lili Chookasian, and Rudolf Petrak, with the Hartford Chorale and Hartford Symphony Orchestra conducted by the son of one of the composer's cousins, Fritz Mahler.

By the early-1960s, Vanguard had established a reputation as a premier independent classical label issuing premium quality recordings of high artistic and technical merit at a lower price than competing major labels. While much of their focus was on baroque music, solo piano, and chamber music, the label had been making orchestra recordings with the Utah Symphony under music director Maurice Abravanel.

Vanguard's first two Mahler recordings with Abravanel were Symphony No. 8, recorded in December 1963 and released in early 1964, and Symphony No. 7, recorded in December 1964 and released in the spring of 1965. Each was the first available stereo recording of what were then rarely performed works. The critical response to both was overwhelmingly positive; to cite one example, Edward Greenfield, at the time music reviewer of the Manchester Guardian and later the co-editor of the influential Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, quite preferred Abravanel's Seventh to a rival recording by an international superstar of the podium:

Amazingly, Abravanel makes the impossible finale of Symphony No. 7 even more convincing than Bernstein's. Bernstein seems unable to relax enough. ... When you hear Abravanel you appreciate fully the simpler approach. Also Abravanel's warmly rather than tensely passionate account of the first movement is far more effective.

Abravanel's recordings of the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies had beaten Bernstein's to the market by a few months, and were issued at a lower price-point than Columbia Masterworks' recordings. Abravanel's performances offered an alternative to Bernstein's hyper-romanticized interpretive vision, putting the focus on Mahler's daring sonorities and unabashed modernism.

Between 1967 and 1969 Abravanel and the Utah Symphony recorded the Second, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Symphonies; five years later, in a string of sessions covering a period of a week, the First, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, plus the Adagio from the Tenth, were recorded. These 1974 sessions were recorded during the brief "quadrophonic" era, and were released release in both stereo and quadrophonic LP formats. The entire cycle remained in print until the end of the LP era, and began reappearing in 1991 on compact disc, again at a value price.
The thorough and informative liner notes for Vanguard's Mahler cycle added to the recordings' value for the dollar, with most of them written by Mahler authority Jack Diether and prominent classical broadcaster Martin Bookspan. The notes are reproduced on this web site in their entirety.
- Gene Gaudette

Posted on 6 Aug 2012 16:46:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Aug 2012 17:49:53 BDT
(1) Vanguard Classics Mahler

In the CD re-release, Mahler 1 was accompanied by Des Knaben Wunderhorn sung by Maureen Forrester and Heinz Rehfuss; again the conductor was Felix Prohaska but with the 'Orchestra of the Vienna Festival. The recording dates from May-June 1963

(2) Getting it wrong about Mahler

Olin Downes (1886-1955), 'respected' (the word invariably used) critic of the New York Times (1924 onwards) reviewing Mahler 2 performed by Karl Muck in Boston (22 Jan 1918) - 'But we believe the music will be shelved long before the memory of the man and his potent services to his art will be forgotten' and Mengelberg conducting Mahler 5 (3 Dec 1926) - 'His spirit, not his music, commands respect and admiration, while he seeks vainly, by means of funeral marches, battle fanfares, Vienna waltzes, rondos, fugues, and what not, and with the aid of an immensely enlarged orchestra, to find his creative goal. But he is helpless, and certainly his music will perish'. He stuck to this line right up to his death. Downes himself wasn't without critics and one cynical soul suggested he re-read all his previous reviews prior to writing a new one to maintain consistency of opinion.

Walter Damrosch conducted the first ever performance of a Mahler symphony in America (No 4, 1904). Later he wrote 'All his life he composed, but his moments of real beauty are too rare , and the listener has to wade through pages of dreary emptiness which no artificial connection with philosophical ideas can fill with real importance'. Henry-Louis de la Grange suggests the change of heart came about through the arrival in New York of Mahler himself to conduct a revived Philharmonic, a serious rival to Damrosch's New York Symphony Orchestra.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Aug 2012 17:40:42 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Getting it further wrong... The Amazon downloads of this Vanguard Classic set have incorrectly labelled (and titled them wrongly right down into the Properties to the files) for Um Mitternacht, Ich atmet einen linden duft and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.

I've spent hours tidying these up. Effort well-spent though.
I've found that Abravanel has earned his respect a second time over. AND, I've discovered that those recordings were not late '50s as previously thought, but some were right up to 1974 .
Now that was a surprise!

Doesn't Mahler provoke some wierd errors - of both judgment and fact ?

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2012 12:59:05 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
Might I recommend Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time as both an entertaining and somewhat salutary read. The one common thread is how 'knowledgeable' critics over the centuries have woefully got it wrong regarding great composers and their music.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2012 15:50:53 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Nick, Have they included your reference to Bax and Mahler yet?

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2012 18:41:22 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
JJD: explain this - I've recently bought the Solti/Mahler cycle AND the Abravanel cycle (the big box Mahler download) - its a kind of love/hate thing I have going on here, my psychologist can't wait to get stuck in.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2012 21:11:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Aug 2012 21:30:07 BDT
JayJayDee says:
..Nick.. I wouldn't be a music-lover's psychologist for love or money (which can so easily be translated into box-sets).
I'm listening to the Abravanel right now.... (Resurrection- of course)
I first heard Abravanel's Mahler with the Seventh - loaned to me by a CM-fanatical lecturer in 1970. I didn't have the seventh at that time (leaving it til last to be honest) but the magical first movement interlude affected me so much that I've always wanted to hear more Abravanel - but never done so. Now I've got the whole bloomin' lot, and the part of the set that has astonished me already is the 1950 song settings. Not even Abravanel.

Anyway, Nick I reckon you'll be exempted from the Musical Invective book upon that admission! Personally I keep telling myself to listen to more Bax but it doesn't yet grab me by the throat.
Not like 'Im tempo des scherzos. Wild herausfahrend'...anyway!

Posted on 7 Aug 2012 23:24:34 BDT
Roasted Swan says:
JJD: I've been enjoying a quick dip into the Abravanel set - so the opposite of the Solti in just about every regard but it works wonderfully. A superficial initial impression is that the Wunderhorn Symphonies have the ideal balance of simplicity and wonder. Not milked and wrung for every emoting drop. Davrath is worth the admission alone. But then I turn to Solti and I love the sheer powerhouse thrill of his approach too. What can I say....!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Aug 2012 00:04:32 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Just listened to the Abravanel Resurrection and Third in succession and have been very, very impressed. One or two oddities of balance were more than made up for by some new detail I had not noticed before despite having umpteen versions and all the scores!!
I can't bring myself to accumulate any more Solti Mahler after being battered rather than moved by the Eighth. Trouble was I bought the Wyn Morris version the same year (1971) and have always preferred that (and Horenstein's) conception.

Abravanel clearly suffered lack of appropriate critical acclaim and poor marketing of Vanguard in the UK.
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Initial post:  22 Mar 2012
Latest post:  8 Aug 2012

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