Sony Classics produced the RCA Living Stereo 65 CD box,and this box is along the same lines,but with recordings mainly from 1940 to 1965,with one from 1912-1919.The box that contains the CDs is made from tough cardboard,which slides into another box. You can use this box to place the CDs you want to play in it.At the back of the box is the CD number and the pieces to be played. The CD sleeves have the original picture on the front;in the right hand corner,the motif,"Masterworks Hertiage",with MONO,STEREO or ACOUSTIC era printed below. On the back the track numbers and pieces to be played,plus at the top, the CD number. The disk is black,with a thin band around the edge,generally with the same colour as the back of the sleeves,also the CD number and composer. You cannot get lost. The CDs slip out of their sleeves easily and they will take rough handling. The booklet is similar to the Living stereo box set.From CD 1-28,you have the track numbers,pieces played and year recorded,and who is involved in this endeavour. Then comes details of the soloist,conductor,a bit of their history and sometimes a article written by that person,and details about the composer. You will find the booklet very informative.
The sound is good and has been digitally remastered.Or as the advert on the plastic wrap covering the box says,"legendary early mono and stereo recordings remastered from the original tapes". If you collect these box sets as I do,you will be aware that Sony Classics produce excellent products;one has only to look at the 70 volume Toscanini box set,to see how well thought out they are. So,to explain what is in this small and compact box,which is the size of the box set "Verdi at the Met";I will place the CD number first,then the composer and pieces to be played,plus year recorded. Also,if possible,I shall use the reviews from the Penguin Classical guide 1977 and 2008. Before I start, I shall give an illustration of how much musical history there is involved in this set.
Belgian Ysaye(1858-1931)was a pupil of Vieuxtemps,who when he became a teacher taught Ernest Bloch. Ysaye formed ties with Franck,Chausson,D'Indy,Faure,Saint-Saens and Debussy. Zino Francescatti's father was a violinist,who studied with Paganini's only pupil. Reiner was born in Budapest,Hungary,in 1888. His music teacher was Bela Bartok and he knew Kodaly,whose works he conducted.His mentor was Hungarian Arhur Nikisch who was Furtwangler's only role model.Nikisch fired the imagination of Hungarians Szell,Ormandy,Fricsay,Dorati and Solti.Both Karajan and Bernstein dropped his name as a token of their legitmacy.Reiner became a life long friend of Richard Strauss,whose early premieres he conducted.Mitropoulos's most famous protege was Bernstein,who had the same passion for Mahler's Works.
American Thomas Schippers died in 1977 at the age of 47. He championed Barber's work right from the beginning of his conducting career,as well as Menotti's work;both of whom he knew well. Piatigorsky played in a trio with Horowitz and Milstein;later he formed an ensemble trio with Rubinstein and Heifetz. Fleisher is an American. He studied in Rome with Schnabel,then made his debut in San Francesco with Pierre Monteux in 1942,who conducted Stravinsky's premiere of the Rite of Spring in 1913.Casadesus friendship with Ravel started in 1922 and up to 1930 they played together each year.Later on,the former played in a duo with Francescatti,who at times also played with Ravel. Shostakovich was friendly with Rostropovich and dedicated his Cello concerto op 107 to him. Lastly,Bruno Walter, who was an assistant conductor with Mahler. He spent his entire life championing the composers work.
(CD 1)MICHAEL RABIN:(MONO)the Columbia debut recordings 1950-1953. Ivan Galamian had taught virtually all the major soloists of the latter part of the 20th century,including Zuckerman,Perlman and Kyung-Wha-Chung. He stated in a New York times article,that" Rabin was his most exceptional talent-no weaknesses,never" (CD 2) EUGENE YSAYE:(ACOUSTIC).
Ysaye the CD has a hiss which some restoring experts choose to leave on so as not to lose the bloom.BRAHMS: Hungarian dance no 5.(1912).CHABRIER:Piece pittoresque no 10.Scherzo valse(1912). DVORAK:Humoresque in g flat major(1914).FAURE:Berceuse(1912).KREISLER:Caprice viennois(1912) MENDELSSOHN:Concerto for violin and orchestra.Allegro.(1912). SCHUBERT:Ave Maria.(1914). SCHUMANN.Abendlied(1912). VIEUXTEMPS: Rondino(1912). WAGNER:Albumblatt.(1912) Prize song Meistersingers.(1912) WIENIAWSKI: Mazurkas 1&2(1912).YSAYE:Muzurka Reve d'enfant(1913).CHABRIER: Joyese Marche(1919)." The range of his emotional inspiration has been rivaled by few violinists.His intensely personal tone cannot be mistaken for that of any other player"(booklet).(CD 3) CLAUDIO ARRAU:(MONO) LIZST: Concerto for piano and orch No 1. Fantasia on Hungarian folk songs. The Philadelphia orch cond Eugene Ormandy.(1952)Hungarian Rhapsodies.((1951 &1952) piano.(CD 4 &5) ZINO FRANCESCATTI:(MONO) MENDELSSOHN:Concerto for violin and orch(1954).BRUCH:Concerto No 1 for violin and orch(1954).SAINT-SAENS:Concerto for Violin No 3(1950).New York Phil-Cond Dimitri Mitropoulos.TCHAIKOVSKY: Concerto for violin and Orch(1954).PROKOFIEV:Concerto for Violin and orch No 2(1952).New York Phil cond Mitropoulos.CHAUSSON: Poeme for violin and Orch(1950).Philadelphia Orch cond Ormandy (CD6)MAHLER:(MONO)Symphony No 1.(1940)RACHMANINOFF: The Isle of the dead.(1945)Minneapolis Sym Och cond Mitropoulos.
(CD 7) REINER:(MONO) SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony no 6(1945).KODALY:Dances of Galanta(1945) WEINER:Divertimento No 1 for string Orch(1945).BARTOK:Hungarian Sketches(1947).KABALEVSKY:Colas Brueungnon overture(1945).GLINKA: Wedding and dance song(1946) cond Pittsburgh Symphony Orch.(CD 8)REINER:(MONO) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 2.(1945). MOZART: Symphony No 35(1946)and No 40(1947). Pittsburgh Symphony Orch.(CD 9)STOKOWSKI;ORMANDY:(STEREO).Stokowski's orchestral transcriptions have been successful and controversal. However,Bach transcribed music of other composers. Stokowski was his actual surname,not Stokes as has been suggested.He was born in Marylebone,London,so he was a Cockney. He was a brilliant musician;I am not sure why he disguised his past and his speaking voice. His father was of Polish descent and his mother Irish.BACH:Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Three Chorale Preludes. Ich ruf zu dir. Non Komm der Heiden Heiland.Wir Glauben all an einen Gott.(1960).Philadelphia orch cond Stokowski.Toccata,adagio and fugue.(arr Ormandy). Passacaglia and fugue in C minor(arr Ormandy)(1968) cond Ormandy.
(CD 10) EUGENE ORMANDY:(STEREO) J.S. Bach,J.C Bach.W.E Bach. C.P.E.Bach.Philadelphia orch cond Ormandy.(1957 &1960)(CD 11&12)SCHUMANN:(STEREO) Symphonies No 1(Spring).(1958) No 2(1958) NO 3(Rhenish)(1960) No 4(1960).Manfred overture (1959). The cleveland Orch cond George Szell," his readings have precision,momentum and vigor,tempered by a warmth not always present in the conductor.He is able to stand alongside the finest interpreters of his day"(CD 13)BERNSTEIN:(STEREO)MILHAUD: Les Choephores(1961).ROUSSEL:(1961)Symphony No 3(1961). HONEGGER: Pacific 231.(1962) New York Phil.
(CD 14)SCHIPPERS:(STEREO) BARBER: Medea's dance of vengeance(1965). Adagio for strings.Very emotional-T.Second Essay for orchestra(1965) Overture to the school for scandal. Andromache's farewell-sung by Martina Arroyo (1963). Intermezzo from Vanessa (1960).Schippers has a way with Barber-T. MENOTTI: Ovverture to Amelia al Ballo (1960). BERG: Interlude from Wozzeck.(Act 3)(1960) D'INDY: Introduction to Fervaal.(1961).
(CD 15-18)BEETHOVEN:(MONO)String quartets No 4 in c minor(1941).No 9 in C Major "Rasumovsky"(1941)No 1 in F Major(1940). No 11 in F minor'Serioso'(1941).No6 in b flat major.(1945). String Quintet in c major op 29(1945). No 1 in E flat major(1942). No 15 in A minor.(1942) No 16 in F major (19400. No 14 in C sharp minor.(1940). string quartet in A major,op 18(1941). Budapest String Quartet. "They were recorded at concerts given at the Library of Congress from 1940 to 1945. The F major Rasumovsky from 1941 has all the momentum,dramatic contrast and inevitability of growth. The recordings from the 1940's are pleasingly full bodied. Also,the music making has a beautiful intensity and silkiness of tone". The notes state that the Budapest string quartet was to chamber music what Toscanini was to the orchestra. They were very popular-T.(CD 19)PIATIGORSKY:(MONO) DVORAK: Concerto in B minor(1946).BRUCH: Kol Nidrei(1947).SAINT-SAENS: Concerto No 1 for Cello and Orchestra.(1940) Philadelphia Orch cond Ormandy.(CD 20)
SZELL:(STEREO) PROKOFIEV: Symphony No 5.(1959) BARTOK:Concerto for Orchestra(1965).Cleveland orch cond Szell.(CD21&22)SZELL:(STEREO)DVORAK:No 7.(1960) Carnival overture.(1963). SMETANA: Overture to the Bartered Bride.(1958)
(MONO) String quartet in E minor(arr Szell).(1949)(Mono0 Symphony No 8.(MONO).No 9 from the "New World"(1959)."The playing is polished and has genuine vitality,hardly does one feel that Szell's discipline interferes in any way with the music's spontaneity. No 7 has a strong forward impulse. No 8 is is superbly played and very exciting. The New World has a refined largo".
(CD 23 &24) FLEISHER:(STEREO) BRAHMS: Concerto for Piano and Orch No 1(1958). Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel. Concerto for piano and orchestra No 2.(1962). Waltzes.(1956).(MONO) Cleveland Orch cond Szell.(CD 25 &26)RAVEL:(MONO)Pavane pour une infante defunte. A la maniere de Chabrier. A la maniere de Borodine. Sonatine. Miroirs.(1951) ma mere l'oye. Habanera-Robert and Gaby Casadesus. Jeux d'eau. Prelude in A minor. menuet sur le nom d'Haydn.(1951). Berceuse sur le nom de Faure. Francescatti-violin,Casadesus-piano. Le Tombeau de Couperin. Valses nobles et sentimentales. Menuet antique. Gaspard de las nuit.(1951) Piano Concerto for the left hand (1947) Philadelphia cond Ormandy. (CD 27)SHOSTAKOVICH:(MONO).Violin Concerto No 1.Oistrakh-violin. New York cond Mitropoulos. "This violin concerto written for Oistrakh by the composer has a most powerful atmosphere.Mitropoulos display's a firm grip on the proceedings".(1956) Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Rostropovich-cello. Philadelphia orch cond Ormandy.(1959)(STEREO). " First performer and dedicatee Rostropovich gives a uniquely authoritative reading.Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra accompany superbly,with a warmth rare with new scores."
(CD 28) MAHLER:(MONO). Symphony no 1 "Titan"(1956).BRAHMS: Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn.(1951). New York cond Bruno walter. " For many the 1956 version is the definitive recording of the first symphony.It is different to the excellent Stereo 1961 recording with the Columbia symphony orchestra. It is taut,muscular,and has a almost reckless fervor in the orchestra playing that Walter in his final years rejected".I hope you enjoy this set as much as I have done.
REFERENCES:Booklet: Masterworks heritage. Lebrecht,N.The Maestro Myth.1997.pocket Books. Penguin Guides 1977 and 2008.