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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended by the World's Foremost Authority on the Music of Richard Strauss., 10 April 2014
This review is from: Fritz Reiner Conducts Richard Strauss - The Complete Rca And Columbia Recordings (Audio CD)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) had an especially close relationship with four young conductors.

Fritz Reiner and George Szell were just beginning their careers when they encountered the World's Foremost Authority on the music of Richard Strauss.
26 Year-old Reiner joined the Dresden Court Opera in 1914.
The following year, 18 Year-old Szell was hired by the Berlin Court Opera.
Their connection with Strauss was not as close as Mahler's with Walter and Klemperer, but both conductors were part of Strauss's inner circle.
This was largely a matter of circumstance:
World War I was raging; travel in Germany was restricted.
To be blunt, they were stuck with each other's company for the duration.
- Strauss and Reiner collaborated in preparing the first performance of "Die Frau Ohne Schatten".
The composer conducted the premiere in Vienna, Reiner the second performance in Dresden (both 1919).

Reiner left Dresden in 1922 to become Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony.
Ten years later, after Hitler came to power, Szell left Germany, eventually settling in Cleveland. *
Both remained loyal to Richard Strauss in the New World.
In the composer's life, they were replaced by Clemens Krauss and Karl Bohm, more established conductors who attached themselves to the Old Man's orbit: Krauss conducts Strauss - and - Richard Strauss: Tone Poems

This box: Fritz Reiner was Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1938-1948, and of the Chicago Symphony, 1953-1963.
In between he was based in New York, primarily at the Metropolitan Opera.
The first three CDs in this box are mono recordings, 1941-1951:

- Pittsburgh Symphony: Don Juan, Don Quixote (w/ Gregor Piatigorsky), Ein Heldenleben, Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite (1941-1947)
- Metropolitan Opera Orchestra: Final Scene from Salome (w/ Ljuba Welitsch, 1948)
- RCA Symphony (New York): Till Eulenspiegel, Tod und Verklarung (1950), and excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier (w/ Rise Stevens and Erna Berger, 1951)

Note: the 1946 Pittsburgh Bourgeois Gentilhomme is Reiner's only recording of the complete nine movement suite. For the 1956 Chicago remake, two movements were omitted. Presumably this was done so it would fit it on one side of an LP.
This is the first authorised release of the mono recordings. Newly re-mastered for this box.
Andreas K. Meyer did a pretty good job; the Pittsburgh 78s in particular were never state-of-the art.

The remaining eight CDs are stereo recordings, 1954-1962; seven with the Chicago Symphony, one with the Vienna Philharmonic.

The Chicago Symphony CDs pose a bit of a problem.
Not that there is anything wrong with them.
But this is Sony's third box with the title: "Fritz Reiner Conducts Richard Strauss".
Earlier boxes were less complete than the new one, and were limited to Chicago recordings.
All of Reiner's Chicago recordings were included in last year's Fritz Reiner: Complete RCA Collection , a 63 CD box.
Expensive, but worth it.
Fortunately, the price of this new box has been set artificially low, so I have no problem justifying the partial duplication.

Reiner's performances are lean and athletic, a lot like Richard Strauss's own: Strauss Plays Strauss
None of the schmaltz and angst that you get from a conductor like Karajan.
Richard Strauss' 1929 recording of Don Juan times in at 15:36
Reiner's three recordings: 15:47 in 1941 , 16:00 in 1954 , 16:24 in 1960
_Compared with Karajan: 17:11 in 1959 , 18:03 in 1973 , 18:13 in 1983.

I confess to a fondness for for Karajan's inflated Also Sprach Zarathustra - the 1973 Berlin Philharmonic recording, not the 1984 digital remake.
Karajan also recorded a great Alpine Symphony (not in Reiner's repertoire) in 1980.
Both Karajan recordings are in the new Blu-Ray Audio box from DG: Karajan / Strauss Deluxe Box (DG box set)
But I'll stick with Reiner for everything else.

Presentation: Everything comes in an attractive cardboard box with a nice booklet.
Modified original jacket format with original program notes.
Some LPs have new couplings to save space, so you lose program notes.
Also LPs that came packaged as boxed sets have no program notes (Elektra, Salome, Bourgeoise gentilhomme, Don Quixote).
Biggest disappointment: No texts or translations for the vocal works, but I've come to take that for granted. Sigh.

SOUND: Hard to believe, but RCA's "Living Stereo" is celebrating its 60th birthday this year.
These 1954-1962 recordings are the best the Chicago Symphony has ever sounded.
Orchestra Hall deserves a lot of the credit.
A better recording studio than concert hall - the room actually sounded better empty.
After Reiner's retirement, the hall was remodeled with disastrous results.
Decca tried a number of different recording venues for Georg Solti, but none could match what RCA engineers achieved in old Orchestra Hall.

All the Chicago Symphony stereo remasterings are carried over from last year's 63 CD Reiner box.
This is good news.
Ten of the thirteen entries are 2004 "Living Stereo" CD remasterings (24-bit)
- the Burleske with Byron Janis is a 1997 "Living Stereo" remastering (20-bit).
- the 1962 Also Sprach Zarathustra is a 2002 Japanese XRCD remastering (24-bit).
- the 1954 Don Juan was newly remastered in 2013 (24-bit).

Note: the 2004 "Living Stereo" CD remasterings were also issued as state-of-the art SACDs.
You will need an SACD player and at least 3 speakers to appreciate their ultimate sound potential.
The SACDs are still in print at reasonable prices:
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra; Ein Heldenleben , Symphonia Domestica/Le Bourgeois (Reiner, Cso) , Strauss: Scenes From Elektra And Salome , Vienna , Don Quixote, Don Juan (Reiner)

The CDs in this new box are 24-bit CDs, not SACDs, which means that the sound will not be as good as SACD, though this is the best these recordings have sounded on CD.
Never transfered to SACD: 1954 Don Juan**, 1962 Also Sprach Zarathustra, Burleske with Byron Janis, and the Vienna Philharmonic Tod und Verklarung and Till Eulenspiegel.

The 1956 Tod & Verklarung and Till Eulenspiegel with the Vienna Philharmonic were a joint project with Decca.
RCA released them on LP, and after 25 years, the rights reverted to Decca, just in time for CD (Sony licensed them from Decca/Universal).
These were producer John Culshaw's first stereo recordings in Vienna, a dry run for Wagner operas to come
(RCA did better in Chicago, at least in 1956).
The same 24-bit remasterings that Decca issued in 2000.

* George Szell, in a 1968 interview, revealed that Richard Strauss once was late for a recording session with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, c.1920.
Rather than wait, Strauss telephoned Szell and told him to go ahead and start the recording session without him.
Strauss's first recording of Don Juan was conducted mostly by Szell (uncredited) and partly by Strauss.

Szell recorded much of the same repertoire in Cleveland that Reiner did in Chicago, minus Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and Burleske.
Plus the First Horn Concerto, and, in London, the Four Last Songs with Schwarzkopf (EMI).
- Also recommended by the World's Foremost Authority on the Music of Richard Strauss.
Available as single CDs. On the Amazon search bar, enter
Music: Strauss Szell

** There is a typo in the booklet with the the SACD Don Quixote/Don Juan: The 1960 Don Juan (16:24) was used, not the 1954 Don Juan (16:00) as claimed.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Apr 2014 08:10:29 BDT
Robby says:
With all due respect, wouldn't it have been better to wait until you've actually HEARD this set before awarding it five stars? You may know all the performances, but you presumably don't know which transfers have been used. If they are new transfers, recent experience suggests we can't necessarily expect improved sound.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2014 12:03:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Apr 2014 22:58:47 BDT
You have a point.
But I didn't comment on the sound.

I reported on the contents of the box
in greater detail than Amazon provides.
Plus some historical background.

I will provide information about the sound as soon as the box arrives.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2014 09:08:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Apr 2014 09:18:16 BDT
Robby says:
Have no wish to prolong this debate, but any person seeing a star rating at the top of a 'review' would likely assume that it represents an assessment of the whole package, i.e. the music, the performances and the sound.

There is no specific assessment of any of the performances, or their sound quality, in your review.

Consequently, I continue to believe that your posting a rating is distinctly premature.

Posted on 19 Apr 2014 14:34:00 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 19 Apr 2014 15:19:40 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2014 16:49:54 BDT
Paul T says:
Thanks Robby. I agree with your position. It is quite interesting to read about the parallel observations on Georg Szell etc and I look forward to hearing Mr Fowler's further review when he's had a chance to listen.

Posted on 27 Apr 2014 11:34:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 May 2014 04:57:55 BDT
Ultrarunner says:
To all,

I have written the review for Strauss conducts Strauss 7 CDs, recordings from 1921-1941. Obviously for those who like the composer. I have also gone into the history of conducting regarding Strauss.

John has now written in his review how the Reiner Richard Strauss CDs sounds; it is all a bit technical for me. I would like to point out, that John is one of the best reviewers I have read. He has a unique style which is required for this new technology, also, like myself, he explains in detail everything. For one has to, as the reader is buying the product sight unseen. That does not mean I do not respect the more traditional reviewer, I do.

Posted on 6 Sep 2014 17:59:00 BDT
If it's any use John I think your review was of immense intellectual value and I'm completely unconcerned that you had not listened to all the CDs. As a purchaser already well informed of such well known music, my interest is in the contents and how the latest incarnations are put together and since neither Amazon nor Sony volunteer such information this is invaluable, as is your expert knowledge of the background. So, thank you very much with no reservations. As an adjunct I think the mandatory star ratings Amazon require can be invidious. In line with Gramophone magazine, I think many useful comments are not appropriate for scoring and I feel it should be optional.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Sep 2014 20:11:08 BDT
Thank you for your kind words.

Whenever one of these reissue boxes for a musician I care about is announced, I start to assemble my thoughts for an essay.
This usually involves several hours of listening to old CDs and research on the internet and at the library.
Not a problem - I'm retired and this is my hobby.
When the box arrives, the first thing I do is sample the recorded sound to make sure there are no surprises.

The Reiner Strauss box was relatively easy - all his Chicago Symphony recordings were issued a year earlier in Fritz Reiner: Complete RCA Collection
The new box used the same 2012 remasterings, which was entirely predictable.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Sep 2014 20:29:22 BDT
me too John. Importantly, I couldn't find an accurate contents list anywhere on the web (found plenty but none are accurate), so yours was handy. I purchased the complete Chicago Reiner, so wasn't sure about this one. Speaking selfishly, I could do with Sony issuing a box with just the rest, most of which I don't have, but that's unlikely given the mix.
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