TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 November 2013
Who was Fritz Reiner? He was born in Budapest in 1888. One of his teachers at the Franz Liszt Academy was Bela Bartok whose music he championed all his life .He helped the composer when he was poverty stricken in the USA.In 1914-1921 he was appointed principal conductor of the Saxon state opera in Dresden,where he became a life long friend of Richard Strauss.He travelled to Leipzig and Berlin to absorb and learn from the great Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch, who became Reiner's mentor. According to Lebrecht "Nikisch was the model for youngsters wherever he went. In Russia,he fired the imagination of Koussevitsky,France, Monteux,in Switzerland of Ansermet, in Germany of Furtwangler- his only role model. The mighty succession of Hungarian maestro's-Reiner, Szell, Ormandy, Fricsay, Dorati, Kertesz(drowned in his 40's)and Solti-traced its origin to Nikisch. Both Karajan and Bernstein dropped his name as a token of their legitimacy". So Bernstein might for his teacher was Reiner.(pg 40).
Reiner came to the States in 1922 where he became music director of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra and left the post in 1931,because he divorced his second wife and quickly married his third,who stayed with him until his death.However,from 1931 to 1941 Reiner was a teacher of conducting at the Curtis institute of Music,Philadelphia,where one of his pupils was Leonard Bernstein.During 1938 to 1948 he was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.He hit the big time,when from 1948 to 1953,he was a leading conductor at the Met,New York.Thereafter,from 1953 until his death in November 1963,he was conductor of the Chicago symphony orchestra.
Reiner loved music to the depths of his soul,for he stated "a conductor needed to live a piece heart and soul.Feeling intensely the music that he is conducting or else his music falls coldly on the heart".His pupil Bernstein took this view as if writ in stone. Reiner had a contempt for poor musicianship and would not tolerate it. Second best was not good enough. This was his sensitvity coming to the fore;believe it or not. He also had a sense of humour,though a biting one.I do not think he suffered fools gladly.
Fritz Reiner "was a short man who used a big baton and a tiny beat" wrote Harold Schonberg in the New York Times."As a musical intellect,as an incomparable musician,as the possessor of an ear virtually unparalled in his field, Reiner held a unique spot in 20th century musical life".He held his long and extraordinarily eloquent baton lightly with his fingers. Only for special emphasis did he raise his arms,and the figure he presented to the audience lacked any hint of histrionics, which you cannot accuse Bernstein of.But to the players in front of him,he offered extensive body language.He would cue a wind player by puffing out his cheeks,indicate a crescendo by raising his eyebrows or a diminuendo by lowering them. For complex meters,he used his body,beating in three with his baton, while marking duple time with his left elbow. This then is Reiner,the Man. From the Pittsburgh Orch; Masterworks Hertiage box set. Beethoven Sym No 2(1945). Mozart Sym 35(1946) and 40(1947).Shostakovich sym no 6 (1945).Works by Kodaly,Weiner and Bartok and Glinka.(1945-1947). REFERENCES:Hart,P.Fritz Reiner-a biography.2013.Masterworks Heritage.Lebrecht,N.The Maestro Myth.1997.Pocket books. Morgan,K. A perfectionist on the podium.2013. RCA Reiner box set.
A dark strong card board black box, with Fritz Reiner Chicago Symphony orchestra written in white with complete RCA recordings in yellow Ochre below. One side has printed 36 sleeves,and the other the head of Reiner. Underneath,has written 32 pieces of music remastered from the original analogue tapes in this edition. Also the symbol of Sony Classics, which has produced box sets such as The Toscanini complete RCA collection, and the Satin covered box set, Verdi,the great recordings. The dark black lid has Reiner's signature, which is bold and slants to the right, which shows Reiner was a strong personality and artistic. This lid is unusual,in that it has a small front and big back. On a flat surface, you can use it to put CDs waiting to be played. Inside the box, is another box which is the norm these day's.
The sleeves are the originals, with the actual essay in small writing on the composer,symphony, or music to be played on the back,as in the days of LPs;remember them. I shudder at the thought. They are making a come back. The spine has the composer, the name of the music to be played,and the CD number. No track numbers on the back, or on the CD. There a four double CDs with no information on the back, only on the front. The CDs are easy to extract.You might see part 1, or first movement on the label, ignore it. Some labels are deep purple; not the rock group, and the rest bright red. This is an attempt to make it exactly like the original LP, even down to the black vinyl colour.Why? I havent a clue. For example,so authentic is this box, that Also sprach Zarathustra,is in one sleeve CD 1,and CD 2 is Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. Whereas in the RCA Living stereo Box, both tone poems are on one CD. Anyway, you cannot get lost.
However,do not lose the hard covered booklet;with many pictures. An essay on Reiner, and next, a picture of the sleeve, with the composer, music to be played, CD numbers and track numbers. At last a strong booklet,as they are usually flimsy. The sound is good, according to the publicity stuck to the plastic covering the box." 32 works newly remastered from the original analogue tapes using 24 bit/96kHz technology. All other CDs feature latest Living stereo SACD and XRCD remasterings." I wonder what it means. A tech head would know. In the box are 18 CDs from the two Living stereo box set.
I shall go across the page using reviews from the Penguin classical guides;1977,1996 and 2008, plus Gramophone Guide 2009. I shall start off with the CD number,the date recorded, Composer and then review,with a few comments from me-T. All with Reiner and Chicago Symphony orchestra, so I will not mention him,accept the soloists. He comes up in some reviews.
(CD 1)(1954)RICHARD STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra."Among the earliest of stereo LPs,it has been acclaimed for 50 years as one of the finest recordings of the work ever. The stuff of legends."(CD 2)(1954)RICHARD STRAUSS: Ein heldenleben."Whatever he does is convincing" (CD 3)(1954)BRAHMS: Piano concerto no 1-Rubinstein,Piano."This is a poetic and essentially lyrical reading."(CD 4)(1955)LIEBERMANN: Concerto for Jazz band and symphony orchestra. Reiner was conducting and stated in the newspaper cutting printed on the back of CD sleeve "that there was future for this new type of music".He was swaying to the music,he seemed to like it. Above, the head line,"long hairs,hepcats-dig that crazy combo". I wonder what he would have made of the Rolling stones, Sid Vicious and the Punks, or even hippies. The mind boggles. Give Reiner his due he did try to keep in touch with musical trends. RICHARD STRAUSS: Don Juan."It is most famous for the erotic central section and for the thrilling climax".(CD 5)(1955)BEETHOVEN "Eroica".Sym No 3."Undoubtedly a compulsive Eroica, big boned in its epic qualities."(CD 6)(1955)Brahms violin concerto in D-Heifetz violinist."A sovereign account of this concerto."(CD 7)(1955).TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano concerto No I-piano Emil Gilels."This is a very exciting,full blooded version,including a beautifully gentle account of the outer sections of the slow movement."One of the best-T.(CD 8)(1956).MOZART:Divertimento No 17. Eine kleine nacht music.
(CD 9)(1956) BARTOK: Concerto for orchestra."A classic recording."(CD 10 &11)(1956)RICHARD STRAUSS: SALOME and ELEKTRA Excerpts. Inge Borkh,Paul Schoeffler and Frances Yeend.'No Straussian should miss this disc."Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Inge Borkh. CD Preiser records.London sym orch. Vienna Phil. Courtsey of Decca records.(CD 12)(1956) BEETHOVEN: Symphony no 7."A powerful,understanding performance. The fast tempo for the final draws brilliance from the Orchestra."(CD 13)(1956)TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 overture."Without cannon,but is very enjoyable nevertheless."LIZST: Mephisto Waltz. A superb account of Lizst's waltz, perhaps the finest on record.WEINBERGER: Polka and Fuge from Schwanda. SMETANA: The bartered bride overture. DVORAK: Carnival overture.Fizzes. Fast tempo.-T
(CD 14)(1957)RACHMANINOFF:Piano Concerto no 2-piano Rubinstein.(CD 15)(1962) RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini-Rubinstein Piano. FALLA: nights in the Gardens of Spain.(CD 16)(1957)JOHANN STRAUSS: Morgenblatter. kaiser-Walzer. An der schonen, blauen Donau. WEBER:Invitation to the dance. RICHARD STRAUSS. Der Rosenkavalier: Waltzes. Reiner plays the Johann Strauss's waltz's as they should be played,he captures the viennese spirit.-T(CD 17)(1957) TCHAIKOVSKY: violin concerto -Heifetz Violin."A performance of personality from Heifetz and Reiner."(CD 18) (1957)RACHMANINOFF: Piano concerto No 1 piano Janis.(CD 19)(1957) RICHARD STRAUSS: Domestic symphony."A reading of stature,worthy to rank along side the best."
(CD 20 & 21)(1957) MOZART:Symphonies No 36,39,40 &41. The movements taken very fast remind you of the authentic instrument school. Yet these symphonies were recorded years before they began their revolution.-T(CD 22)(1958) PROKOFIEV: Lieutenant Kije."This is another colourful example of the Chicago orchestra at their peak." STRAVINSKY: Song of the nightingale.(CD 23)(1958)BRAHMS: Piano concerto no 2.Gilels-piano."very satisfying performance".(CD 24)(1958).RAVEL:Rapsodie espagnole. Pavane for a dead Princess. RACHMANINOFF: Isle of the dead."These performances are in an altogether special class"(CD 25)(1958) MUSSORGSKY:Pictures at an exhibition arr Ravel."Reiner's approach is evocative."(CD 26)(1958) BRAHMS: Symphony no 3."a magnificent performance" (CD 27)(1958) TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony no 6.Good, but I prefer Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic orchestra."His very Russian account is justly renowned.It is deeply passionate".(Penguin Guide 1996)(CD 28)(1958)DEBUSSY: Iberia. Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales.Alborada del gracioso.A penguin rosette for excellence.(CD 29)(1958)DVORAK: Symphony no 9 "New world"."How well the music flows with lovely playing."
(CD 30)(1958)GRANADOS: Intermezzo. DE FALLA:Interlude(La vida breve. Dance(La Vida breve). Three cornered Hat suite no 2. ALBENIZ:Navarra."They have more sparkle then many recordings made since."(CD 31)(1958) HOVHANESS: Symphony No 2.Mysterious Mountain. STRAVINSKY: Divertimento from the fairy's kiss.(CD 32)(1959)TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture reissued in stereo,the other(CD 13) was mono?.MENDELSSOHN: Fingal's Cave."exciting account"LIZST: Mephisto Waltz. BRAHMS:Tragic Overture.(CD 33)(1959) ROSSINI: overtures. William Tell. La Scala di Seta. Il Signor Bruschino. The barber of Seville.La Gazza Ladra. La Cenerentola." Reiner's classic collection here emerges as sparkling and vivacious as ever."(CD 34)(1959)BEETHOVEN:Symphony No 5.Quick tempo's as Beethoven should be played-T Coriolan overture.(CD 35)(1959) MAHLER: Symphony no 4. Lisa Della Casa-soprano."Everything Reiner does sounds spontaneous.The slow movement has striking intensity. Della Casa is in ravishing voice" Reiner prefered long takes so that his recordings had the feel of a live performance.Booklet.
(CD 36)(1960)BARTOK: Music for strings,percussion & celesta/hungarian sketches."Reiner is one of the master Bartok conductors" (CD 37&38)(1960)MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde.Maureen Forrester. Richard Lewis.This is one of the best recorded,along with Ferrier &Patzak,Vienna Philharmonic Orch cond Walter 1952. Thats how highly I rate this recording-T. HAYDN: Symphony no 88.(CD 39)(1960)RICHARD STRAUSS: Don Quixote."A top recommendation."(CD 40)(1960)MOZART:Concerto no 25- piano Tchaikowsky.Overture to Don Giovanni.
(CD 41)(1960)PROKOFIEV: Alexander Nevsky. Rosalind Elias Mezzo."The performance is gripping from the first bar to the last,with choral singing of great fervour and a movingly eloquent contribution from Elias in the great Lament." (CD 42)(1960)KABALEVSKY: Colas Breugnon overture. TCHAIKOVSKY: Marche Slave. BORODIN: Prince Igor: Polvotsian March. MUSSORGESKY: Night on the bare mountain. TCHAIKOVSKY: Marche Minature. GLINKA:Russlan and Lyudmila overture. Reiner is always good in these popular pieces,full of energy and quick tempo's. He shows us how they should be played.-T (CD 43)(1960)SCHUMANN: piano concerto. Van Cliburn-piano."Satisfying reading"(CD 44)(1960)TCHAIKOVSKY:Excerpts from the Nutcracker ballet.(CD 45)(1960)RESPIGHI:Pines of Rome.Fountains of Rome. "Legendary recordings of Respighi have never been surpassed for their sultry Italian warmth."(CD 46)(1960)RIMSKY-KORSAKOFF:Scheherazade."Stands out among the many superb RCA recordings made in Chicago in the 1950's."(CD 47)(1960) WAGNER:Die Meistersinger: Prelude to Act 1.Prelude to Act 3. dance of the Apprentices. Entry of the Masters.Gotterdammerung:Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine journey. Funeral Music.(CD 48)(1961)DEBUSSY: La Mer."he captures the atmosphere of this french piece-T RICHARD STRAUSS: Don Juan.Recommended-T.(CD 49)(1961)JOHANN STRAUSS: Wiener Blut. Rosen aus dem Suden.Unter Donner und Blitz.(CD 50)(1961)SCHUBERT: Symphonies 8th'unfinished' and 5th. "Which is essentially sunny with a vigorous finale. No 8 has a superly dramatic and impulsive first movement and a rich lyrical finale".
(CD 51)(1961)LIZST: Totentanz. RACHMANINOFF: Piano concerto no 1.Janis.(CD 52)(1961)BEETHOVEN: Piano concerto no 5 "Emperor"-Piano Van Cliburn "creates much excitement in the outer movements,with powerful support from Reiner."(CD 53)(1961)BRAHMS: Piano concerto no 2-Van Cliburn.(CD 54&55)(1962)BEETHOVEN: 1st and 9th symphony."The 9th convey's power. This is a fine example of Reiner's mastery." Extremely fast tempo's.Makes you hear Beethoven's 9th as if for the first time.-T(CD 56)(1962 )RICHARD STRAUSS:Also Sprach Zarathustra. A newer recording-T.(CD 57)(1962)RACHMANINOFF: piano concerto no 2. van Cliburn-piano."is second to none".(CD 58)(1963)BEETHOVEN: piano concerto no 4-van Cliburn piano.(CD 59)(1963)BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 6."an outstandingly fresh and enjoyable performance."(CD 60)(1963) FALLA: El Amor Brujo.Leontyne Price."Fiery and colourful account.Price is riviting,as a flamenco singer". BERLIOZ:Les Nuit's D'ete."Price is well supported by Reiner and the Chicago orch in its heyday."(CD 61)(1963)HAYDN: sym no 101.Sym no 95. Musicians from the Chicago orch,Met Orch,New York Phil and the sym of the air,(NBC Orch). Made two months before Reiners death.(CD62)(1959)SCHUMANN Concerto for piano and orch. LIZST: Totendanz- Janis Piano.(CD 63)J.S BACH: Concerto for key board and orch no 5.Piano-Tchaikovsky.SMITH: The Star Spangled banner. Fritz Reiner discusses Beethoven's symphony very briefly.
I hope you enjoy this set as much as I do.