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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 April 2014
RCA Sony Classics are renowned for the excellent quality of their box sets. They have produced Toscanini the complete RCA recordings, Fritz Reiner Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis and Living Stereo Vol 1 Box sets,now Living Stereo Vol 2. The box is made of tough cardboard, with the CD numbers, Composer, music to be played, soloist and conductor on two sides. The lid can be taken off where you can deposit the CDs you wish to play. Inside the box is another box. Then rubber is placed down one side, the back and floor. You place the booklet on the other side. So as you see, the CDs are well protected. The sleeves have the original picture on the front, with composer, music to be played, conductor etc. The back; composer, music, track numbers, not forgetting the big CD number in white on a coloured background; such as Emerald Green and light lemon yellow, also on the CD. The CD has the CD number and below, composer, music and artists, conductor and orchestra. The 60 CDs are devided into 6 colour codes of 10CDs. You cannot get lost. (see my reviews below).

On the top of the box covered with plastic wrapping is the statement, "Legendary recordings"; many are, and "State of the Art sound". You will not find the following printed anywhere in the box. My Research shows the following: Remastered from the original analogue tapes using 24 bit/96 kHz technology. A few are taken from the living stereo SACD remasterings, but are not quite the same. Nearly all the CDs are stereo, but a number are digital remastered. I hope this information helps you.

The booklet only in English, is highly informative as was Vol 1, for it gives details of the composers lives, articles that they wrote,and the music is explained; also the lives of the conductors and soloists. That is why I think that this set could be useful for those new to collecting classical CDs. No translations or CD Rom for the operas. The playing time of these CDs is shorter then Volume 1, but that is no problem, RCA Sony records have merely used the format of the original LP records.

There is history lurking in this box. The great Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein, had Joachim, Brahms closest friend as his tutor at the Berlin Hochschule, of which Joachim was the first director. Vladimir Horowitz was the son in law of Toscanini. Serafin's Professor of composition who knew Verdi, studied in the same Conservatory with Boito, Othello's librettist and Faccio who conducted the Premiere. In a number of roles Serafin heard the first Iago, Victor Maurel, Desdemonia soprano Romilda Pantaleoni, and Othello Francesco Tamagno, whom he became friends with, as he played the Viola, at La Scala. Copland was born in New York. He attended the Fontainbleau School of music in France, and from there he went on to Paris for three years of private lessons in composition and orchestration with Nadia Boulanger, who was a pupil of Faure. Also, she taught American Phillip Glass, now the greatest living composer. Hungarian Fritz Reiner's mentor was Nikisch, and he also inspired Frenchman Pierre Monteux, who conducted the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in Paris. Monteux was a mentor to David Zinman. Reiner did teach Bernstein in the USA. However, in 1914 Reiner was principal conductor of the Saxon State opera in Dresden, where he became the lifelong friend of Richard Strauss.

The only role model Furtwangler had was Nikisch, who influenced the contemporary view of a subjective but authoritative orchestral educator, who was able to bring out all the musical substance from the score and the orchestra through detailed work. He was the first modern conductor of the 20th century who did away with the traditonal view of the time beater. Reiner's conducting was influenced by the greater flexibility of music making current in the late Romantic era-a style common until after the First world war and by then by the more precise, detached, objective styles favoured in the mid-20th Century. His rhythmic style lay exactly between the greater freedom of tempo advocated by Wagner, Von Bulow, Nikisch, Mahler, Mengelberg and Richard Strauss(in his early years) and the stricter control of tempo exemplified by Weingartner, Muck, Strauss (in his later years) and Toscanini. ( from A perfectionist on the podium by K Morgan. Sony records 2013.)

I shall not review every CD for Amazon has provided the list of music played, but what I have written should give you an idea of what the set is like.

BEETHOVEN: (1956) Piano concerto's 1-5. Symphony of the air cond Josef Krips.The last movements are played fast. I wonder how Rubinstein manages that?. There is no doubt this is piano playing of a master. Krips and Rubinstein are as one.

RACHMANINOFF: (1957) Piano concerto No 1. Chicago Symphony orch cond Reiner. Piano Byron Janis. R. STRAUSS: Burleske. Janis has the gift of the Romantic style, with beauty, vigor and vivid as needs be. Reiner's conducting adds to this recording.

TCHAIKOVSKY: ( 1958) Digitally remastered. Symphony No 5. Boston Symphony Orch cond Pierre Monteux. His reading is straight forward, exciting and spontaneous. He was 86 when he conducted this piece. Among the best available.

BRAHMS:(1958) Piano Concerto No 1 Gary Graffman piano. Boston Symphony Orchestra cond Munch. A swift opening by the orchestra. Then the music seems to float, and Gary Graffman captures the energy in the music, and is swift in his playing. The Adagio is beautiful, what can one say; words are so limited. For music can be beyond poetry; beyond what we think we know. For emotion can take us into that hidden cave we call inner silence. And we may ask, is life all there is? Brahms No 1 as it should be played. One of the finest renditions of this piece I have yet heard, which is a subjective point of view. -T

ROSSINI: (1958) Overtures William Tell, La Scala di Seta, Il signor Bruschino. Barber of Seville, La gazza ladra, La Cenerentola. Chicago Symphony Orch Cond Reiner. A magnificent achievement. This recording won a rosette from the Penguin classical guide for excellence.

BEETHOVEN:(1959) Digitally remastered. Sonata in F minor,op 57. "Appassionata". Sonata in D,op 10,No 3. Piano Vladimir Horowitz. Shows how powerful he could be in the music of Beethoven. There is bravura too in the finale of the "Apassionata."

TCHAIKOVSKY: (1959) Digitally remastered. Symphony No 4. Boston Symphony Orchestra cond Monteux.(1875-1964) Played with a passionate forward Romantic sweep. Extremely quick tempi, my favourite version of the 4th symphony. Try Franck's symphony conducted by Monteux, in my opinion the best available. Swift tempi.

MAHLER: (1958). Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Kindertotenlieder. Maureen Forrester contralto. Boston symphony cond Munch. In Vol 1 reviewers raved over Forrester's singing in Das lied von der Erde, Chicago Symphony Orch, cond Reiner. I think they will also rave over this performance.

BEETHOVEN: (1958) Sonata for Piano and violin no 9 "Kreutzer". Sonata for piano and violin no 5 "Spring". Rubinstein -Piano. Szeryng-violin. A superlative team playing in a superlative manner. While its fresh, dewy bright quality offers an exhilarating experience. Of course the Decca Perlman and Ashkenazy interpretations are classics.

PROKOFIEV: (1959) Alexander Nersky. Cantata for mezzo-Soprano, Chorus and orchestra. Rosalind Elias (Mezzo). Chicago Symphony Orch cond Reiner. Even now these early stereo Chicago recordings can astonish the listener, while Reiner's performance is among the most exciting available. Elias's lament is very eloquent. Translations in booklet.
KHACHATURIAN:(1958) Digitally remastered. Masquerade Suite. KABALEVSKY: The Comedians. RCA Victor Symphony Orch cond Kiril Kondrashin. He was a great Shostakovich conductor. His performance is affectionate and colourful as well as lively. The sort of music that cheers you up and puts a spring in your step. Want to get pumped up, play the Comedians.

COPLAND: (1959) Digitally remastered. Appalachian Spring. The Tender Land suite:Suite. Boston Symphony Och cond Aaron Copland. Distinctive and radiant. The CD to go to, for it is conducted by the composer himself.

BIZET: ( 1960) Digitally remastered .Carmen Suite. Morton Gould and his orchestra. Excerpts from the opera without the singing. Marvellous. If you have a CD player in your car, play it as you drive along and sing loudly. I am sure the other drivers will be impressed, even the Rap lovers.

LISZT: (1959-1960) Liebestraum No 3 in A -flat major. Un sospiro. Hungarian Rhapsody No 11. Il penseroso in C-sharp minor. Consolation No 3 in D-flat major. grandes Etudes de Paganini. Gary Graffman Piano.

BRAHMS:(1960) Concerto for piano and orchestra No 2. Chicago Symphony Orch cond Leinsdorf. Richter Piano. This performance has all the intensity of a live occasion and finds him in splendid form. It is wayward, mannered in places, but the basic structure is always kept in sight. Very dashing.

GIULIANI: (1959) Guitar Concerto in A Major. ARNOLD Guitar Concerto op 67. Julian Bream Guitar. Melos Ensemble Cond Malcolm Arnold. His concerto written for Bream in 1957 is surely definitive.

SCHUBERT: (1960) Piano Concerto in D major D 850. Emil Gilels Piano. His highly perceptive account captures the music's Schubertian spirit. He is authoritative.

BEETHOVEN : (1960) Serenade for Violin, Viola and Cello. Heifetz Violin, Primrose, Viola, Piatigorsky. KODALY: Duo for violin and Cello. Heifetz Violin and Piatigorsky cello. The beautiful virtuosity of these players and the vastly superior sound make the RCA disc the first choice of the editions available-1981 Cohn.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF ENGLISH LUTE MUSIC: Julian Bream Lute. Robert Johnson -Two Almanines. John Johnson -Fantasia. Cutting- Walsingham. Dowland- mignarda. Cutting -Almaine. Rosseter- Galliard. Cutting -Greensleeves. Dowland- Galliard upon a Galliard of Danial Bacheler. Morley- Pavon. John Dowland- Batell Galliard. A history of the Lute in the Booklet. Sting plays the Lute and likes Dowland. The lute comes out of Moorish Spain, that is why it reminds me of the UD because of the shape, which makes a bass sound and is Middle Eastern. If you wish to relax listen to the Elizabethian music.-T

GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor op 16. Rubinstein always has something interesting to say in any major concerto. The final is both commanding and exciting. RCA Victor Symphony orch/ Wallenstein. SCHUMANN: Romance in F-sharp major. VILLA-LOBOS: O polichinelo from Prole do bebe. LIZST: Valse oubilee no 1. PROKOFIEV: March from the three oranges. DE FALLA: Danza ritual del fuego from El amor brujo. Rubinstein piano.

CHOPIN:(1961) My Favourite Chopin Van Cliburn piano. Polonaise in A-flat major 'Heroic".Nocturne in B major op 62/1. Fantaisie in F minor op 49. Etude in A minor. "Winter wind". Etude in E major op 10/3. Ballade No 3 in A flat Major op 47. Waltz in c-sharp minor op 64/2. Scherzo No 3 in c sharp minor op 39.

DEBUSSY:(1962) Prelude to the Afternoon of a faun. Nocturnes: Nuages. Fetes. Printemps is ravishingly sensuous. The results are compelling. There is some polished orchestra playing from this marvellous orchestra. Boston Symphony Orch cond Munch.

PUCCINI: (1957) Digitally remastered. Tosca. Milanov, Bjoerling, Warren, Corena. Rome Opera orchestra cond Leinsdorf. Bjoerling was at the top of his form as Cavaradossi. There is much beautiful singing from Milanov who recorded all too little. Warren is a lyrical Scarpia; sings well. Leinsdorf as he always is, a fine conductor of opera.

BEETHOVEN:(1961) Symphony No 9. Chicago Symphony orchestra cond Reiner. Singers Phyllis Curtin soprano. Florence Kopleff contralto. John McCallum Tenor. Donald Gramm Bass. Reiner sustains tension. This is a fine example of his mastery and is well worth hearing. The ensembles have knife edged precision. First and 2nd movement are swift and the last movement full of energy as the 9th should be.

BERLIOZ: (1961) Romeo and Juliet. Juliet Rosalind Elias Mezzo-soprano. Romeo Cesare Valetti tenor. Father Laurence Giorgio Tozzi. Boston Symphony orchestra cond Munch. The soloists make an impressive team. The superb playing of the orchestra stands out. The sense of drama, the romanticism of the love duet is what one remembers.

DONIZETTI: (1957) digitally remastered. Lucia Di Lammermoor. Rome Opera Orch cond Leinsdorf. Roberta Peters portrays Lucia as a young naive girl which comes through well in the lyrical passages. In the final act she really delivers. She is a lyrical coloratura soprano, but different to Sutherland who is a dramatic coloratura soprano. Peerce with his distinctive voice fits in well with Peters. It was Peerce who encouraged her to study singing aged 13. Tozzi is fine. Leinsdorf is excellent as always. He came to the Met on Toscanini's recommendation, which means he is at home in the Italian repertoire.

ROSSINI: (1958) The Barber of Seville. Merrill, Peters, Tozzi, Corena. Met opera orch cond Leinsdorf. Roberta Peters is a sparkling Rosina. Merrill's glorious voice is well focused and firm. Valletti, has a light lyrical voice, sometimes bringing to mind the great Schipa. Corena and Tozzi make up a formidable team. Leinsdorf conducts with a lightness and is relaxed. A classic-T

VERDI:(1960) digitally remastered. Othello. Vickers, Rysanek and Gobbi. Rome Opera Orch cond Serafin. No conductor is more understanding of Verdian pacing then Serafin. Tito Gobbi has never been surpassed for vividness of characterization, and the young Vickers as the Moor has a voice naturally suited to this part. Rysanek is a warm and sympathetic Desdemonia, although she is a dramatic soprano. Even today, this recording has not been surpassed-T

CHOPIN: (1965) The Nocturnes. Rubinstein piano. 3 Nocturnes op 9. 3 nocturnes op 15. 2 Nocturnes op 27. 2 nocturnes op 32. 2 Nocturnes op 37. 2 Nocturnes op 48. 2 Nocturnes op 55. 2 Nocturnes op 62. Nocturne in Eminor op posth 72/1. Andante. Rubinstein is a magician in matters of colour. A firm recommendation. Penguin guide 1977 has given this recording a rosette for excellence.

I hope you enjoy Vol 2 as much as I have. An excellent companion to Volume 1.

REFERENCES: Cohn ,A. Recorded Classical music. 1981. Schirmer Books-New York. Ewen, D. The World of 20th Century music. 1968. Prentice-Hall. Hall,P. Fritz Reiner-a biography,2013. Sony music. Lebrecht, N. The Maestro Myth.1997. Pocket Books. Living Stereo Vol 2 booklet. 2014. Sony classics. Penguin classical guides 1977, 1990, 1993, 2008.
44 comments| 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 May 2014
First: those reviewers who complain about short measure on these cds have a fair point. Only 1 is longer than 60 minutes (Beethoven 9th) (around the minimum these days) and 3 are shorter than 30 minutes which was short even by lp standards. However having paid only £48 even if this set had been reduced to 40 decently filled cds it would have been good vaue for money. And sometimes it is nice to have just one work on a cd instead of being tempted to listen to an extra unwanted item.
Second: this box is not as bristling with brilliant performances as the first one was: there were many discs in that one which were arguably the best ever recorded performances. Generally the cds in this box are not as essential listening. However it still deserves 5 stars: the notes are excellent. In many bargain boxes these days there are no notes at all, or very skimpy ones translated into several languages so that what looks like a thickish book only has a couple of pages of English. And the notes are almost all outstandingly written by such writers as Neville Cardus, Richard Mohr, George Marek, Julian Bream, Alberto Moravia and Thurston Dart. The several complete operas do not include libretti but do include quite detailed synopses.
As for the music making: it is never less than interesting: others have mentioned their favourites: the final three Tchaikowsky symphonies conducted by Pierre Monteux are brilliant, with superb orchestral playing. The performance of Verdi Requiem has already become something of a favourite: Birgit Nilsson's floated top note in the libera me is the purest I have ever heard on disc or live, and not only does she soar effortlessly over everyone, in the declaimed lower sections her diction is clear, forthright and intense. Bergonzi's Hostias is so gloriously phrased, Flagello just pours out the richest bass as if it were chocolate sauce and Chookassian's mezzo is wonderfully solid. Leinsdorf's conducting has been criticized fro inflexibility but he keeps the ensemble perfectly together and the orchestra shimmers, blazes, coaxes and cajoles by turns with perfect balance and excellent articulation. If there are better Verdi requiems out there than this I have not yet hear them. Rubenstein's Chopin is hors de combat, I already had this performance of Verdi's Otello with Vickers, Rysanek and Gobbi conducted with complete authority by Serafin: it is magnificent. I have still to listen to Horowitz play Beethoven, Munch play Berlioz, Tosca and many other fine things. If you are making your mind up between box 1 or box 2, box 1 is the better. But box 2 is still well worth having.
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on 22 April 2014
Following on from the excellent Volume 1, this box set, whilst perhaps not quite as enticing as the first, contains some real gems from the early stereo era. Presentation is excellent, CD covers replicating the original record sleeves. Original notes are also included in a substantial booklet. I paid less than £50 for the set, but whatever you pay, it's an absolute bargain!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 May 2014
Sony's engineers have performed technical miracles to produce 60 discs of such amazing quality, transparency and clarity from 50 to 60 years ago. There are some small issues but these are small. To think that these are only about £1 per disc at the time of my purchase, makes them superb value.

Each individual performance has been optimised to extract the most technically while remaining true to the original recording. IMHO this set is better in every respect than vol 1 which was impressive in itself when released. Vol 2 shows to me that there have been improvements in restorative technologies used by the engineers.
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on 6 December 2014
As other have pointed out, there are many treasures here. Also, as others have also pointed out, there are many that are available as singles or as parts of other collections (such as Reiner's Strauss and the Cliburn concerto box). There are also short playing times. I would also have preferred original jackets. But if you can find, say, 5 or 6 discs out of the 60 that you don't have then to buy these as singles would equal the price of this set so you're ahead.
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on 29 April 2014
One of the main reasons I ordered this set was to obtain the recording of Beethoven's 8th Symphony conducted by Charles Munch. Amazon UK's list of contents states "DISC 40-41: Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 8 + 9, Price / Forrester / Poleri / Tozzi, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch" but DISCs 40-41 in the box are the Reiner recordings of the 1st and 9th with the Chicago Symphony. The booklet even lists the Reiner recordings. Many of the recordings in this set are duplicates of those contained in the previously issued Reiner, Van Cliburn, and Rubinstein box sets. So it is very disappointing to find that a recording gem previously NOT issued was misleadingly advertised as included. I was also disappointed to see the ballet music dropped from Otello even though the opera was spread out over 3 CD discs. The previous Living Stereo CD release had dropped the ballet to accommodate the opera on 2 CD discs. I was hoping that 3 CDs would duplicate the original 3 vinyl records and include the ballet.

In spite of my quibbles this was great value for the amount spent, and I imagine especially so for those who had not previously purchased some of the items as parts of other sets.
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on 11 May 2014
I am gradually getting through this great Living Stereo Box Set Vol 2. The sound quality is excellent as usual, and one of the many highlights for me is the complete Tosca with Zinka Milanov and Jussi Björling.

DISC 34 Jacket shows Symphony No 4 on the front, and Symphony no 8 on the back.
Could someone please confirm that this beautiful recording of the Dvorak Symphony No 8, is by the The Boston Symphony Orchestra - Charles Munch, which the booklet also confirms?
I have searched the internet for information without success.

DISC 18 is Alexander Nevsky
NOT Schubert: Death and the Maiden - The Juilliard String Quartet, as stated above in the Amazon Product Description, and is also not on this set.

There is no hesitation in recommending these beautifully presented, original artwork jackets and great sounding recordings.
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on 23 April 2014
Good quality, as expected having purchased volume 1.
Disappointment is the very short playing time of most of the discs. As little as 22 minutes 38 secs (shortest) and many less than 40 mins. I am jumping up and changing the disc as often as an LP. This makes volume 2 much worse value than volume 1. Important that buyers are not assuming (like I was) that the deal would be similar.
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on 23 April 2014
A pity, as other reviewers have said, that the CDs are so short - they are simply in this case the original LPs without any fillers or combinations. However, there are many delights in here and for £48 delivered for 60 (short) CDs I am not complaining. Looking forward to Volume 3 - hopefully some more treasures, but please a little longer on each disc!
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on 31 December 2014
Slightly disappointing. Not as good as Mercury Living Presence. Many of the CDs have only 35 minutes playing time. The Mercury had extra items and average time was 70 to 80 minutes.

Still worth buying as there are some real gems to be found.
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