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German Album

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 17, 1994
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Overture To Tannhauser
  2. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Lebhaft
  3. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Scherzo: Sehr Massig
  4. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Nicht Schnell
  5. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Feierlich
  6. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Lebhaft
  7. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat, Op. 97 'Rhenish': Overture To Manfred, Op. 115
  8. Mephisto Waltz (The Dance At The Village Inn)


Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 17, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chesky Records
  • ASIN: B000003GE0
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,334 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This is a great CD - one of my very favorites. Rene Leibowitz was so underrated, it's criminal. Considering all the mediocrity recorded during the 1950s and 60s, it is certainly puzzling why such a brilliantly talented and highly versatile conductor like Leibowitz was so rarely recorded. He should have been given a comprehensive series of recordings on a major label with major orchestras and performers.
This Schumann Symphony No. 3 is one of the finest recordings of anything I know. Leibowitz makes legends look like amatures with this performance. The precision and clarity he gets from this orchestra is geniunely astonishing. The Schumann 3rd symphony has one of the thickest and seemingly hopeless orchestrations, yet through his sheer skill and occasional touch-ups to the score, Leibowitz turns this symphony into pure, clear and crisp musical magic from start to finish. A really remarkable achievement. An absolute travesty we didn't get an entire Schumann symphony set from Rene.
The rest of the disc is also fantastic, especially his hair raising and profound interpretation of the Tannhauser Overture.
Leibowitz belongs high atop the Mt. Olympus of great conductors. What a shame he never really received his fair due on records.
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Chesky has done an absolutely first-class job of transferring these classics to CD. Produced by the legendary team of Charles Gerhardt & Kenneth Wilkinson, these recordings from 1960-62, originally on Reader's Digest LPs, emerge here in absolutely demonstration quality sound.

Sonic hedonism aside, the performances are fully worthy of the highest praise. Rene Leibowitz (1913-1975) was one of the last century's great conductors, and these readings represent some of his finest moments. Wagner's Tannhauser is given a dynamic reading, and it ranks with the greatest in stereo (e.g., Bruno Walter, Hans Knappertsbusch) as well as such mono landmarks as those by Mengelberg and Furtwangler.

To my taste, this sparkling Leibowitz account of Schumann's wonderful "Rhenish" Symphony is one of the finest-ever stereo versions, along with the Heger/Bamberg Symphony (Concerto Royale), Semkow's account with the St. Louis Symphony (Vox), and the Schuricht/Stuttgart Radio (in a 10-CD box set from Scribendum). A stretched rubato or two aside, this is a very exciting performance, and Leibowitz's exceptional transparency is evident everywhere (you can follow it with the score and be amazed at how EVERYTHING "sounds out").

Leibowitz gives a fine account of the Manfred Overture, although it misses some of the grandeur of Furtwangler (DG) and the sheer neurotic dualism (Florestan vs. Eusebius) of Kletzki (my favorite, coupled with a lesser Rhenish on Angel LP). Finally, there is a stunning Mephisto Waltz, easily in the same exalted stereo category as those by Paray (Mercury) and Scherchen (DG Westminster). It even comes close to my all-time favorite: Weingartner and the London Symphony (IMG).
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First, let me agree with those who find this disc enjoyable to listen to. It is. I don't fault the performances as such, and the compositions are wonderful, of course. However, I have to line up with the reviewer who called attention to the grossly obvious alterations to Schumann's Rhenish Symphony. There are performances out there that do quite well with the original orchestration, and while I won't deny that Leibowitz's genetically engineered version works in its own way, one wonders why a person would feel compelled to do it in the first place. My reaction is a bit like my feeling toward Thomas Beecham's goofball re-orchestration of Handel's Messiah: I can get into it, yes, but at the end of the day the original just has more appeal. So for a different take on Schumann, as kind of an enjoyable lark, I can endorse this disc -- but don't forget the actual source.
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Leibowitz is one of the most underrated conductors ever. It is a pity that the recordings with this remarkable conductor are few. This is a good recording if not exceptional. It is a powerful reading not unlike another great Schumann conductor, Riccardo Muti. But where Muti get's fantastic response from his orchestra Leibowitz is sometimes let down by his. The balance and the phrasing are not without criticism but you have to admire the conviction and the power. It is certainly not a first choice in this music but you can always buy it and enjoy the ride !
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It is remarkable how other previous reviewers seem to care nothing for Leibowitz's willful alterations to the score (I thought we had long ago passed that nonsense about Schumann's own poor ability to orchestrate which permitted, if not required, others to come in and touch up the scores as it suited them) - as Leibowitz does here - not to mention the intrusively agogic tempi that even Bernstein doesn't attempt. - If you love the "Rhenish", stick to Sawallisch, Szell, or Zinman.

Now I love the engineering of Ken Wilkinson and Charles Gerhardt in whatever capacity, but this is one of the LEAST impressive of their Readers Digest recordings (released by David Chesky). In fact, ironically it is in only the one non-German piece, Liszt's "The Mephisto Waltz," that we get the kind of great sound they were famous for.

Add to all this, a frightfully undistiguished Tannhäuser (by the way, the umlaut comes over the second "a", not the first - as the CD liner notes and titles would have it here) bettered by countless other conductors, and you've got a CD for Leibowitz completists only.
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