Living Stereo - The Remastered
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Audio CD, Box set, October 28, 2016
~ The ultimate “Living Stereo” Collector’s Edition – A celebration of high-fidelity analogue recording
~ All 60 CDs newly remastered from the original 2- and 3-track master tapes using 24 bit / 192 kHz technology
~ First ever release of 48 “Living Stereo” LPs on CD
~ Hardcover bound book with a new introduction by discographer Michael Gray, full discographical notes and content listing
~ All albums with facsimile LP sleeves and labels
About “Living Stereo”:
Early in the fall of 1958, the world of high-fidelity music reproduction changed forever. The promise of multi-channel reproduced sound, under development for decades in the laboratory, and previously heard only in specially equipped cinemas or by wealthy hi-fi aficionados, could now be enjoyed by anyone in their own home, thanks to the latest innovation in recorded sound, the stereophonic LP record.
Among the dozens of companies then offering these new records, one stood out from the rest: RCA Victor. With more than half a century of collaboration with the world’s greatest musical artists, from Caruso to Stokowski, Toscanini, Heifetz and Rubinstein, and drawing on its unequalled technical expertise, RCA proudly announced its own “Living Stereo” multi-channel disc, the newest and most advanced development of RCA’s venerable New Orthophonic High Fidelity.
Supporting the debut of “Living Stereo” were the technical skills of RCA Victor engineers, and the invaluable expertise of RCA’s corporate sound researchers. From the very first “binaural” experiments with Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra on October 6, 1953 in New York’s Manhattan Center, RCA’s team of producers and engineers rapidly developed the techniques and recording gear that culminated in the first “Living Stereo” sensation, Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. These techniques were further developed in the months that followed, and within a year, recording in stereo had become the standard for documenting RCA’s incomparable classical artists.
RCA Victor built an unparalleled library of two-channel recordings on LP that have earned “Living Stereo” the esteem and affection of generations of musical lovers. Today, thanks to the digital revolution and to improvements everywhere in sound technology, the heritage of “Living Stereo” is introduced to new generations of music lovers, sounding better than ever, and reaffirming the slogan, “The World’s Greatest Artists are on RCA Victor Records”.
DISC 1: LSC-2147: Schubert — Trout Quintet ~ Festival Quartet ~ Sankey
DISC 2: LSC-2207: Schumann — Carnival ~ Fantasy Pieces ~ Dorfmann
DISC 3: LSC-2250: Encores by Kogan
DISC 4: LSC-2254: Victoria — Requiem Mass ~ Choir Of The Abbey Of Mount Angel ~ Portland Symphonic Choir
DISC 5: LSC-2261: Shostakovich — Symphony No. 5 ~ National Symphony Orchestra, Mitchell
DISC 6: LSC-2275: A Brahms-Schumann Recital ~ Maureen Forrester
DISC 7: LSC-2276: Brailowsky Encores
DISC 8: LSC-2280: The Art Of Song ~ Cesare Valletti
DISC 9: LSC-2293: Stravinsky — Suite Italienne ~ Debussy — Sonata For Cello and Piano ~ Piatigorsky ~ Foss
DISC 10: LSC-2294: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ~ Boston Pops ~ Fiedler
DISC 11: LSC-2303: Milanov Operatic Arias ~ Zinka Milanov ~ RCA Victor Orchestra, Basile
DISC 12: LSC-2312: J. S. Bach — Cantatas Nos. 56 And 82 ~ Harrell ~ Shaw ~ RCA Victor Orchestra And Chorus
DISC 13: LSC-2330: Brahms — Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60 ~ Festival Quartet
DISC 14: LSC-2345: Tchaikovsky — 1812 Overture ~ Ravel — Bolero ~ Morton Gould
DISC 15: LSC-2352: Blackwood — Symphony No. 1 ~ Haieff — Symphony No. 2 ~ Boston Symphony Orchestra, Munch
DISC 16: LSC-2353: Vivaldi — 4 Bassoon Concertos ~ Sherman Walt ~ Zimbler Sinfonietta
DISC 17: LSC-2354: Mozart — Fantasia, K. 475 ~ Sonatas K. 457 And K. 330 ~ André Tchaikowsky
DISC 18: LSC-2360: Chopin – Préludes · Barcarolle · Études · Mazurkas · Ballade No. 3 ~ André Tchaikowsky
DISC 19: LSC-2365: Boccherini ~ Vivaldi ~ Vivaldi-Bach — Concertos For Cello ~ Janigro ~ Solisti Di Zagreb
DISC 20: LSC-2373: Presenting Jamie Laredo
DISC 21: LSC-2378: Schubert — “Death And The Maiden” (Quartet In D Minor) ~ Quartettsatz ~ Juilliard String Quartet
DISC 22: LSC-2379: Roberta Peters in Recital
DISC 23: LSC-2412: Schumann — Dichterliebe ~ Selected Songs ~ Cesare Valletti
DISC 24: LSC-2413: Debussy — Quartet In G Minor ~ Ravel — Quartet In F ~ Juilliard String Quartet
DISC 25: LSC-2414: Brahms — Sonata In D Minor ~ Bach — Partita In E ~ Jaime Laredo
DISC 26: LSC-2415: Debussy — Preludes, Book I ~ Jean Casadesus
DISC 27: LSC-2416: Operatic Choruses ~ Robert Shaw Chorale
DISC 28: LSC-2417: 176 Keys – Music for 2 Pianos ~ Vronsky And Babin
DISC 29: LSC-2420: Brahms — Trio In E-Flat ~ Beethoven — Sonata For Horn And Piano ~ Eger ~ Babin ~ Szeryng
DISC 30: LSC-2421: Henryk Szeryng In Recital
DISC 31: LSC-2424: Vivaldi — The Four Seasons ~ Societa Corelli
DISC 32: LSC-2456: Lalo — Symphonie Espagnole ~ Szeryng ~ Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Hendl
DISC 33: LSC-2460: J. S. Bach — Suite No. 2 ~ Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 ~ Janigro ~ Solisti Di Zagreb
DISC 34: LSC-2470: More Classical Music For People Who Hate Classical Music ~ Boston Pops ~ Fiedler
DISC 35: LSC-2472: Bruch — Concerto No. 1 ~ Mozart — Concerto No. 3 ~ Laredo ~ National Symphony
DISC 36: LSC-2473: Brahms — Piano Quartet In G Minor ~ Festival Quartet
DISC 37: LSC-2481: Carter — Second Quartet ~ Schuman — Quartet No. 3 ~ Juilliard String Quartet
DISC 38: LSC-2497: Galina Vishnevskaya Recital
DISC 39: LSC-2517: Brahms — Piano Quartet In A, Op. 26 ~ Festival Quartet
DISC 40: LSC-2524: Dvorák —String Quartet, Op. 61 ~ Wolf — Italian Serenade ~ Juilliard String Quartet
DISC 41: LSC-2531: Berg — Lyric Suite ~ Webern — Five Pieces, Op. 5 / Six Bagatelles, Op. 9 ~ Juilliard String Quartet
DISC 42: LSC-2532: Gould — Ballet Music ~ Fall River Legend ~ Interplay ~ Latin American Symphonette ~ Gould
DISC 43: LSC-2553: Shostakovich — Cello Sonata ~ Schubert — “Arpeggione” Sonata ~ Shafran
DISC 44: LSC-2557: Bach Organ Music ~ Carl Weinrich
DISC 45: LSC-2567: Poulenc — Concerto For Organ, Strings And Timpani ~ Stravinsky — Jeu De Cartes ~ Zamkochian ~ Munch
DISC 46: LSC-2578: Birgit Nilsson ~ Songs By Schubert ~ Wagner ~ Strauss ~ Grieg ~ Sibelius
DISC 47: LSC-2610: Paganini ~ Saint-Saens ~ Friedman ~ Hendl ~ Chicago Symphony
DISC 48: LSC-2626: Beethoven Quartet op.131 ~ Julliard Quartet
DISC 49: LSC-2632: Beethoven Quartet op.95 & 135 ~ Julliard Quartet
DISC 50: LSC-2646: Liliane Garnier Recital
DISC 51: LSC-2647: Chausson - Symphony Franck - Le chasseur maudit ~ Boston Symphony Orchestra, Munch
DISC 52: LSC-2648: Rachmaninoff — Suites Nos. 1 And 2 For Two Pianos ~ Vronsky And Babin
DISC 53: LSC-2653: Music For Strings ~ Solisti Di Zagreb ~ Janigro
DISC 54: LSC-2666: Finlandia — Music Of Sibelius ~ Morton Gould
DISC 55: LSC-2671: Virtuoso Favorites ~ Erick Friedman
DISC 56: LSC-6068: Beethoven ~ Schumann — Quartets ~ Festival Quartet
DISC 57-59: LSC-6172: Handel — Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 ~ Alexander Schneider and His Chamber Orchestra
DISC 60: SPS-33-190: The Power Of The Organ ~ Robert Owen
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Living Stereo 60 CD Collection
Living Stereo 60 CD Collection Vol. 2
The earlier boxes were devoted to best-selling LPs from the 1950s and '60s
(lots of Heifetz, Rubinstein and Cliburn)
The new one is what's left over: odds and ends from RCA's "Living Stereo" catalog.
Most of this is new to CD.
No other organizing principle.
I can see how this might be a problem.
I know a lot of music lovers who for all practical purposes only buy recordings of orchestral repertoire - or of pianists, or of violinists, or of vocalists.
Here we have thirty-six musicians who recorded for RCA in the first ten years of stereo (1955-65).
With a few exceptions, these are not RCA's best known artists.
I am familiar with all but three of them - which just goes to show how old I am.
Unknown to me were violinist Liliane Garnier, organist Robert Owen, and the "Choir of Mount Angel Abbey & Portland Symphonic Choir".
PHOTO: Actor David Tennant holding the skull of pianist Andre Tchaikovsky in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet.
I think it would have made greater economic sense for Sony to have issued this material in smaller boxes:
- "Great Pianists", "Great Violinists", "Great Vocalists" etc. on RCA Living Stereo.
But Sony's bookkeepers apparently believe that there are enough customers like me [I NEED about half the CDs] that a sixty CD box will turn a profit.
FIVE PIANISTS ON SEVEN CDs: Alexander Brailowsky, Jean Casadesus (son of Robert), Ania Dorfmann, Andre Tchaikovsky (2 CDs, see photo), Vronsky & Babin (2 CDs)
FIVE VIOLINISTS ON NINE CDs: Erick Friedman (2 CDs), Liliane Garnier, Leonid Kogan, Jaime Laredo (3 CDs), Henryk Szeryng (2 CDs)
THREE CELLISTS ON THREE CDs: Antonio Janigro, Gregor Piatigorsky, Daniil Shafran
TWO ORGANISTS ON TWO CDs: Robert Owen, Carl Weinrich
SEVEN VOCALISTS ON EIGHT CDs: Maureen Forrester, Mack Harrell, Zinka Milanov, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Cesare Valletti (2 CDs), Galina Vishnevskaya
THREE CHAMBER ENSEMBLES ON THIRTEEN CDs: Festival Quartet (5 CDs), Julliard Quartet (7 CDs), Trio of Joseph Eger (horn), Victor Babin (piano) & Henryk Szeryng (violin)
SEVEN CONDUCTORS ON SIXTEEN CDs: Arthur Fiedler (2 CDs), Morton Gould (3 CDs), Antonio Janigro (2 CDs), Howard Mitchell, Charles Munch (3 CDs), Alexander Schneider (3 CD set), Robert Shaw (2 CDs)
ASSORTED RENAISSANCE & BAROQUE ENSEMBLES
- Choir of Mount Angel Abbey & Portland Symphonic Choir (Victoria Mass)
- Societa Corelli (Vivaldi Four Seasons with Vittorio Emanuele, violin)
- Zimbler Sinfonietta (Vivaldi Concertos with Sherman Walt, bassoon)
There is a more detailed list at the end of this review.
-- All the Vocal recordings are highlights:
In the early years of stereo, RCA had a monopoly on singers at the Metropolitan Opera.
---- Zinka Milanov (CD 11), who sang at the Met from 1937 to 1966, is represented by a famous 1959 aria collection.
---- Birgit Nilsson (CD 46, recorded 1959) and
---- Galina Vishnevskaya (CD 38, recorded 1961) were guest artists at the Met, recorded in RCA's New York studio the week of their American debut.
RCA recorded visiting Soviet artists as part of a Cold War cultural exchange program.
In addition to Galina Vishnevskaya,
-- Soviet violinist Leonid Kogan (CD 3 "Encores", rec. 1958) and
-- Soviet cellist Daniil Shafran (CD 43, Sonatas by Schubert and Shostakovich, rec. 1960)
were recorded in New York during their American debuts.
Soviet violinist David Oistrakh's first stereo LP was also recorded in RCA's New York studio.
but that LP has yet to appear on CD (Sonatas by Prokofiev, Leclair and Locatelli, rec. 1955)
Both violinists also recorded with the Boston Symphony.
Oistrakh is in the Munch/RCA box; Kogan is in the Monteux/RCA box.*
Pianists Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter were recorded by RCA in New York, Chicago and Boston (each pianist has a nice Sony box).*
-- Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (CD 9) plays the Debussy Sonata and Stravinsky Suite Italienne with composer Lukas Foss at the piano (Piatigorsky also recorded a violin & cello arrangement of the Stravinsky with Jascha Heifetz)
Piatigorsky was a mainstay at RCA. He deserves a box of his own. "The Complete Columbia and RCA Recordings on Sony"
-- The Julliard String Quartet (six CDs) is justly famous, but The Festival Quartet (CDs 1, 13, 36, 39 & 56) is almost forgotten.
The Festival Quartet was not a string quartet.
It was an all-star Piano Quartet (with a limited repertoire).
The pianist was Victor Babin, best known as half the two-piano team of Vronsky & Babin (two CDs in this box).
Violinist Szymon Goldberg and cellist Nicolai Graudan had been principal players in the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwangler.
William Primrose was principal viola in the NBC Symphony under Toscanini.
Piano Quartets of Beethoven, Brahms (all three), Schumann and Schubert's "Trout" Quintet.
-- Lalo Symphonie Espagnole played by Henryk Szeryng (CD 32), and Paganini Violin Concerto No.1 played by Erick Friedman (CD 47) - both accompanied by Walter Hendl conducting the Chicago Symphony.
(Fritz Reiner was ill - assistant conductor Hendl stepped in for the recording sessions).
These two CDs complete my collection of Chicago Symphony recordings during the Reiner-Martinon era (1954-1968)
-- Pianist Andre Tchaikovsky (no relation) (CDs 17 & 18) was not one of the great pianists, but his memory lives on.
After retiring from music, he began a new career as a Shakespearian actor:
Probably the greatest Yorick of our time.
He left his fortune to the Royal Shakespeare Company on condition that they use his skull in future productions of Hamlet (see photo).
Andre Tchaikovsky has a website: Check out Comment Three (dated October 29, 2016).
-- The World's Foremost Authority on the Music of Rachmaninov recommends the two-piano team of Vronsky & Babin.
The 64 year-old composer claimed to have no memory of his 1893 Fantasy for Two Pianos (Suite No.1) before they performed it for him in 1937 (CD 52, recorded in 1961)
-- The Boston Pops is basically the Boston Symphony.
Arthur Fiedler was underrated in "serious" classical repertoire (CDs 10 & 34).
A Sony box would would be welcome,
but the "Complete Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops Recordings" would include a lot of popular music that has really not aged all that well.
-- Sherman Walt (Vivaldi Concertos, CD 16) was principal bassoonist of the Boston Symphony.
-- Joseph Eger (Brahms Trio, CD 29), had been principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In the 1950s he became the first American to pursue a successful career as horn soloist.
PACKAGING AND SOUND
Sixty CDs in "original jacket" format, with original artwork, program notes (and LP timings).
For the first time in one of these boxes, the original program notes are reprinted in the booklet (in readable type).
Which explains why the "booklet" runs to 360 pages.
Good, but Sony still forgot texts and translations for the vocal works (they were printed on an insert).
Exception: The Vishnevskaya recital (CD 38) printed song translations on the back of the original LP jacket.
The original jackets for the 1812 Overture (CD 14), and Beethoven & Schumann Piano Quartets (CD 56) had artwork on both sides.
The program notes were printed separately and are not included,
but the separate program notes for the Handel Concerti Grossi (CDs 57-59) are included in the booklet.
All 60 CDs were newly transferred by Brett Zinn, Iron Mountain Digital Studios, remastered by Martin Kistner, Hansjorg Seiler & Mathias Erb, b-sharp music & media solutions "using 24bit/ 192khz technology"
Everything sounds good to me, but my ears are hardly state-of-the-art.
Sony could have included these RCA LPs that have never appeared on CD:
-- David Oistrakh's 1955 LP of Violin Sonatas.
-- Malcolm Frager's early '60s LP of Prokoviev's Second Piano Concerto conducted by Rene Leibowitz.
-- Violist Walter Trampler had several RCA LPs
-- Vocal recitals by Gerard Souzay and James King.
-- Morton Gould's 1960 LP of Beethoven's Wellington's Victory (the only recording of this work that I can stand to listen to). It would have fit quite nicely on CD 14 (1812 Overture & Bolero) which is barely a half-hour long
-- Any others? Your comments are welcome.
-- The three Charles Munch/Boston Symphony LPs are unnecessary - they were included in the recently issued 86 CD "Complete Charles Munch" box. Someone at Sony forgot to inform the producer.*
Morton Gould's 1812 Overture (CD 14) is incomplete:
The tape of cannons and church bells that RCA used 60 years ago is apparently lost.
Rather than borrow from another recording, Sony decided to omit them and just play the music straight.
My favorite 1812 Overture was recorded by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony in 1956 (I think it was the first stereo recording).
Reiner dispensed with cannons and church bells altogether, and just used a busy team of percussionists.
My dog hates cannons in our living room, and I tend to agree with her.
Reiner Conducts Tchaikovsky
Nevertheless, Morton Gould expected cannons and church bells in this 1812 Overture, and it does seem that Sony could have dubbed in an alternate recording from their back catalog.
So don't buy it for the 1812 Overture.
On the other hand, I can't imagine many piano, fiddle, or canary fanciers (3/4 of the contents) will be buying this box for the 1812 Overture.
The 1812 Overture even seems out-of-place among the orchestral CDs, most of which are of a more serious nature.
Morton Gould is one of the few conductors to record Wellington's Victory with Beethoven's specified percussion instruments (unlike Tchaikovsky, Beethoven never imagined real cannons).
My dog prefers it that way.
Morton Gould's LP recordings of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with cannon and bells and Beethoven's Wellington's Victory (without) are available as a free download on ReDiscovery.
Check out Comment Three (dated October 29, 2016) for the link.
* Charles Munch - The Complete RCA Album Collection
Pierre Monteux-The Complete Rca a
Emil Gilels - The Complete RCA and Columbia Album Collection
Sviatoslav Richter - The Complete Album Collection
--- Encores (CD 7)
--- Debussy Preludes Book I (CD 26)
--- Schumann recital (CD 2)
--- Chopin recital (CD 18)
--- Mozart recital (CD17)
Vronsky & Babin
--- Rachmaninoff: Suites for Two Pianos (CD 52)
--- Music for Two Pianos "176 Keys" (CD 28)
--- Paganini Concerto, Saint-Saens with Walter Hendl, Chicago Symphony (CD 47)
--- Virtuoso Favorites (CD 55)
--- Recital (CD 50)
--- Encores (CD 3)
--- Bach Partita, Brahms Sonata (CD 25)
--- Bruch, Mozart Violin Concertos with Howard Mitchell, National Symphony (CD 35)
--- Presenting Jaime Laredo (CD 20)
--- Lalo Symphonie Espagnole with Walter Hendl, Chicago Symphony (CD 32)
--- Szeryng in Recital (CD 30)
--- Boccherini, Vivaldi, Vivaldi-Bach Cello Concertos (CD 19)
--- Debussy Sonata, Stravinsky Suite Italienne with Lukas Foss, piano (CD 9)
--- Schubert, Shostakovich Cello Sonatas (CD 43)
--- The Power Of The Organ (CD 60)
--- Bach recital (CD 44)
--- Brahms, Schumann Recital (CD 6)
--- Bach: Cantatas 56 & 82 with Robert Shaw, RCA Symphony (CD 12)
--- Arias by Verdi, Puccini, Dvorak, Giordano with Arturo Basile, RCA Victor Orchestra (CD 11)
--- Songs by Schubert, Grieg, Wagner, Sibelius, R. Strauss (CD 46)
--- Songs by Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Schumann, R. Strauss, Debussy, Ravel (CD 22)
--- Schumann Dichterliebe & selected songs (CD 23)
--- The Art Of Song (CD 8)
--- Songs by Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich (CD 38)
Eger (horn), Babin (piano), Szeryng (violin):
--- Beethoven Horn Sonata, Brahms Horn Trio (CD 29)
Festival Piano Quartet:
--- Beethoven, Schumann Piano Quartets (CD 56)
--- Brahms Piano Quartets (3) complete (CDs 13, 36, 39)
--- Schubert Trout Quintet with Sankey (double-bass) (CD1)
--- Beethoven Quartets Op.95, 131 & 135 (CDs 48 & 49)
--- Berg Lyric Suite, Webern (CD 41)
--- Carter Quartet 2, Schuman Quartet 3 (CD 37)
--- Debussy, Ravel Quartets (CD 24)
--- Dvorak Quartet Op.61, Wolf Italian Serenade (CD 40)
--- Schubert Quartets "Death And The Maiden", Quartettsatz (CD 21)
Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops:
--- Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (CD 10)
--- More Classical Music For People Who Hate Classical Music (CD 34)
Morton Gould, His Symphony Orchestra:
--- Gould Fall River Legend, Interplay, Latin American Symphonette (CD 42)
--- Ravel Bolero, Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture (CD 14)
--- Sibelius Finlandia etc. (CD 54)
Antonio Janigro, Solisti di Zagreb:
--- Bach Brandenburg Concerto 5, Suite 2 (CD 33)
--- Music For Strings (Britten, Corelli, Couperin, Mozart) (CD 53)
Howard Mitchell, National Symphony:
--- Shostakovich Symphony 5 (CD 5)
Charles Munch, Boston Symphony:
--- Blackwood Symphony 1, Haieff Symphony 2 (CD 15)
--- Chausson Symphony, Franck Le chasseur maudit (CD 51)
--- Poulenc Concerto For Organ, Strings And Timpani, Stravinsky Jeu de Cartes (CD 45)
Alexander Schneider, Chamber Orchestra
--- Handel: Concerti Grossi Op.6 (CDs 57-59)
Robert Shaw, RCA Symphony & Robert Shaw Chorale:
--- Bach: Cantatas 56 & 82 - see Mack Harrell under VOCALISTS
--- Operatic Choruses (CD 27)
RENAISSANCE & BAROQUE ENSEMBLES
--- Victoria: Requiem Mass - Choir of Mount Angel Abbey & Portland Symphonic Choir (CD 4)
--- Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos - Zimbler Sinfonietta with Sherman Walt, bassoon(CD 16)
--- Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Societa Corelli with Vittorio Emanuele, violin (CD 31)
[see also Antonio Janigro and Alexander Schneider under CONDUCTORS, Mack Harrell under VOCALISTS.]
More's the pity for them, because in many respects this third Living Stereo collection is the most impressive of the three. It offers -- in most cases -- first rate if less familiar artists interpreting basic and not-so-basic repertory, as well as kinds of repertory (chamber music and solo recitals) that weren't as regularly investigated during the heyday of Living Stereo as they are today. But don't get me wrong: with very few exceptions we are talking about performers with international reputations and well-known composers.
One of the major reasons we have this set at all is that, back in the day, RCA was blessed with probably the most impressive stable of classical artists under contract of any record company. So in this set you have performances by the likes of cellists Gregor Piatigorsky and Antonio Janigro, as well as the great Soviet cellist Daniil Shafran in a recording made during his debut US tour; star violinists Henryk Szeryng, Jaime Laredo, and Heifetz protege Erick Friedman; and pianists Alexander Brailowsky, Jean Casadesus (son of Robert, performing Book I of Debussy's Preludes), and the famed piano duo team of Vronsky & Babin (performing Rachmaninoff's two suites and other miscellaneous programs). We also find distinguished vocal recitals -- most of them debut recitals -- by Maureen Forrester, Roberta Peters, Galina Vishnevskaya (a/k/a Mrs. Mstislav Rostropovich) and Cesare Valetti, Italian opera arias sung by the legendary Zinka Milanov, and choral performances -- including two of the most famous Bach cantatas -- directed by Robert Shaw. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops appear with a classic Lp title, 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' and the humorously titled 'Music for People Who Hate Classical Music, volume 2' (both provide typically zesty Fiedler performances of light classical 'chestnuts'). US composer Morton Gould conducts his own 'Fall River Legend' and other works, plus a Sibelius disc featuring shorter compositions by the Finnish master (including a fine 'Swan of Tuonela'), and a disc featuring grand performances of (yes) the '1812 Overture' and Ravel's 'Bolero'. I've always enjoyed Gould's underrated work as a conductor and fellow admirers also should check out Sony's recent box set reissue of his complete recordings with the Chicago Symphony ... stunningly good work there on major symphonic compositions.
So unless you're averse to solo instrumental recitals and chamber music, it's complete silliness to dismiss this collection as a minor set or an also-ran. In fact, it presents some of the very best classical artists of the last 60 years in their early prime, playing or singing some of the greatest music ever written. (For example, Maureen Forrester's song recital includes a completely lovely performance of Schumann's great song cycle 'Frauenliebe und Leben'; ditto, Cesare Valetti performing Schumann's 'Dichterliebe'. Roberta Peters provides surprisingly good performances of Bach and Schumann -- composers who were not exactly her usual repertory -- as well as Debussy and Ravel. Vishnevskaya is in awesome voice for her recital of songs by Russian masters. And the great Birgit Nilsson is predictably in complete command of her recital of songs by German and Scandinavian Romantic composers.)
Duplications with other Sony/RCA collections are few and pretty much limited to three discs by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony: his stereo recording of the Chausson symphony and Franck 'Chausseur Maudit'; a coupling of 20th century symphonies by Americans Easley Blackwood and Alex Haieff; and a coupling of Poulenc's Organ Concerto with Stravinsky's ballet, 'Jeu de Cartes'. And yes there are recordings by some less well-known artists like pianists Ania Dorfmann (a highly respected and influential piano pedagogue and a favorite collaborator with Toscanini in the 1940s) and Andre Tchaikovsky (who died in his 40s and whose career was mostly made in Europe); Canadian violinist Liliane Garnier; organist Robert Owen; and 'The Choir of the Abbey of Mount Angel' (performing a requiem mass by Spanish Renaissance master Tomas Luis de Victoria). And I suppose hardly anyone today remembers the conductor Howard Mitchell who led the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, DC, with distinction from the late 1940s to 1970 ... Mitchell wasn't a 'front line' conductor, but he had a real talent for the music of Shostakovich and he and his orchestra turn in a first-rate, red hot performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony and fine accompaniments in Jaime Laredo's early recording of Bruch and Mozart violin concertos. All of these artists had solid enough reputations to attract the interest of a major record company. And their performances are worth hearing today; many times over, IMHO.
That said, I hope no one who is serious about classical music needs to be introduced to the members of the 'Festival Quartet' who deliver outstanding performances of Schubert's 'Trout' quintet, the three Brahms piano quartets, as well as the piano quartets of Beethoven and Schumann. (They are/were Victor Babin -- of Vronsky & Babin -- on piano; Szymon Goldberg, violin; William Primrose, viola; Nikolai Graudan, cello) Or to that great musical polymath Alexander Schneider (off and on again second violin of the legendary Budapest Quartet; leader of the Schneider Quartet; mentor to countless string players and string ensembles; and, finally, conductor of distinction) who leads a hand-picked chamber orchestra (the distinguished members of which are all named) in superbly passionate -- if slightly old-fashioned -- performances of Handel's 12 masterful concerti grossi, Op. 6. (I have hoped against hope for a reissue of that great recording for more than 30 years now!) Or to cellist Antonio Janigro and his brilliant chamber orchestra 'I Solisti di Zagreb' who offer lovely performances of Bach, Vivaldi and other music written for chamber ensemble. Janigro & Co. also recorded for New York-based Vanguard Records where they produced marvelous discs of Bach, Haydn, and many, many others. Stravinsky called their Vanguard recording of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' the greatest performance he'd ever heard of that music. This Living Stereo set includes a marvelous performance of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' by an Italian chamber group calling itself 'Societa Corelli' ... and although recorded (very beautifully) as far back as 1959/1960, their work features astonishingly lithe and vibrant string playing that seems to anticipate more modern baroque performance practice, but without any of the annoying astringency that often afflicts HIP performances of Italian baroque music. A superb disc and a major surprise -- and delight -- of this set!
Production pluses: Absolutely first-rate, state of the art digital transfers from the original master tapes and pristine, full color reproductions of the original Lp jackets on each CD sleeve -- including the original liner notes which are printed on the reverse side of the sleeves (and also reproduced in more readable font size in the handsome hardcover book that accompanies this magnificent set).
Having released three large Living Stereo box sets I hope that Sony/BMG/RCA will now move on to issue a similarly formatted box set with first quality CD transfers of post-Living Stereo recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, including all the Leinsdorf/Boston Symphony recordings made during his 1962-1969 tenure as Music Director, perhaps coupling these with contemporary recordings made by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players (which was formed at Leinsdorf's urging during his tenure). And while were at it, a boxed set reissue of all the recordings made by Eugene Ormandy and the great Philadelphia Orchestra after their 1968 return to RCA from CBS/Columbia. Once again: fingers crossed!
But back to the Living Stereo collection under review here: if you truly love a wide variety of classical music -- and first-rate performances of it -- by all means buy this set while it's still available at such a reasonable price!
It's is a shame they included the politically correct Gould 1812 with no cannons and no church bells which they were well aware of when they did it but why not have just left it out in favor of something else such as Gould's "Jungle Drums" (even though that is a little light on Jungle and even more devoid of drums). Also, there are some Munch discs which many of us already have in the Munch box. Again would seem to have been an opportunity to include something else like Fiedler's "Boston Tea Party" or Breams "Evening of Elizabethian Music" But at 60 discs everyone is going to find a bone to pick with 5-10 of the choices no matter what they include but for me the cup is way way more than half full and am enjoying many of these works, and and artists for the first time. The Julliard Quartet discs alone are worth the price of admission.
To the powers that be at Sony we know you have more than enough RCA Victor stuff still to give us at least one more Living Stereo collection (even discounting many of those remaining you may not be able to due to being Decca owned). So that would be very nice for the holidays next year.