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Between 1909 and 1949 Serge Koussevitzky conducted no less than 113 world premières with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There can be few conductors and orchestras with a better track record for encouraging and promoting new music. The three American symphonies presented here were all premièred by Koussevitzky - and two of these recordings are those premières.
Roy Harris's 5th Symphony, dedicated "to the heroic and freedom-loving people of our great Ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as a tribute to their strength in war, their staunch idealism for World peace, their ability to cope with stark materialistic problems of world order without losing a passionate belief in the fundamental importance of the arts" was completed in 1942 and first performed in February 1943. This recording has never been released before. Harris was to revise aspects of the symphony two years later - this may well be the only recording of the symphony in its original version.
At the same concert the BSO also performed the first symphony of Edward Burlingame Hill, a work they had premièred under Koussevitzky in 1928. A near forgotten name now, this Boston-born composer's works were performed no less than 85 times by the orchestra under a variety of conductors between 1916 and 1949 - 65 times under the baton of Kousseviztky. This previously unreleased performance is the only known recording of Hill's Symphony No. 1.
David Diamond, youngest of the three composers represented here, was just 29 years old when the Boston Symphony premièred his Symphony No. 2, the beginning of an association that would culminate in 29 performances between that première in October 1944 and 1960. Once again, this important recording has never previously been issued.
ROY HARRIS Symphony No. 5 (1942)
EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL Symphony No. 1 (1927)
DAVID DIAMOND Symphony No. 2 (1943)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Serge Koussevitzky, conductor
Live recordings, 1943 & 1944
PASC484 (77:49 - 1CD)
"The Philadelphians are obviously at home and happy in this wonderful exhibition of rhythmic energy and architectural proportioning .. it is possible, and I am glad, to praise it for the breadth of the interpretation, the massiveness of the richest writing (e.g., in the second movement) and the joyousness of the abounding life that informs the playing ... Everyone will enjoy the athletic grace and rude health of the Scherzo, the recording of which gives perhaps the best glimpses of delicacy in the whole work. I feel sure the conductor has the right spirit for this, and that if we could hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about those strings of his, we should rise out of our seats and cheer."
- The Gramophone, 1929
Leopold Stokowski is not usually associated with the Viennese Classical repertoire; yet, there were certain composers and works to which he returned time and again throughout his career. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony was a work he recorded three times. The present version is his first, and is prefaced by a discussion of themes by the conductor. For Schubert’s “Unfinished”, Stokowski and his Philadelphians were returning to a work they had previously set down acoustically almost exactly three years earlier (Pristine PASC 441). The new electrical process better conveys the burnished sheen of the strings in a swiftly-flowing reading which alternates lyricism with explosive outbursts.
"In Beethoven’s wonderful glorification of the power of “the legs of music”, no orchestra worth the name could fail to rise to its finest powers of nervous energy and illumination. It is clear, even from the necessarily somewhat distorting medium of these records, that the Philadelphians have expended on it much of that brotherly love which is explicit in their name, and implicit in their reputation"
- The Gramophone, 1927
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8 'Unfinished'
SCHUBERT Moment musicale
SCHUBERT Rosamunde - Ballet music
Leopold Stokowski conductor
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Studio recordings, 1927
PASC483 (74:03 - 1CD)
"A vital, controlled and incisive 1948 Das Lied von der Erde from WaIter, with Kathleen Ferrier making her American debut."
Kathleen Ferrier's classic 1952 Vienna recording of Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter and Julius Patzak is rightly regarded as one of the great recordings of the 20th century. Just four years earlier the contralto (billed at the time as a mezzo-soprano) appeared for the first time in the United States singing Mahler's Das Lied with the New York Philharmonic - conducted by one Bruno Walter. If the opening night produced mixed results - Ferrier was recovering from a cold - this second performance three nights later, broadcast across the country, was most certainly a great success. This new restoration and remastering brings great strides forward in sound quality for this essential, historic performance.
"It is fascinating to hear her three [sic] years earlier [than her Decca recording] already entirely inside her part and indeed, in some respects – listen to the final pages of the second song or ‘Trunk’ne Welt’, the aching ‘ewigs’ in the finale – even more emotionally overwhelming in a live performance than she was to be in the studio. The finale, as you would expect, reaches great heights of eloquence. In spite of having just recovered from a cold, Ferrier is in glorious voice...
[Walter's] interpretation hardly altered over the years. Why should it when it remains the most convincing, most immediate ever committed to disc? Listening to it once more, I again thought: yes, of course, this is exactly how Mahler wanted to hear the score – taut, devoid of unwanted sentimentality yet flexible as regards perfectly judged rubato, and infinitely moving and scrupulously observant of the composer’s markings"
Kathleen Ferrier - mezzo-soprano
Set Svanholm - tenor
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
Bruno Walter, conductor
Live recording, 1948
PACO137 (58:20 - 1 CD)
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