The Complete 1922-25 New York Philharmonic Recordings

LABELS: Biddulph
ALBUM TITLE: Willem Mengelberg
PERFORMER: Willem Mengelberg


Some years earlier, Willem Mengelberg had encouraged a collaboration between the New York Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras. Selected fruits of that auspicious merger are thrillingly audible on Biddulph’s generous album; they are central to Mengelberg’s much-underrated RCA legacy, whereas Serge Koussevitzky’s (with the Boston Symphony) has earned greater acclaim. A tireless champion of modern music, Koussevitzky made the first recording of Prokofiev’s Fifth – and some would say finest – Symphony, a fiery interpretation, although the real highlight of RCA’s CD is a stunning performance of the final dance from the ballet Chout.

Pearl’s well-transferred anthology highlights two major aspects of Pablo Casals’s musicianship (a third, as composer, is displayed in other collections), where heart-rending morceaux sit comfortably next to characterful orchestral performances with the LSO. That was in 1928-30, some twenty years before the formation of the Hollywood String Quartet and a recording of Walton’s Quartet that moved the composer himself to write: ‘I hope no one ever records my Quartet again, because you captured so exactly what I wanted…’


No doubt Ralph Vaughan Williams would have been equally thrilled with Adrian Boult’s inspired first recording of his Ninth Symphony – had he lived to hear it. In fact, RVW actually agreed to attend the sessions, but died just hours before they began. Sir Adrian himself makes a short but poignant speech on what is yet another truly historical document; one which is superbly recorded.