Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra; Heldenleben

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COMPOSERS: Richard Strauss
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Living Stereo
WORKS: Also sprach Zarathustra; Heldenleben
PERFORMER: Fritz Reiner/Chicago SO
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61494 2
The transfer of archive recordings to CD continues unabated. Now the vaults of RCA Victor have been raided for the company’s earliest stereo recordings (1954-60) and ten discs have been issued bearing the original Living Stereo livery and sleeve-notes.


While some of the fare is already available in other couplings, all the recordings appear to have been refurbished, retaining the vividness, and sometimes a certain coarseness, from the originals.

This was of course in many ways RCA’s golden age, with such classic partnerships as Charles Munch of the Boston SO and Fritz Reiner and the Chicago on contract, as well as soloists of the stature of Heifetz and Rubinstein. Supreme among the present selection must be Piatigorsky playing Walton’s Cello Concerto just three days after he had given the world premiere (09026 61498 2 Performance *****/Sound ****). Subsequent interpreters may have sounded more relaxed in the first movement, but Piatigorsky is fully at home in the work’s nostalgic Romanticism.

Another concerto disc finds Heifetz in his prime in Brahms and Tchaikovsky (09026 61495 2 Performance *****/Sound ***) with superb support from Reiner and his Chicago players (there is a real suavity in the woodwind playing at the start of the Brahms slow movement). The same conductor and orchestra also feature in two discs of their own: Ravel, Liszt, Weber and Rachmaninov (09026 61250 2 Performance ****/Sound ***) and a Richard Strauss coupling of the pioneering Also sprach Zarathustra and Heldenleben from March 1954, both powerful, superbly played performances to match their historic status (09026 61494 2 Performance ****/Sound ***).


The other discs include a radiant Leontyne Price in Fauré, Poulenc, Wolf and Strauss songs (09026 61499 2 Performance ***/Sound ***), a sizzling but over-driven Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops collection (09026 61497 2 Performance ***/Sound **), a Munch/Boston SO classic including the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony and Debussy’s La mer (09026 61500 2 Performance ****/Sound ****) and wickedly inauthentic organ ‘pops’ from Virgil Fox (09026 61251 2 Performance ****/Sound ****). Matthew Rye