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Gould set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) has just released the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by Morton Gould, a frequent and favorite guest conductor in the 1960s.

“This set of recordings documents an unusual relationship Gould had with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” writes Alan G. Artner in the set’s liner notes. “[This] collection represents something close to the height of Gould’s work in the recording studio, made with the finest orchestra he conducted, taking chances with a good deal of music just being discovered in that adventurous, bygone time.”

Highlights of the six-CD set include several works by Ives, including The Unanswered Question, Variations on America, Robert Browning Overture, Putnam’s Camp, the first recording of Orchestral Set no. 2, and the Symphony no. 1 (which won the 1966 Grammy Award for Album of the Year—Classical). Also featured are Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar Symphony, Miaskovsky’s Symphony no. 21, several waltzes by Tchaikovsky, Copland’s Dance Symphony, Gould’s Spirituals for Orchestra, and two works by Nielsen: the Symphony no. 2 and Clarinet Concerto featuring Benny Goodman. A special bonus track is Goodman performing Gould’s arrangement of Fred Fisher’s song Chicago (previously only available on LP, released in conjunction with the CSO’s second Marathon fundraiser in 1977).

In 1985, the Chicago Symphony gave the world premiere of Gould’s Flute Concerto, commissioned for the Orchestra, principal flute Donald Peck, and music director Sir Georg Solti. In the program note, the composer recalled, “Among my most pleasant memories are those years when I was guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Martinon RCA set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) recently released the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings—some available for the first time on CD—led by our seventh music director Jean Martinon. (The set has not yet been released in the United States but is available from several European and Japanese distributors.)

“It’s always a very delicate and perilous business for a conductor to take over a renowned orchestra that has just passed through a glorious and legendary era under a charismatic predecessor,” writes Christoph Schlüren in the accompanying booklet, referring to Martinon succeeding Fritz Reiner. “Martinon was not blessed by fate in Chicago. The problem was not that the orchestra failed to appreciate him, nor that the ensemble’s outstanding level dropped under his leadership. The surviving recordings are no less brilliant than Reiner’s. . . . In any event, the standard view that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra did not really get going until Martinon gave way to Georg Solti is true only with regard to its commercial success and resultant worldwide fame, not to the perfection of its playing.”

Clark Brody, Williard Elliot, Donald Peck, Dale Clevenger, Jean Martinon, Ray Still, Adolph  Herseth, Donald Koss, Jay Friedman -

CSO principals Clark Brody (clarinet), Williard Elliot (bassoon), Donald Peck (flute), Dale Clevenger (horn), Martinon, Ray Still (oboe), Adolph Herseth (trumpet), Donald Koss (timpani), and Jay Friedman (trombone) backstage in February 1966 before a performance of Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra

The set includes a number of works, most notably Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra (featuring several CSO principal players); Mennin’s Symphony no. 7; Varèse’s Arcana; and Weber’s Clarinet Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with Benny Goodman. Additionally, two very special works are heard: an arrangement of Paganini’s Moto perpetuo as arranged by the CSO’s second music director Frederick Stock (according to Schlüren, “wittily peppered with fragments from the finale of [Beethoven’s] Eroica“) as well as Martinon’s own Symphony no. 4 (Altitudes), commissioned for the Orchestra’s seventy-fifth season. And similar to the previously issued Reiner set, the booklet includes numerous images from the collections of the Rosenthal Archives.

Reiner CSO CD set

RCA Red Seal Records (now a division of Sony Masterworks) has just released—for the first time as a set—the complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings led by our sixth music director, the legendary Fritz Reiner. The sixty-three discs are beautifully presented in replicas of the original album jackets (front and back), spanning the recording of Richard Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome and Also sprach Zarathustra, recorded in March 1954, through Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4 with Van Cliburn, recorded in April 1963.

The beautifully packaged set includes a detailed booklet with repertoire and recording details, along with an excellent article by Kenneth Morgan (author of Fritz Reiner: Maestro and Martinet).

The set also includes Reiner’s last recording (made in September 1963, barely two months before his death): Haydn’s Symphonies nos. 95 and 101. The ensemble is billed as “Fritz Reiner and his Symphony Orchestra,” which included musicians from “the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Air (formerly NBC Symphony), and others.”

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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