Beethoven, Harris, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75118 2 (2 CDs) Duration: Reviewed: August 2002
Great Conductors - Serge Koussevitzky
Reviewed by Bill Newman
I remember the four Royal Albert Hall concerts in 1949 as if they happened yesterday. The London Philharmonic was going through a financial crisis; Koussevitzky helped it re-launch on the London scene before Sir Adrian Boult stepped in and took over responsibility.
As such this programme knits together very well indeed, except to say that collectors will have most of it already. What makes it worthwhile is the quality of transfers, and the impact of listening to probably the greatest of all Sibelius Sevens (BBCSO, live from Queens Hall in 1933), immediately followed by Roy Harriss Third a performance of astonishing power and prominence by the Boston Symphony.
Their Tchaikovsky Symphony 5 is full of quips and fancies, but they all make sense, and Koussi never performed it any other way. The LPO live performance at the first of those 1949 concerts nearly caused me to miss my last train home! Rachmaninovs Isle of the Dead has only been equalled by Reiner and Svetlanov, but here it is a toss up between this studio performance and a live one (AS) that is even more superb.
Liszts Mephisto Waltz No.1 is breathtaking but so too is Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony on the sadly discontinued Mercury label. Do we really want another Beethoven 5?What I have been waiting for all these years is Koussevitzkys remarkable reading of Vaughan Williams 5. It would have fitted on quite comfortably.