Great Conductors – Serge Koussevitzky

0 of 5 stars

Serge Koussevitzky
Beethoven, Harris, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky
Recorded 1933-45

Reviewed by: Bill Newman

Reviewed: August 2002
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75118 2 (2 CDs)

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 Queen’s Hall in 1933), immediately followed by Roy Harris’s 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! Rachmaninov’s 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.

Liszt’s 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 Koussevitzky’s remarkable reading of Vaughan Williams 5. It would have fitted on quite comfortably.

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