Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

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jserraglio
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Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:10 am

NYT OBIT https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/obit ... -dead.html

James Levine, the guiding maestro of the Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years and one of the world’s most influential and admired conductors until allegations of sexual abuse and harassment ended his career, died on March 9 in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 77.

His death was confirmed on Wednesday morning by Dr. Len Horovitz, his physician. The cause was not immediately released, nor was it clear why the death had not been announced earlier . . . .

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ob ... story.html

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:33 pm

Very unfortunate that his glorious career ended the way it did. I wonder if any of his recording companies will produce mega-boxes in his memory. He recorded prolifically.
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:49 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:10 am
NYT OBIT https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/obit ... -dead.html

James Levine, the guiding maestro of the Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years and one of the world’s most influential and admired conductors until allegations of sexual abuse and harassment ended his career, died on March 9 in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 77.

His death was confirmed on Wednesday morning by Dr. Len Horovitz, his physician. The cause was not immediately released, nor was it clear why the death had not been announced earlier . . . .

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ob ... story.html
Well!

For much of my own career, I was proud that the conductor I studied with at Juilliard (Vincent La Selva) learned and then taught me the same conducting technique and philosophy from Jean Morel that James Levine and others (James Conlon, Leonard Slatkin, Herbert Blomstedt and Myung-Wha Chung come immediately to mind) had used to create so many great performances on recordings and in live performances. That feeling was abruptly shattered by the allegations against Levine that ended his career, even though I had heard many rumors for decades.

That said, he had an enormous influence on my musical thinking, and I will always be grateful for that.

I have mixed feelings about Levine's passing. Certainly, he elevated musical standards at the MET far beyond what they were when I first began attending productions there in Lincoln Center, but he also was, it seems, a major contributor to the toxic atmosphere that still lingers there today.

Let's just say that, along with the tremendous sadness I feel, there is also a huge sigh of relief, along with the hope that his musical legacy will endure and not suffer from the forces of "cancel culture" so strongly in evidence today.

barney
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by barney » Wed Mar 17, 2021 6:51 pm

Lance wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:33 pm
Very unfortunate that his glorious career ended the way it did. I wonder if any of his recording companies will produce mega-boxes in his memory. He recorded prolifically.
Absolutely Lance. And an interesting question. I would think there will be a mega-box, just perhaps not immediately.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by david johnson » Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:26 am

I've always had some Levine recordings around. I saw him/CSO at Ravinia performing Mahler 1 and Schubert 9. A sad situation :(

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 18, 2021 4:40 am

david johnson wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:26 am
I've always had some Levine recordings around. I saw him/CSO at Ravinia performing Mahler 1 and Schubert 9. A sad situation :(
We saw him so many times at the Met operas but one time when I was parking my car in a tight spot on W75th st. after I got out and starting walking west I ran right into Levine who was struggling to walk east toward Columbus Ave-our eyes met-I decided to speak and thanked him so much for all the operas we enjoyed --he graciously smiled and nodded and we continued on our separate ways-he was having tremendous back problems when this had occurred. Regards, Len

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 18, 2021 4:51 am

An Appraisal Taking Stock of James Levine’s Tarnished Legacy

His career ended with allegations of sexual abuse and harassment. But the Metropolitan Opera’s longtime conductor, who has died at 77, changed that company in ways that will outlive him.

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By Anthony Tommasini

March 17, 2021

I was a freelance critic, but not on duty, when I attended a Saturday matinee performance of Wagner’s sprawling comedy “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” at the Metropolitan Opera in December 1995.

The cast was close to ideal. The elegant Bernd Weikl as the wise cobbler Hans Sachs. A luminous Karita Mattila as young Eva. The heroic Ben Heppner as Walther, who falls for her. And Hermann Prey, a distinguished veteran, as Beckmesser, the town busybody.

Yet the star was James Levine.

It was often like that when he was conducting during his decades-long reign at the Met, which ended in ignominy a few years ago amid disturbing allegations of sexual abuse and harassment — and then conclusively with his death, on March 9, at 77.
James Levine, Former Met Opera Maestro, Is Dead at 77
March 17, 2021

If the Met Orchestra sounded resplendent, and played with alertness and ease, in that long-ago “Meistersinger,” it was in large part because of Levine’s leadership, then already of over 20 years’ standing. I especially remember Hans Sachs’s soliloquy, when this generally tolerant character suddenly, angrily bewails the selfishness he witnesses in his neighbors. Levine tapped into the mellow harmonic richness and wistful poignancy of the music, almost as if offering Sachs consolation, as if urging him not to lose his faith in people.

Now, of course, it is impossible to ignore that it was Levine who was selfish, someone who could make you lose your faith in people. His fans, his colleagues and the critics who covered him have all had to reconcile his momentous artistic legacy — “No artist in the 137-year history of the Met had as profound an impact as James Levine,” Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, said in a statement — with the allegations that stain that legacy.


It is impossible to think about Levine in the same way in the aftermath of those awful allegations. To acknowledge his achievements is not to minimize the very real suffering of his victims. But it is still worth taking a moment to consider how he changed the Met in ways that will outlive him.

He built its orchestra — which had never been the glory of a company built on showcasing singers — into an ensemble that rivals the world’s great symphonic orchestras. He cultivated a rapport with its players in the most direct way: by performing with them in chamber music programs both as a pianist and a conductor. He established a young artists program that has become a model for companies everywhere. (Even that program, though, is clouded: After Levine sued the Met for firing him over the abuse allegations, the company said that its investigation had found that he drew victims from the program’s ranks.)

He set about making milestone operas of the 20th century central to the Met’s repertory, including Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande,” Berg’s “Wozzeck” and “Lulu,” and Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress.” (He even tried his best to tempt the company’s audience to Schoenberg’s 12-tone “Moses und Aron.”) Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Idomeneo” were no longer overlooked historical curiosities during the Levine years. He introduced the Met to Weill and Brecht’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” and the Gershwins’s “Porgy and Bess,” both with enormous success. A Stravinsky evening featured “The Rite of Spring,” “The Nightingale” and “Oedipus Rex.”

Since his big break in opera came early, when he made his last-minute Met debut at just 28 conducting Puccini’s “Tosca,” he was thrust among the still-vital twilight of Golden Age greats, learning from Renata Tebaldi, Jon Vickers, Leontyne Price, Christa Ludwig, Birgit Nilsson and others, while forming close associations with emerging greats like Jessye Norman, Teresa Stratas, Hildegard Behrens and Plácido Domingo.

Like other American musicians of the period after World War II, he brought a fresh, unjaded approach and clearheaded musicianship to the scores of the European past. When he spoke of operas he loved, like Verdi’s “Otello,” Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” or “The Rake’s Progress,” he often said, “It’s such a great piece.” That final word was crucial, I think. “Tosca” can’t be just a moment-to-moment drama; it must also have the inexorable sweep of a symphony, a piece. Levine, at his best, conveyed this.

He strove for naturalness, for music that emerged with no sense of effort. I once watched him rehearse the overture to “Così.” He wanted this well-known music to whisk by with articulate clarity, while seeming to float. He didn’t want the players to sound like they were trying to execute streams of notes accurately.

The brainy serialist composer Milton Babbitt once told me about his astonishment at hearing Levine, then just in his early 20s and an assistant at the Cleveland Orchestra, play the piano in a rehearsal for the premiere of Babbitt’s “Relata I,” a score of intimidating polyphonic complexity.

“Jimmy knew the entire score,” Babbitt said, “and he could play anybody’s part.”

That intellect often worked to Levine’s advantage at the podium. In operas like “Pelléas et Mélisande” and “Wozzeck,” he was drawn to their balance of extravagant emotion and structural rigor. He proved an ideal conductor of such works.

But his gravitation to the intellectual elements of music, especially in contemporary works, limited his reach, especially during his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, from 2004 to 2011. Finally, he had a chance to make his mark fostering living composers with a major ensemble. But he seemed interested primarily in formidably complex creators like Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen and Babbitt. These were looming figures. But what about the new generation?

That he did not make the Met a cultivator of new operas, especially by younger composers, was a true failure. The Met’s record in commissioning operas during the Levine era was sadly inadequate. Late in his tenure, the Met presented premieres by Thomas Adès and Nico Muhly — composers he evinced no interest in.

You would think a music director would be eager to put his name on new works, to prod his company to foster the future. But during a 2013 interview with Charlie Rose, Levine pushed back against the suggestion that the Met should present a new opera each season. “I wish I really thought there was a new opera good enough for the Met every year,” he said. It was a dismaying comment.

His accomplishments are documented in a huge catalog of recordings and videos, which have been omnipresent in the Met’s schedule of free nightly streams over the past year. His impact also looms, tragically, in the lives of the men he is accused of taking advantage of.

At the end of that “Meistersinger” in 1995, after the jubilant scene of cheering townspeople, Levine’s arms dropped to his sides. For a moment, there was silence in the opera house. Then the ovation broke out, and went on and on.

For all the extraordinary singing, Levine and the orchestra were the heroes of the afternoon. That orchestra has spent the pandemic furloughed without pay. About 40 percent of the players left the New York area. More than a tenth retired.

The ensemble has been locked in a tense battle over its future with the Met’s management. The musicians recently voted to accept reduced paychecks in exchange for returning to the bargaining table, where the company is seeking lasting pay cuts that it says are needed to survive the pandemic.

One way for the Met to honor the best elements of Levine’s hopelessly tarnished legacy would be to save the magnificent orchestra he built.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/arts ... e=Homepage

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:33 am

An excellent, if incomplete, appraisal, even if it leaves out his years in Munich, from which an excellent recording of Shoenberg's early tonal choral masterpiece "Gurre-Lieder" with Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner at their vocal peak, now a rarity, emerged. It also fails to cover his association with the Israel Philharmonic or his many concerts and recordings in Vienna, but that's not the topic, is it?

It's also worth mentioning here that the MET's production of Schoenberg's "Moses und Aron" has been recently released on CD.

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lennygoran
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:21 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:33 am
It's also worth mentioning here that the MET's production of Schoenberg's "Moses und Aron" has been recently released on CD.
Brian we saw that live-the Met On Demand only has the audio-why not the video as well-doesn't matter anyway-Sue would never sit through that opera again! Regards, Len :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:44 am

His accomplishments are documented in a huge catalog of recordings and videos...
$150 https://www.metoperashop.org/shop/james ... x-set-4114

$100 https://www.metoperashop.org/shop/james ... x-set-4113
Last edited by jserraglio on Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:55 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:21 am
maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:33 am
It's also worth mentioning here that the MET's production of Schoenberg's "Moses und Aron" has been recently released on CD.
Brian we saw that live-the Met On Demand only has the audio-why not the video as well-doesn't matter anyway-Sue would never sit through that opera again! Regards, Len :lol: :lol: :lol:
Yep! Agree with you 100%!

Solti also brought that work to Carnegie Hall, and we avoided it then as well.

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:58 am

jserraglio wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:44 am
His accomplishments are documented in a huge catalog of recordings and videos...
$150 https://www.metoperashop.org/shop/james ... x-set-4114

$100 https://www.metoperashop.org/shop/james ... x-set-4113
How interesting that both boxes are so deeply discounted.

I have more than enough of Levine's extraordinary music-making in my library, so even at these prices, I'm not tempted.

Thanks for the alert, though!

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:18 pm

My fave Petrouchka, from 1977, vinyl only RCA RL 12615, never silvered afaik, except in Japan.

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David Hurwitz wrote:James Levine's Petrushka is amazing, one of the most brilliant, hard-hitting, rhythmically sharp performances that you are ever likely to hear. The crowd scenes in the two outer tableaux sizzle with energy, while the more intimate moments feature some stunning solo work from the CSO principals, flute and trumpet especially.
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:38 pm

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:55 am
Yep! Agree with you 100%!

Solti also brought that work to Carnegie Hall, and we avoided it then as well.
Well at least the Met production gave you something to look at! Regards, Len :lol:

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 18, 2021 7:04 pm

"I speak not to disprove what (Brutus) spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason."

jserraglio
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:32 pm

Belle wrote:
Thu Mar 18, 2021 7:04 pm
"What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?"
This thread memorializes him.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:09 am

Another take on Levine’s musical legacy, and a harsh view it is, by American conductor Kenneth Woods. https://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2021/03/18/james-levine/

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by lennygoran » Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:24 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:09 am
Another take on Levine’s musical legacy, and a harsh view it is, by American conductor Kenneth Woods.
Joseph thanks for this-I never expected to read something this bad about him. Regards, Len

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:36 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:09 am
Another take on Levine’s musical legacy, and a harsh view it is, by American conductor Kenneth Woods. https://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2021/03/18/james-levine/
That was a very interesting read, Joe, thanks.

The story about Levine's cardboard cutout for the promotion of his recording of Mahler III is priceless.

I'll just make one observation here.

It's very interesting to me that Levine accomplished so much with the MET, yet he sat there forever, being locked in place by his warped personality, a personality that, by its very nature, encouraged his two star tenors to act in a similarly predatory manner towards women. Joann Grillo, the MET mezzo who sang many leading roles there during Levine's tenure and was later on my Board remarked to me that "You were nobody unless you had been groped by Pavarotti." There were other stories that reached my ears over the years involving people whose names I won't use here because they are still active in their careers. The damage caused by the toxic atmosphere at the MET to so many lives must never be underestimated.

I still maintain that Levine built the MET orchestra into the world's finest from the wreck it was in during the early 1970's. In those years, the MET wouldn't start broadcasting on Saturday matinees until December because they simply were not ready to be heard until then. During the 1960's & '70's, the orchestra was incredibly scrappy and just plain sloppy because morale was so low. It took them nearly the full Fall to get into shape.

As well, Levine had an amazingly keen and sensitive ear for how to pace and shape the music to not only make the greatest singers comfortable, but to allow them to explore their full potential without disrespecting the music. That's an extraordinary talent, one few opera conductors possess. Levine had the amazing ability to solve even the most difficult passages and make them look and sound effortless.

That said, while he made many orchestral recordings that were certainly appropriately paced, I cannot name a single one of those that stands out in my mind as a Great Recording. Of anything. His many opera recordings are, by contrast, models of perfect pacing and drama. His conducting truly, IMHO, served both the singers and the music. Were they great? Were the many live performances released on video great? I believe so, contrary to the rather vituperative criticism in the article you posted, much of which I find myself in agreement with.

A horrible man, but a musical genius then, with terrible weaknesses in both aspects of his life. He did have a talent for consistently fine performances of the repertoire that drew our admittedly conservative NY audience to the MET in droves, and we should not forget that, despite our horror at his personal behavior.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:38 am

I have a slew of Levine recordings, studio and live, and would never make the blanket claims about their quality that Woods does—but whadda I know? I do agree with Woods about Ozawa though. He was a lot better than the bad rap (racist-tinged à la Dr. Seuss?) he often gets — I have some great Ozawa recordings.

Okay, here are three Levine orch recs. I unapologetically treasure, non-musical beast that I am.

— Harbison Symphony cycle (BSO) BSO issue

— Stravinsky’s Petrouchka (CSO) RCA LP

— Brahms Symphony cycle (CSO) RCA LP and CD
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:57 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:38 am
I have a slew of Levine recordings, studio and live, and would never make the blanket claims about their quality that Woods does—but whadda I know? I do agree with him about Ozawa though. He was a lot better than the bad rap he often gets — I have some great Ozawa recordings.
I have a couple of Ozawa's CDs too, but not many, as other, better conductors interested me more. There's also a Mahler VIII that's absolutely awful that someone gave me as a joke for my birthday. His Prokofiev cycle is, well, let's say undisciplined, with sloppy entrances and lackluster playing. For Prokofiev, I go to Ormandy, Leinsdorf, Rozhdestvensky or the brand-new cycle by Andrew Litton.

I'd be curious as to which recordings by Ozawa you like: maybe I could find them on amazon to stream. Frankly, I've not paid a great deal of attention to him as the few times I did I was consistently dissatisfied. That this conductor likes him makes me question his judgement, quite frankly.

I once had a young tenor referred to me by a MET director who had sung something with Ozawa at Boston's summer festival. He auditioned poorly, but I heard something in his voice that encouraged me to put him in Carnegie Hall. When he arrived for his first rehearsal, he could sing the notes but was so unmusical that I referred him to the MET conductor on my Board for additional coaching, and he improved enough that he eventually won Third Place in the Finals. His level of musicianship after having sung with Ozawa was quite poor, though, and it took a lot of work to bring him up to snuff.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:08 am

maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:57 am
I'd be curious as to which recordings by Ozawa you like:.
A stunning performance of the Rite by the young Ozawa. One of my all-time favorites, along with Boulez/CO, Bernstein/NYP and crowning them all, Martinon/CSO (1967 live).

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Another:

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Still another:

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And more:
Honegger: Joan of Arc at the Stake (Columbia)
Lieberson: Piano Concerto (New World)
Messiaen: St. Francis of Assisi (Cybele)
Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony (RCA)
Orff: Carmina Burana (RCA)
Ravel Orchestral Music (DG)
Russo: Street Music: A Blues Concerto (DG)
Sessions: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (New World)
Sessions: Concerto for Orchestra / Panufnik Symphony 8 (Hyperion)
Takemitsu: Orchestral Works (Philips)

Two more with the Toronto:
1969 National Arts Center Opening Festival (CBC)
20th c. Canadian Music (Columbia 32 11 0038)

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:25 am

Thanks, Joe, very much. I don't have any of those.

It's worth noting that these are all, with the exception of the Berlioz, XXth century works. By the turn of the last century, composers had learned quite well how to be crystal-clear in writing down exactly how they wanted their music to be performed, with metronome markings, clear phrasing and bowings, etc. Stravinsky was particularly definitive in his desire to avoid "interpretation" and was adamant that his music should be performed exactly as written, as his own recordings attest. Remember how he excoriated HvK for that conductor's first recording of Le Sacre? So much so that Von Karajan decided to remake it for DGG.

I'll be checking these out in the coming days.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:41 am

maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:25 am
It's worth noting that these are all, with the exception of the Berlioz, XXth century works. By the turn of the last century, composers had learned quite well how to be crystal-clear in writing down exactly how they wanted their music to be performed, with metronome markings, clear phrasing and bowings, etc. Stravinsky was particularly definitive in his desire to avoid "interpretation" and was adamant that his music should be performed exactly as written, as his own recordings attest. Remember how he excoriated HvK for that conductor's first recording of Le Sacre? So much so that Von Karajan decided to remake it for DGG.
Ozawa is what he is. Fritz or Franz he ain’t. Interesting too, in that the story as told to me by a CSO insider is that young Ozawa was so thrown by the Sacre rhythms (was not this work one that IS had notated so precisely?), that the CSO had to teach the piece to the wunderkind as it had been taught to them by Jean Martinon. I once heard Martinon conduct it. Mind blowing. The Ozawa recording, I was told, captures Martinon’s way with the work. Even so, it is a great recording by the Lamborghini of orchestras.

Maybe that explains why I am enanmoured of Levine’s recordings with the CSO. And Bernstein’s. And even Szell’s live gig playing LvB’s 5 & 6. IT’S THE ORCHESTRA!
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:57 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:41 am
maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:25 am
It's worth noting that these are all, with the exception of the Berlioz, XXth century works. By the turn of the last century, composers had learned quite well how to be crystal-clear in writing down exactly how they wanted their music to be performed, with metronome markings, clear phrasing and bowings, etc. Stravinsky was particularly definitive in his desire to avoid "interpretation" and was adamant that his music should be performed exactly as written, as his own recordings attest. Remember how he excoriated HvK for that conductor's first recording of Le Sacre? So much so that Von Karajan decided to remake it for DGG.
Sure, Ozawa is what he is. Wilhelm or Fritz he ain’t. Interesting too, in that the story as told to me by a CSO insider is that young Ozawa was so thrown by the Sacre rhythms (the ones IS had supposedly notated so precisely?), that the CSO had to teach the piece to the wunderkind as it had been taught to them by Jean Martinon. I heard Martinon conduct it. Mind blowing. The Ozawa recording, I was told, captures Martinon’s way with the work. Even so, it is a great recording by the Lamborghini of orchestras.
That story certainly rings true.

I worked on Le Sacre, as well as L'Histoire du soldat, at Juilliard, and there's no doubt that it's a tough nut to crack.

Remember that Ormandy had to re-bar the score for his mono recording in Philadelphia, ostensibly to make it easier to conduct. Interestingly, he never remade it in stereo. Philadelphia never played the piece again under Ormandy, and the score languished in their archives until Muti made it his first recording project with them when he took over the podium. That EMI CD, which is filled out by an extraordinary performance of Petrushka, remains a personal favorite I return to often, along with Stravinsky's own that was prepared by Robert Craft for Columbia.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:03 am

You shoulda heard Martinon! This work held no terrors for him. Conducted as if it were written in two long breaths. I was speechless afterwards.

I have the Ormandy on LP vinyl and love it too. Bernstein was my first.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:13 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:03 am
You shoulda heard Martinon! This work held no terrors for him. Conducted as if it were written in two long breaths. I was speechless afterwards.

I have the Ormandy on LP vinyl and love it too. Bernstein was my first.
I'm sure!

Martinon's years in Chicago, however brief, proved him a master musician in my view, as his recordings there attest. The entire 10CD box (which I own) pictured below is available for streaming on amazon, btw. I also have a masterful Mahler III that was issued as part of an anniversary box from the Chicago Symphony that is quite beyond compare. It makes Levine's version sound rather pale in comparison.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:20 am

They could never prop up a canned cardboard cutout of Martinon. He moved too quicksilvery on the podium. E.G., his conducting the CSO in the world premiere of Sessions’ 7th, even though the work itself was WAY over my head. Exciting, idealistic playing, as if they were kids, not seasoned pros, not maybe the greatest orchestra in the world.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by THEHORN » Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:39 pm

MaestroB, with all due respect, I couldn't disagree with you more about Ozawa's Prokofiev cycle with the BPO on DG . I have it, and to me at least, the playing of the Berliners is simply superb . Possibly a little to polished for Prokofiev , but the orchestra sounds absolutely gorgeous . Ozawa also also made some terrific recordings in Boston, but in general, I prefer the ones he made with other orchestras - Berlin, Vienna, Chicago, Paris etc . I also admire Rozhdestvensky, Rostropovich, Neeme Jarvi Gergiev and other conductors in the music of Prokofiev . And the relative lack of smoothness and polish is actually part of the qualities which make his Prokofiev performances compelling . It's a positive virtue with this composer . Ormandy's one size fits all plush ultra smooth "Philadelphia sound " actually annoys me in many though not all of the recordings I've heard of him . A rich, sumptuous orchestral sound can be wonderful thing,but for me, Ormandy tends to apply the generic "Philadelphia sound " to almost all of his recordings with the orchestras .
It's not Karajan whose performances are too smooth and plush to me; yes, the Berlin sound is rich, sumptuous and colorful , but the Berliners also played with plenty of muscle and sinew for Herbie the K . The Berlin woodwinds are also more full of color , pungency and character thanPhiladelphia good as they were under Ormandy , and the mighty Berlin brass have a truly Germanic timbre which the Philly brass, good as they were under Ormandy ,lacked .
I've always had enormous admiration for Levine's conducting , despite his appalling flaws as a human being . Many other great conductors and other classical musicians have been guilty of reprehensible sexual conduct and reprehensible behavior of other kinds .
Regarding Levine, I've never heard a recording by him, opera or orchestral, I disliked , and many I really love . His behavior in private life was often deplorable , but his accomplishments as a conductor were colossal .

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by THEHORN » Sat Mar 20, 2021 2:07 pm

Maestro B , regarding Stravinsky's aversion to conductors "interpreting "his music, his own recordings of Le Sacre, for example, show how even he, despite his meticulous instructions in his scores, did not conduct this masterpiece the same way in the different versions he made .
Despite his anger with tempi by other conductors he felt were "wrong", he does not choose the same tempo in his own recordings .
Why ? Because even conductors change their minds . Metronome markings can indicate the tempi the composer chose when he wrote any given work . And there are many other nuances in phrasing and balance etc, which change in any composer's interpretation on different occasions when either conducting or playing a piano work .
Brahms, for example, rejected metronome markings after using them in a few of his earlier works, because he realized that while there may be SOME tempi which might be wrong, can never be one absolutely right , unfixed, unchanging tempo . Tempi are not set in stone .
By the way, Glenn Gould actually admired the recording of Le Sacre by Karajan which the composer sneered at , and wrote an article defending Karajan's interpretation which is in his book of collected writings . It's just about impossible for any musician NOT to interpret any piece of music by any composer . Playwrights don't expect actors to just go on and off stage just speaking the words of the play in a deadpan manner without inflecting the lines for expression and intonation and not using gestures and facial expressions . This would be ridiculous and a travesty of any drama .
It's no different with music . The score can only tell you so much . There are so many things which a performing musician must add which are extremely difficult to describe but absolutely essential in a performance and which are not actually indicated in the score and cannot be . Olivier and Gielgud were both renowned for the role of Hamlet and other Shakespeare roles . They both spoke the same written lines , yet were still so different in the same role

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 20, 2021 2:09 pm

As has been demonstrated in great detail before here, Robert, we have very different tastes in music.

That's all I will say now.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by barney » Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:43 pm

It's true the pair of you have different tastes, but I always enjoy the discussions. You are both very knowledgeable and bring interesting perspectives.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by barney » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:33 am

From Vulture.com


On the Talented, Monstrous James Levine
By Justin Davidson
Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

James Levine, who presided over years of glory at the Metropolitan Opera before ending his career in ignominy, has died at 77. After a lifetime of being greeted with ovations every time he appeared at the podium, he got a grim slow clap on the way out. “Good,” one musician tweeted on the news of his death, a sentiment echoed across social media. As the Met’s chief, leading more than 2,500 performances there, he was king of the American musical world and emperor of opera. He was also a monster who sexually preyed on children. He never admitted a thing, was never put on trial, never even suffered a Cosby-like erasure, but he leaves behind a legacy of mixed admiration and disgust. “The Metropolitan Opera honors the memory of former Music Director James Levine, who held the musical reins of the company for four-and-a-half decades,” the company’s website reads.

Levine began his career at the top and stayed there until he was forcibly removed, his phenomenal talent evident from the day he first materialized in the spotlight. He made his Met debut in 1971 at 27, conducting Tosca. A veteran operagoer once recalled for me his impressions of that performance — the tenor Franco Corelli drawing out the aria “E lucevan le stelle” at such a flamboyantly slow tempo that it practically defied a conductor to keep from falling apart, as Levine kept the orchestra glued to the voice.

From then on, even though at various times he also took jobs heading the Munich Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, his home and his identity remained at the Met. He became music director in 1976 and led it for 40 years, building and rebuilding the orchestra into one of the world’s great ensembles, shaping the repertoire, launching careers and presiding over their sunsets. His long tenure overlapped with several generations of phenomenal singers — Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Plácido Domingo (another great artist banished from the Met as a sexual transgressor), Samuel Ramey, Tatiana Troyanos, Dawn Upshaw, Renée Fleming — and he made them feel artistically safe and sound their best. The musicians in the pit knew they belonged to a singer’s band, phrasing in long vocal breaths, punctuating syllables and dramatic epiphanies, enfolding the voice in tailored orchestral drapery like an embroidered robe. The stars relied on him not to be thrown by their lapses or eccentricities.
One Great Story
The one story you shouldn’t miss, selected by New York editors

At the same time, he was abusing teenagers.

Like almost everyone in the music world, I had heard murmurs about sexual transgressions — vivid, unverifiable rumors about some young boy’s family having been paid to keep quiet and midwestern cities he had been ordered out of, gossip that seemed luridly anti-gay. From time to time, journalists tried to pin down the stories, and they always came up empty-handed. Profiles tended toward the warm.

And yet, once the details did eventually come out, first in the New York Post, then in other papers, it was clear that many in the industry had to have known, and not just “known.” Levine was constantly surrounded by assistants and administrators who booked his travel, carried his luggage, supplied him with the towels that were perpetually draped over his shoulder, and closed his office doors. Everyone in his orbit and many beyond had motivation to discount what they heard. A pat on the back from him was currency around the world. A touch elsewhere went unremarked upon.

I got to know Levine a bit in the late 1990s, when I lurked backstage at the Met for weeks, reporting for Newsday on the making of a new production of Carmen. Interviewing him was like talking to a stone wall of placidity that was overgrown with verbiage. He’d answer a question by rewinding to prehistoric times, then enchaining digressions, until an hour had passed and I was smiling in desperation. At other times, he dodged me for days, then called me at home late in the evening. “It’s Jimmy,” he said, before launching into another vague peroration. With his noncommittal smile and frizzy halo, padding around the velvet corridors of his musical home with his shoulder towel, he projected an air of benevolent enthusiasm. The blandness was strategic. He rarely if ever got angry or said no; he had others do it for him. Singers often bathed in his admiration until they stopped getting jobs.

His conducting style could be equally gnomic. Never physically clear about his musical intentions, he counted upon an orchestra that knew what he was going to say and could interpret his comments. An opera rehearsed in August may not reach performance until November, and the musicians have to hold a finely honed interpretation in their heads all that time. During a rehearsal of Die Walküre, I once witnessed him adjust a tiny inflection in the horns and then heard the entire string sound instantly metamorphose, becoming hotter, deeper, more liquid. How did he do it? By misdirection, he acknowledged to me later: Focus everyone’s attention on one detail and they will listen harder to themselves.

The Met was not just grateful for his care, loyalty, and prestige; it was also desperate. The company is a show-biz factory like no other, presenting more than two dozen operas in the course of a season — three or four a week, and two on Saturdays. It’s a hugely expensive machine, one that runs on a steady supply of ticket buyers and donations, all of which seemed to depend on Levine’s presence and prestige. The Met was the House that Jimmy Built, and it could crumble if he didn’t keep propping it up. Levine quietly banked on his uniqueness, freezing out other conductors who might threaten his hegemony. The company did eventually hire Valery Gergiev as principal guest conductor, mostly as a conduit to Russian singers and a champion of Russian operas that Levine had little interest in. Later, when Levine’s health was failing and his grip was loosening, the Italian conductor Fabio Luisi became principal conductor and heir apparent, but he left without ever even having met the man he was supposed to replace.

Levine made innumerable comebacks, and though he ended his career in bitterness and disgrace, he also avoided the punishment he deserved. The Met investigated allegations of sexual harassment and fired him … and then paid him millions to settle a lawsuit. His health would likely have prevented him from conducting much longer anyway. Starting in the mid-1990s, a tremor appeared in his hand, and though he waved away inquiries, he later admitted to having Parkinson’s disease. Successive back injuries knocked him out of commission at various times and he eventually began conducting from a wheelchair, which the Met accommodated by building a hydraulic lift to the podium in the pit.

Even now, the Met continues to need him. When the pandemic shut the house, with catastrophic financial consequences, the company began tapping its archive of telecasts, streaming a different opera every 24 hours, for free, to audiences all over the world. Night after night, there was Levine in his prime, popping onto the podium to roaring cheers. Onstage, characters commit murder, treason, incest, and assorted acts of depravity. Then, the curtain falls, and they emerge back onstage to forgiving applause.

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Mon Mar 22, 2021 7:59 am

Thanks for that, Barney. I didn't know that Levine and Fabio Luisi had never met. That's quite startling. I wonder why.

A troubled era is over now, and Nezet-Seguin will be more and more present, hopefully. I like his conducting in general, although he needed a bit more energy in his recent Traviata, I thought.

Now, we can all emit a great sigh of relief and allow the MET to heal itself while we hopefully anticipate a reopening in the Fall.

Still, I grieve for all those young men who suffered life-altering experiences, and for the many young women who had to deal with such a toxic environment as well from Levine's two top tenors.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:19 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:08 am
maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:57 am
I'd be curious as to which recordings by Ozawa you like:.
A stunning performance of the Rite by the young Ozawa. One of my all-time favorites, along with Boulez/CO, Bernstein/NYP and crowning them all, Martinon/CSO (1967 live).

Image

Just heard the above. It's a stunning recording of Stravinsky's two masterpieces. Frankly, Ozawa's disciplined, youthful and electrifying enthusiasm makes Stravinsky's own recording with the Columbia Symphony quite pale in comparison. Although it's expensive, and the Rite is available in a budget box reissue, I just may have to order the High Performance reissue from 1999.

Thanks for the suggestion, Joe. When this was first released on LP to glowing reviews, I passed it by thinking I had the definitive recording by the composer, and later, Muti's EMI issue (his first release when he took over in Philadelphia) only added to my respect for that conductor. My error in neglecting Ozawa all these years, and I'm very pleased to remedy that situation now, at last. :D

I will definitely continue to audition as many of the CDs you've posted as I can as time goes by, with a focus on his earlier recordings, as these have always been treated better by reviewers. I'll note here that his early recordings in Chicago have been released by RCA in a budget box (including his celebrated LP of Bartok I & III with a 19-year-old Peter Serkin), and can be streamed on amazon:

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:30 pm

I have that Bartok with Serkin on LP vinyl. Didn’t know about the box. Thanks. There seems to be a newer import reissue of rite of spring (2016 Japan?) from Amazon usa for only $11 + shipping. https://www.amazon.com/Stravinsky-Rite- ... B01HLDYR16

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:49 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:30 pm
I have that Bartok with Serkin on LP vinyl. Didn’t know about the box. Thanks. There seems to be an import version of rite of spring (2016 Japan?) from Amazon usa for only $11.
Sure, I saw that, but Rite of Spring is also included in the Chicago Box with the Serkin/Bartok and many other well-recorded titles. I will listen to them all before ordering, but what I'm really interested in is a copy of Petrushka, which was recorded in Boston, and doesn't seem to be available for less than about $30, paired with the Chicago Rite on the High Performance CD.

I'll make up my mind soon enough. :wink:

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by barney » Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:47 am

Are CMGers aware of the Rite of Spring centenary edition, which has 38 different accounts on 20 CDs, including the 1913, 1921 and 1947 versions and the piano four-hands version?
One of the jewels of my collection!
In all, I have more than five dozen recordings of the Rite of Spring. It's a glorious work.
Decca 478 3729

maestrob
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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Tue Mar 23, 2021 10:37 am

barney wrote:
Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:47 am
Are CMGers aware of the Rite of Spring centenary edition, which has 38 different accounts on 20 CDs, including the 1913, 1921 and 1947 versions and the piano four-hands version?
One of the jewels of my collection!
In all, I have more than five dozen recordings of the Rite of Spring. It's a glorious work.
Decca 478 3729
Yes, I remember hearing about that box when it was issued, but sadly I let it pass me by.

I'm a big fan of the four-hand piano version, as played by Argerich and Barenboim. What a knuckle-buster! It's available here as a video stream from Amazon Prime, and was included as a CD in the DGG box of Argerich's complete recordings for that label.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by barney » Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:23 pm

Yes, I have that. Superb performance.

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by Lance » Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:13 pm

I never got that Decca set, however I did get the Sony 10-CD edition [46174] entitled Le Sacre du Printemps: 100th Anniversary Edition, which includes:
• Stokowski/Philadelphia Orchestra (r.1929)
• Stravinsky/New York Philharmonic (r.1940)
• Monteux/Boston Symphony Orchestra (r.1951)
• Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra (r.1955)
• Stravinsky/Columbia Symphony Orchestra (r.1960)
• Ozawa/Chicago Symphony Orchestra (r.1968)
• Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra (r.1969)
• Bernstein/London Symphony Orchestra (r.1972)
• Salonen/Philharmonia Orchestra (r.1989)
• Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony (r.1996)
Outside of that 10-CD boxed set, I have those of Markevitch, Fricsay, Mehta, Bernstein/NYP (vers.1913), Monteux (Decca), Keilberth, Steinberg, Leibowitz, van Beinum, Goossens, Dorati, and Horenstein. Plus two or three two-piano versions. I guess you might say I have not neglected Sacre! I also thought Stokowski recorded it for Decca Phase-4, but it must have been another Stravinsky piece. It would have been interesting to compare that to his 1929 recording in Philadelphia given the sonics of Phase-4. Otherwise, I tend to turn to Monteux/Paris or his earlier 1951 recording in Boston. I honestly think that is quite enough Sacre for one man ... hence not looking for any others.
barney wrote:
Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:47 am
Are CMGers aware of the Rite of Spring centenary edition, which has 38 different accounts on 20 CDs, including the 1913, 1921 and 1947 versions and the piano four-hands version?
One of the jewels of my collection!
In all, I have more than five dozen recordings of the Rite of Spring. It's a glorious work.
Decca 478 3729
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Levine is dead at 77 — having passed away in Calif. on March 9

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 24, 2021 8:15 am

Lance wrote:
Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:13 pm
I never got that Decca set, however I did get the Sony 10-CD edition [46174] entitled Le Sacre du Printemps: 100th Anniversary Edition, which includes:
• Stokowski/Philadelphia Orchestra (r.1929)
• Stravinsky/New York Philharmonic (r.1940)
• Monteux/Boston Symphony Orchestra (r.1951)
• Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra (r.1955)
• Stravinsky/Columbia Symphony Orchestra (r.1960)
• Ozawa/Chicago Symphony Orchestra (r.1968)
• Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra (r.1969)
• Bernstein/London Symphony Orchestra (r.1972)
• Salonen/Philharmonia Orchestra (r.1989)
• Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony (r.1996)
Outside of that 10-CD boxed set, I have those of Markevitch, Fricsay, Mehta, Bernstein/NYP (vers.1913), Monteux (Decca), Keilberth, Steinberg, Leibowitz, van Beinum, Goossens, Dorati, and Horenstein. Plus two or three two-piano versions. I guess you might say I have not neglected Sacre! I also thought Stokowski recorded it for Decca Phase-4, but it must have been another Stravinsky piece. It would have been interesting to compare that to his 1929 recording in Philadelphia given the sonics of Phase-4. Otherwise, I tend to turn to Monteux/Paris or his earlier 1951 recording in Boston. I honestly think that is quite enough Sacre for one man ... hence not looking for any others.
barney wrote:
Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:47 am
Are CMGers aware of the Rite of Spring centenary edition, which has 38 different accounts on 20 CDs, including the 1913, 1921 and 1947 versions and the piano four-hands version?
One of the jewels of my collection!
In all, I have more than five dozen recordings of the Rite of Spring. It's a glorious work.
Decca 478 3729
Yes, Lance, Stokowski recorded "Firebird" for London Phase 4, but only the Suite. Too bad he didn't re-do "Le Sacre." He certainly had the chops for it then, as his electrifying recording of "L'Histoire du soldat" on Vanguard shows (the first to use Dolby A sound reduction in the studio). I was lucky enough to get a copy of his complete recordings for Phase 4 while it was still in print. Much incredible music-making there.

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