OPK2001 Mischa Elman : Short pieces
...but these electrical remakes bring out the pire, golden Elman tone and show his relaxed approach towards virtuoso and genre pieces at its best. This is a milestone CD in the history of violin playing and much is owed to the sensitive, natural sounding transfers.
OPK2005 Georges Enesco and Carl Flesch
This is a disc that combines two widely disparate violin personalities. Enesco is good, plastic form for the Chausson, although his portamentos and shifts in registration made my teeth clench a few times. ...But oddly enough, I really like the Corelli, which never loses its sense of the dance. Carl Flesch (1873-1944) represents the more academic side of German side of violin artistry. I find the Mozart and the little Falla Jota most engaging, if a bit staid and resolute in the rhythm. The Mozart has some really deft touches, wonderful bowing, and a clean, flexible line.
OPK2007 Brosnislaw Huberman (Violin)
Having personally owned copies of both 78s sets I can happily confirm that, yes, this is exactly what the originals sounded like.
OPK2009 Ignaz Friedman: GRIEG: Piano Concerto/ LISZT /CHOPIN
The Freidman 1930 Mazurkas rank along the Godowsky Nocturnes as classics of the style: explosive rhythmic propulsion, a heavy-footed, peasants' dance that carries a rough edge in spite of the suave rubatos Friedman applies. No repeat appears as an exact replication of a former incarnation: slight variations in tempo, pulse, dynamics, and agogic accent keep one dramatically interested. The A-flat Major, Op. 50, No. 2 may well be a rediscovered masterwork here. Tempos are generally quick, but Friedman's detache and non legato are so lithe we remain suspended in space. The wonders of the E-flat Nocturne have long generated critics' ink. If Friedman is an unknown entity to your collection, start here.
OPK2013 Mengelberg Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4, serenade for Strings
I had a big surprise, a pleasant one, listening to an Opus Kura CD of Willem Mengelberg conducting Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, which I thought I remembered as being pulled around as much as the last two symphonies. Recorded in 1929, the sound is flabbergastingly good, and enables one without allowance to appreciate an account which is still comparatively 'straight' and delivered with unanimity and attack which comes across the decades undimmed. It's difficult , to the point, perhaps, of impossibility, to say what the difference in the whole impression one gets from even the most committed modern accounts is, but I don't see that it can be denied. The Serenade for Strings is rather less individual, but as it was recorded nine years later, and still in better sound, I can't think of a recording of the work I'd sooner listen to.
OP2017/8 "From Haydn to Mahler" Walter conducts VPO (1935-38)
It is refreshing to see a new import devoted to the idea that "music should be first" in its policy of noise-reduction. The point of interest in this set is the inclusion of two alternative prints of the Haydn "Military" Symphony in Japanese and French pressings, where the "appendix" French version on disc 2 is stunningly quiet! From 1935 we get Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, a work Walter played more expansively in later years, here rather streamlined for the '78 format, but played with fervor and great transparency of detail. The Emperor Waltz is from 1937 (as are Mozart's three German Dances), a linear, buoyant account, less tragic than Furtwengler's but suavely muscular, with some large luftpausen in the best Viennese manner. The last piece, the much-favored Adagietto (1938) from Mahler Fifth, has an aura entirely unique. Strings and harp are taut, nervous, other-worldly. While only some eight minutes in duration, the effect still captures Mahler's spiritual yearning that in modern performances is stretched to literally twice the distance.
OPK2022 Bruno Walter VPO Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 /Brahms: Symphony No. 1
The Mozart concerto with Walter's leading from the keyboard shows off his pearly play, his pert sense of ensemble and his natural flair for Vienna-Mozart style. Remastering has brightened the piano tone and the inner string line, which in the EMI pressings has been absent. The Brahms First is a liquid, driven performance, quite bright in color, though I am not terribly keen on the dry acoustic of the Musikverein Saal of the period. Walter manages a Mengelberg-like ritard at the end of the first movement which is worth a listen. The relative flow of the remainder of the symphony has something of Toscanini's influence, perhaps the residue of memories of Fritz Steinbach, the early Brahms acolyte. It glows here with a loving presence.
OPK2028 Henri Merckel, Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No. 3 ,Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole
French violin virtuoso Henri Merckel (1897-1969) is celebrated in this Japanese-label transfer of pressings made 1932 1935. Merckel's is a thin but pleasing, nasal tone; his interpretation of the Lalo, which includes the "intermezzo" movement, is the first complete performance of this familiar suite for violin and orchestra. The recording was lauded in its own time, receiving the Grand Prix di Disques for 1934. The Saint-Saens concerto is equally gripping, with some real fire in the outer movements, the Andantino a piece of the French countryside. This disc should win him new friends and accolades by those connoisseurs who appreciate a real sense of Gallic style. Opus Kura restorations are a bit noisy but still acoustically vivid.
OPK2029 Joseph Szigeti : Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 / Beethoven: Violin Concerto
The 1934 Mozart Fourth Concerto is one of a trinity of recordings Szigeti and Beecham made. The sensibility is late Victorian, but the sounds are lovely. Szigeti improvises his own cadenzas, and his sound is relatively glossy--the editors of the disc go so far as to compare his tone to Kreisler's. The Beethoven Concerto dates from 1932, and it contributes to the few outstanding discs Walter made in Britain before the Anschluss. Always an intellectual's violinist, Szigeti does more than manage the punishing half steps and rapid figurations, he constantly moves to a melodic cadence with care and tenderness. Even the occasional surface swish cannot detract from the nobility of Szigeti's line. The miking is clearly towards the violin, so those who favor the big orchestral explosion will have to look elsewhere. But for polished examples of Szigeti in his prime, these are exemplary restorations.
OPK2036 Wilhelm Furtwaengler / BPO (Polydor Recordings)
This disc assembles the legendary conductor's Polydor records, 1929-1935, in fair to good sound, taken from Japanese pressings from the period. Some of this material, along with earlier inscriptions from 1926, appeared on the Koch label around ten years ago. Listening to Furtwaengler's pre-War recordings always reveals a different artist than the haunted, tragic artist plagued by the unholy conscience of his race. Tempos are often brisk, the textures transparent; and the free use of portamento lends an old-world flavor to the good-natured spiritis of the proceedings. The major work emotionally is the Weber Freischutz, with broad tempo in the overture and a mock pomp in the orchestral rendering of the Huntsman's Chorus entr'acte. Each of these works received later inscriptions by Furtwaengler, but these give us an amiable, albeit classically refined, sensibility easily reminscent of a Weingartner reading with more warmth. The sound quality will deter all but hard-core Furtwaengler collectors, since surface noise infringes on too many of the conductor's delicate pianissimos and dimuendi. Opus Kura promises a Volume II, and I and the Furtwaengler cult will be looking for it.
OPK2040 (2038,39) Weingartner/ VPO Beethoven Symphonies
'Choral' has appeared sounding much like old Columbia 78s on the Japanese Opus Kura label. As with other transfers in the same series, the amplitude of the original is often quite striking: you really do hear the hall.
OPK2041/2 Pablo Casals : Bach Cello Suites
Opus Kura has transferred Casals's inimitable set of Bach cello suites, less smoothly than Naxos or EMI but more presence than either.
OPK2043 Pablo Casals : Dvorak, Boccherini/ Cello Concerto Bruch/Kol Nidrei
Opus Kura best approximate the warms through vivid sound of the original 78s. A solid bassline adds depth to the aural picture, something 78 collectors take for granted but that for some reason only rarely survives the transfer to CDs. Warm recommendation.
The playing bespeaks the glories of some charmed, musical personalities, whose sense of ensemble illumines every page they play. The partnership of Lili Kraus and Szymon Goldberg was equal to anything Szigeti and Schnabel or Milstein and Balsam achieved. Even 1935 shellacs cannot suppress the high, vigorous spirits infiltrating Mozart's C Major Sonata. Feuermann's fluid, sometimes blazing, playing is heard in the Beethoven works, mostly light fare, but defined by the 18th century cassation and divertimento style that is always ingratiating. Viola Paul Hindemith has quite a singing tone in the interior movements of the Beethoven Op. 8, with its late theme and variations. You can leave your eyeglasses off and just listen to these colossal talents enjoy every note of the chamber music they champion.
OPK 2049 Walter VPO : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde etc
Opus Kura engineers have resuscitated the original shellacs to an astonishing degree, producing the wonderful colors and the rich textures of the Vienna Philharmonic's response to this authoritative reading of Mahler's passionate paean to the contrary forces of life and death. ..but now we can hear the 1936 flute's flutter-tonguing clearly, and the marvelous exoticism of Mahler's colors - the harp, tympani, and woodwinds which beckon us to the lacquers and immaculate porcelains that Yeats proclaimed in "Sailing to Byzantium." Thorberg's dusky voice has not the haunted quality of Ferrier, but her stamina and sympathy in the Abscheid are poignant enough. Recommended for those who like old wine in new bottles.
Opus KURA Hino, Tokyo, JAPAN