Rafael Kubelík - The Mercury Masters

 
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DVORAK / SMETANA / BARTOK / MOUSSORGSKY / HINDEMITH / SCHOENBERG / etc
Rafael Kubelík - The Mercury Masters
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik

[ Mercury Living Presence / Eloquence / 12 CD Box Set ]

Release Date: Friday 28 May 2021

Groundbreaking technology, dynamic musical leadership, world-class orchestral playing: a brief marriage of lasting impact for the history of recorded music. To mark the 70th anniversary of Mercury Living Presence, this limited-edition box presents the complete Chicago Symphony/Rafael Kubelík recordings, newly remastered by Thomas Fine and including never-before-published material.

• Original cover albums
• New booklet essay on the Chicago Symphony/Kubelík years by Jonathan Woolf
• A 'sessionography' by Thomas Fine
• Booklet includes rare photographs from the Mercury archives

The brief and turbulent tenure of Rafael Kubelík as the CSO's music director has become the stuff of legend for its intense partisan hostility. When he arrived in Chicago in 1950 to replace Artur Rodzinski, the 36-year-old Kubelík had impressive credentials and a fast-growing list of triumphs in Europe. The city's musical press had hung previous directors out to dry, including Rodzinski, but they subjected Kubelík to intense and sustained criticism of his programming and performances until he resigned in 1953.

Kubelík's arrival coincided with the lapsing of the CSO's previous recording contract and the almost immediate appearance of the ambitious Mercury label. The conductor later recalled how 'a very clever team from Mercury turned up and established that the best microphone positioning was just a single one above my head … the resulting sound was identical to what I heard during the playing and didn't need to be altered'.

As soon as they were issued - Pictures at an Exhibition was the first LP ever released by Mercury - the results won universal praise. Another eight albums followed, of Romantic and modern repertoire playing to the strengths of both orchestra and conductor, concluding in April 1953 with a sonic and artistic spectacular, the Five Pieces for Orchestra of Schoenberg coupled with Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses on themes of Weber.

Using the best original tape sources available, new high-resolution transfers have been made by Thomas Fine, son of C. Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart Fine, founders of Mercury. Thomas Fine has also contributed 'sessionography' notes, detailing the equipment and techniques which made MLP recordings famous the world over for their unparalleled fidelity.

CD10 includes unique material, beginning with an interview with Wilma Cozart Fine. First takes of Bloch's Concerto Grosso add up to an almost complete alternative performance, never previously published. Experimental-stereo tapes - of Mozart's 'Prague' Symphony and Tabor from Ma Vlast - were made by the engineer Bert Whyte. Both are included here in new remasters by Mark Obert-Thorn.

"One of the most startling successes of the early years of LP recording… The result is remarkable for the undistorted opulence and realism of the sound." The Record Guide, 1955 (Mussorgsky/Ravel)

"Mercury has exceeded itself… and the orchestra sounds like a real virtuoso group under Kubelík's propulsive baton." Gramophone, January 1952 (Bartók/Bloch)

"So sensational that one needs a bucketful of adjectives to describe it." Gramophone, October 1952 (Mussorgsky/Ravel)

"A very distinguished account… which quite outclasses previous recordings." Gramophone, February 1953 (Dvořák)

"Now the crown for the hiest-fiest, most startlingly realistic recording must go to this remarkable disc - which is, moreover, equally remarkable for the brilliance of the performances… Definitely my Record of the Year." Gramophone, September 1955 (Hindemith/Schoenberg)

"Both works are presented with masterly certainty of touch." The Times, October 1955 (Hindemith/Schoenberg)

"Forceful, sometimes hard-driven but decidedly attractive performances, finely recorded." The Times, December 1955 (Mozart)

"The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings from 1951 through 1953, in their single aural perspective of the orchestra, represent an occasion on which the recording of the symphony orchestra reached true artistry." High Fidelity, March 1973

"The performance has qualities Kubelík has never surpassed. This is probably the most deeply felt Ma Vlast we have… the only one that anyone will have any interest in hearing 25 years from now." High Fidelity, July 1976 (Smetana)

Tracks:

CD 1
MODEST MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Pictures at an Exhibition

CD 2
BÉLA BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106
Irwin Fischer, celesta
Edward Metzenger, timpani
Allen Graham, Lionel Sayers, Thomas Glenecke, percussion

ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra with Piano Obbligato*
George Schick, piano
*FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD

CD 3
ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 'From the New World'

CD 4
PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD

CD 5
PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 'Pathétique'
FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD

CD 6
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD

CD 7
BEDŘICH SMETANA (1824-1884)
Má vlast

CD 8
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 38 in D major, KV 504 'Prague'
Symphony No. 34 in C major, KV 338*
*FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD

CD 9
PAUL HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Fünf Orchesterstücke, Op. 16

CD 10
PERSPECTIVE, THE FIRST REEL AND EXPERIMENTAL STEREO
Interview with Wilma Cozart Fine (Interviewer: Sedgwick Clark)

ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
Concerto Grosso - First reel of tape, 23 April 1951*
PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED

BERT WHYTE - THE EXPERIMENTAL STEREO RECORDINGS
BEDŘICH SMETANA (1824-1884)
Tábor (Má vlast) - stereo*

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 38 in D major, KV 504 'Prague' - excerpts (stereo)*
*FIRST RELEASE ON MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE

Rafael Kubelik The Mercury Masters