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Sony Classical Announces Upcoming Box Set Releases in April 2021 - Szigeti, Rodzinski, and Bernstein

Joseph Szigeti – The Complete Columbia Album Collection

April 23: Artur Rodziński and the New York Philharmonic – The Complete Album Collection

Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky

Joseph SzigetiThe Complete Columbia Album Collection

Release Date: April 9, 2021

Sony Classical releases a 17-CD box set collecting the recordings made between 1940 and 1956 for American Columbia by the renowned Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti. This first-ever complete recording collection totals 31 works, remastered from the original analogue discs and tapes using 24 bit / 192 kHz high resolution.

Szigeti had a remarkable career. Born in 1892 in Budapest, where he studied with Jenő Hubay, one of most celebrated virtuosos and teachers of that golden era of violin playing, he was praised by the iconic German violinist Joseph Joachim at his Berlin debut in 1905; lived in London for several years following his acclaimed 1907 debut and played chamber music with, among others, Myra Hess and Ferruccio Busoni; was a frequent visitor after the war to the Soviet Union, where he introduced Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto; made his triumphant American debut at Carnegie Hall under Stokowski in 1925; toured the world during the 1930s before finally settling in the US in 1940.

It was in that year that Szigeti renewed his friendship with fellow Hungarian émigré Béla Bartók, and in April the two gave a now-legendary recital in Washington which featured Bartók’s First Violin Rhapsody of 1928 – a work dedicated to and premiered by Szigeti in Europe. In May 1940, Columbia recorded their interpretation of this “vehicle for Szigeti’s biting and wholly magnificent fiddling” (MusicWeb International) in New York. That performance appears here for the first time on CD, along with another important work by Bartók, the classic first recording of his Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano, written for and performed with Szigeti and Benny Goodman.

The rest of the new collection displays many more treasures of Szigeti’s passionate dedication to chamber music: in Bach, Handel, Tartini, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Dvořák, Debussy, Ravel, Bloch, Busoni, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Henry Cowell, collaborating with such artists as Andor Foldes – another Hungarian émigré – as well as with Mieczyslaw Horzowski, Myra Hess, Pablo Casals and Igor Stravinsky.

There are, of course, major orchestral works represented in the new Szigeti edition, including two towering concertos in D major – the Brahms, recorded in 1945 with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Beethoven, recorded in 1947 with Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic (“an account of impassioned grandeur” – MusicWeb International) – along with Busoni’s early Violin Concerto in D major, recorded in 1954 with Thomas Sherman conducting the Little Orchestra Society. Szigeti’s numerous Bach concerto recordings for Columbia are here as well, conducted by Casals, Fritz Stiedry and George Szell.

As Nathan Milstein, one of his great colleagues, said in a touching tribute to Szigeti, who died in 1973: “He was an incredibly cultured musician. Actually, his talent grew out of his culture. … I always admired him, and he was respected by musicians.” In his late years, Joseph Szigeti finally got the appreciation he deserved from the general public as well. Sony Classical’s new collection his Columbia recordings, many never before released on CD at Sony Classical, can only further enhance that appreciation.

Conductor Artur Rodziński and the New York Philharmonic – The Complete Album Collection

Release date: April 23, 2021

Artur Rodziński’s legacy for Columbia Masterworks with the New York Philharmonic is presented in a 16-CD set. The collection features 15 works recorded with the New York Philharmonic for the first time on CD at Sony Classical, transferred and remastered from the original analogue discs and tapes using 24 bit / 192 high resolution.

He has been called the most exciting younger conductor in the USA during the 1930s. Artur Rodziński (1892–1958) galvanized audiences wherever he appeared as a guest, including Philadelphia, where he worked with Stokowski, and New York, where his 1937 concert performance of Strauss’s Elektra is still considered a landmark in the Philharmonic’s history. Earning a reputation as a builder of great orchestras, the Polish conductor headed up and developed the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1929–33) and the Cleveland Orchestra (1933–43), with which he gave the American premiere of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1935. Meanwhile, he was also active in Europe, becoming the first naturalized American to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival. There Toscanini admired his work and in 1938 picked Rodziński to train his new NBC Symphony Orchestra.

Rodziński amassed a fairly sizable discography in a relatively short recording career. During his Cleveland tenure, he made a number of important recordings for Columbia Masterworks, and he continued his association with the label after taking up his post in New York. Sony Classical’s new 16-disc box set of Rodziński’s New York recordings, largely recorded in Carnegie Hall between 1944 and 1946, will fill an important gap in the classical catalogue.

Rodziński was perhaps most closely associated with the Russian repertoire – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky – as well as Wagner. Both are prominent in Sony’s new collection. Artur Rodziński’s range is further reflected by generous samplings of French music (Saint-Saëns’ Fourth Piano Concerto with Robert Casadesus and various works by Bizet, Ibert, Franck, Satie, Offenbach and Debussy), American repertoire (Gershwin, Copland and Morton Gould) and symphonies by Brahms (Nos. 1 and 2) and Sibelius (No. 4). This meticulously transferred and remastered collection of Rodziński’s New York Philharmonic recordings represents a generous reward for the conductor’s many patient admirers.

Bernstein Conducts Stravinsky

Release date: April 30, 2021

-Leonard Bernstein, conductor

-New York Philharmonic

-Boston Symphony Orchestra

-London Philharmonic Orchestra

-London Symphony Orchestra

“The last great father-figure of Western music” was how Leonard Bernstein eulogized Igor Stravinsky in 1972 before his homage concert in London a year after the composer’s death. Stravinsky’s works, he asserted, “sum up and embrace all of music itself – from primitive folk art to highly sophisticated serialism, from rarefied church music to outspoken jazz.”

In fact, Bernstein performed surprisingly few selections from Stravinsky’s vast output, recording most of those for Columbia Masterworks and RCA Victor, yet they include some of his most indelible interpretations. He also delivered eloquent and revelatory lectures on the composer. Sony Classical is now pleased to collect these performances and talks in a new 8-CD box set.

One of Bernstein’s earliest passions was Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). He studied the droll score at Tanglewood with his mentor, Serge Koussevitzky, first performing it in 1940 at a Koussevitzky family picnic. Then in 1947, after conducting it again at Tanglewood with Boston Symphony players, he recorded it, along with the enchanting Octet, on 78s for RCA.

His most celebrated Stravinsky recording came a decade later, Le Sacre du printemps with the New York Philharmonic in 1958 and from around the same time comes Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic recording of the Firebird Suite (1919 version). In 1962 there followed recordings of the seldom-heard Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments (with soloist Seymour Lipkin) and the suite from Pulcinella.

After that he didn’t return to the studio with Stravinsky’s music until 1970, with the New York Philharmonic’s recording of Petrushka. Two years later, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein revisited Le Sacre du printemps and in the same London Symphony sessions, joined by the English Bach Festival Chorus, he recorded the Symphony of Psalms.

That autumn, Bernstein took up residence at his alma mater, Harvard University, as Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry for the academic year 1972–73. The heart of his memorable last Harvard appearance, entitled “The Poetry of Earth,” was an “outstanding” (ClassicsToday) performance of the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, recorded earlier at Symphony Hall with Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Harvard Glee Club, and featuring René Kollo as Oedipus, Tatiana Troyanos as Jocasta and Tom Krause as Creon.

This shattering performance of Stravinsky’s massive work is aptly presented in Sony’s new edition within the original context of his “Poetry of Earth” lecture. Like every item in this indispensable new edition of Bernstein’s Stravinsky – also containing the conductor’s spoken introduction to Petrushka from 1970 – it is offered in the newest remastering from analogue tape.


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