Of the classical albums provided during the past month by Victor and Columbia, a large majority have been re-pressings of records which were discontinued during the war. The new material has consisted of only seven new albums.
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 In B Minor ("Unfinished") (DM 1039). To issue a new recording of such a popular work as the Schubert "Unfinished" is always a risky venture because of the large number of previous performances. Koussevitzky's interpretation must necessarily be compared, for the most part unfavorably, with the older readings by Beecham and Walter, but dynamic balance, a restrained direction, and a great deal of feeling make this performance one of the best Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony have ever done. The recording is excellent.
Prokofleff: Sonata No. 7, Opus 83 (DM 1042). This second of Prokofleff's three "War" Sonatas was only completed in 1942, and shows its composer at the peak of his skill as a piano writer. The grotesquely dramatic changes in mood and tempo certainly do not make for particularly pleasant listening but they reveal a highly ingenious and original style of composition. Vladimir Horowitz, who has introduced all of the "War" Sonatas in this country, does a fine job on music that is highly suited to his style of playing. The recording is good.
Prokoieff: Scythian Suite, Opus 20, (DM 1040) displays almost to a fault Prokoieff's acute sense for the bizarre. Originally written as a ballet, its frenzied turbulence made it unsuited to that form. The Suite is Prokoieff's first work of any major importance and its lack of profundity puts it within the reach of the somewhat limited capabilities of Desire Defauw and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but even the technical difficulties are sometimes too great for them. Recording is poor.
Dorothy Maynor's anthology of sacred music (DM 1043) is, unfortunately a collection of rather easily obtainable selections from Mozart, Bach, Handel, and Mondelssohn. Her interpretations and performances of them are reasonably good but do not reveal either the inspiration or the vocal proficiency of which Miss Maynor is probably capable. Accompaniment by The Victor Orchestra is only mediocre. Recording is good.
Ferde Grofe: Grand Canyon Suite (DM 1038) is a highly superficial programistic piece depicting various views of the Grand Canyon such as "Sunrise" complete with twittering flute. Of the three recordings of this work, the new one by Toscanini and the NBC surpasses both the older Whiteman and Kostelanetz performances in technical proficiency, but, like so many Toscanini readings of modern American music, lacks the sympathetic treatment provided by Whiteman. Recording is fair.
Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead, Opus 29 (M M 599) is the composer's symphonic interpretation of Arnold Boecklin's painting of the same name. Its almost pathological mourning is excellently portrayed by Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, whose interpretation of Rachmaninoff is slightly more authentic than Koussevitzky's, which was released during the winter, Recording is fairly good.
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale (DM 1041). This Symphonic Poem, once intended as a Ballet and later as an Opera, is a summation of the composer's experiments in the earlier Firebird, Petrouchka, and Rite of Spring Suites, and displays more than any of them, Stravinsky's amazing command of the symphony orchestra. Both recording and performance by the Cincinnati Symphony under Eugene Goossens are only fair.