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100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
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The Birth of Rhapsody in Blue
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A Celebration on Record

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additional review



Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 1, op. 13, Winter Dreams (1866) [39:55]
Vassily KALINNIKOV (1866-1901)
Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1894-95) [35:32]
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Fabien Sevitzky
rec. 19 March 1946 (Tchaikovsky); 7-8 January 1941 (Kalinnikov), Murat Theatre, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The fourth volume in Pristine’s series devoted to the recordings of Fabien Sevitzky (1891-1967), who was born ‘Koussevitzky’ and was a nephew of Serge, presents two major symphonic statements, one recorded the year before America entered the War, and the year after the War ended.

It was fortunate, given the Petrillo recording ban the following year, that Victor took the conductor and his Indianapolis Symphony into the studios in January 1941 to record Kalinnikov’s First Symphony, the first ever recording of the work. On a four-disc 78rpm album Sevitzky shows just those qualities, of energising tension, stylistic affinity, and discipline, that mark out his very best recordings. It helps that Kalinnikov espoused a strongly post-Tchaikovskian romantic nationalism as this was a metier congenial to Sevitzky as well as to, of course, his uncle. The fugato episode, the mellow ardency of the slow movement, the genial well-focused winds, and the confident vibrancy of the finale, full of passionate conviction, reflect well on all concerned. The 1941 recording sounds pretty good – perhaps it could have been rather more forward - and has been excellently transferred.

The companion symphony is Tchaikovsky’s First, Winter Dreams. In claiming in his brief note that this too was a premiere recording, Mark Obert-Thorn has overlooked the earlier recording made by Jacques Rachmilovich and the Santa Monica Symphony on the Asch label, albeit with a few cuts. You may well know their names best for supporting Louis Kaufmann on disc. Victor certainly placed great confidence in Sevitzky and his orchestra and they respond with a powerful, vivid reading with an expressively fluid slow movement – excellent lower strings – a lively Scherzo and a communicative and lugubrious introduction to the finale, where the music’s fugato and rustic effects make their mark with telling brio.

This is a probing and well programmed series, shedding light on an overlooked corner of Victor’s recording schedule and restoring Sevitzky’s legacy in a timely and professional way. In addition to the numbered volumes of this series don’t overlook his contribution to the Harl McDonald discography on Pristine (PASC491).

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett

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