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CD Review

Stereo Spectacular

1 Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Gustav Cerny
2 Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Maximilian Kojetinsky
3 Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Militiades Caridis
ReDiscovery RD-153 ADD 71:18

The second largest city in Austria is not Salzburg but Graz, a university town that boasts a fine orchestra, dating from 1950. The proximity of Graz to Slovenia, some 30 miles to the south, may have influenced the Graz Philharmonic's style and sound. Certainly no one would mistake it for the Vienna Philharmonic, but hearing this CD, one has to admit that they know their collective way around this music, and they perform it with more than adequate spirit and polish.

Founded in 1952, the Livingston label supplied collectors of reel-to-reel tapes with recordings of the basic classical repertory. The label had a head start in the classical audiophile market for several years, at least until the stereo LP was perfected later in the decade. In the meantime, Livingston traveled around Europe and recorded mostly lesser-known orchestras and mostly lesser-known conductors in popular classical music.

ReDiscovery has asked the question "Mr. Livingston, I presume?" before. Rediscovery RD-073/074 is a very enjoyable compilation of recordings by Vittorio Gui and the Florence May Festival Orchestra, mostly from reel tape masters. This latest Livingston compilation is even better, sonically, and just as good musically. Although Livingston made some extreme claims about the quality of their recordings, they hold their own more than five decades after the fact.

Just as the Graz Philharmonic is real, so are the three conductors – no pseudonyms here. Kojetinsky appears to have been particularly noted as an opera conductor. Caridis, who died in 1997, also was an opera conductor who, earlier in his life, had studied in Dresden, leaving it just before the onset of World War II. (I can't find much information about Cerny.) No one does anything unusual in these performances, but it would be a pleasure to hear conducting this good on any "pops" program. Kojetinsky's Marche Slave comes to a particularly exciting conclusion, and Caridis raises the voltage in the two Verdi overtures without pushing them. Cerny's name suggests Czech origins, and his Smetana is direct and lacking in self-consciousness. If he seems eager to bring Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien to a close, and if he and the Graz Philharmonic miss the Gallic lightness one wants in Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre, his Glinka is very Russian and exciting, and is especially well played by the orchestra.

This CD-R is available through for $15, or for $5, if you prefer an mp3 download. As with most ReDiscovery releases, booklet notes are minimal. This reissue might be intended for a certain type of collector, but it should provide enjoyment to anyone who hears it.

Copyright © 2010, Raymond Tuttle.