The name "Rudolf Albert" might suggest one of those made-up conductor's names that appeared on budget LP labels such as Royale and Varsity back in the 1950s and 60s. Rudolf Albert was no pseudonym, however. He was a real conductor, born in 1918 in the city of Frankfurt-am-Main. According to the information supplied by ReDiscovery (taken, in turn, from liner notes on one of his LPs), Albert studied composition and counterpoint at the local conservatory, and held posts in Frankfurt, Baden, and Munich. He recorded extensively for the Club Français du Disques, and these LPs were licensed in the United States and elsewhere by labels such as Counterpoint/Esoteric, Nonesuch, and Omega.
Why should ReDiscovery remaster and reissue a nearly forgotten conductor's decades-old recordings of the basic repertoire? The answer, simply enough, is that these recordings deserve a second lease on life. This two-disc reissue suggests that Albert was no dull Kapellmeister, but rather an imaginative conductor with something interesting to say about the music. Collectors might remember the "Cento Soli" Orchestra of Paris - literally, "one hundred soloists" – from LPs it made with Spanish conductor Ataúlfo Argenta. I don't love the brass intonation in parts of The Rite of Spring, but that's a minor concern. Surprisingly, this doesn't sound much like a typical French orchestra from the mid- to late 1950s; its sound is more central European.
Albert's tempos are well chosen throughout. The end of the first part of Rite is damned exciting. The second part ends with a reading of the "Sacrificial Dance" which, while not showy, has a lumbering power which is highly effective. The best aspects of Pétrouchka are the pianism of Yvonne Loriod (the wife of Olivier Messiaen!) and some very touching playing at the end of the ballet, as the Magician hauls his hapless puppet's "corpse" away. Firebird is played with the requisite brilliance and sensitivity. Albert paces "The Infernal Dance of King Kashchei" to keep the tension mounting, and he also avoids rushing the Finale, which can make it seem anticlimactic. The Tchaikovsky receives a red-blooded reading in which the excitement never lapses into hysteria. The first movement is tightly assembled. The various episodes in the third movement are given plenty of the character, and Albert's finale is more stirring than many – but again, without any cheapening of Tchaikovsky's music.
Pétrouchka and the Tchaikovsky symphony are in genuine, un-gimmicky stereo – quite close-up in the former work. The other two works are in honest monaural sound, but are no less excitingly engineered for all that. ReDiscovery used reel tape masters for Pétrouchka and The Firebird. The other two works were remastered from LPs. With the tape masters, there is a steady underlay of tape noise, noticeable mostly when the music becomes quiet. With the LPs, the rumble of the LP surfaces is also omnipresent, but less regular. (In spite of a couple momentary glitches in the Tchaikovsky, it's astonishing that there's not a pop or a scratch to be heard on these reissues. Since no LP is that perfect, I assume that David Gideon, who did the digital remasterings, must judiciously filter the surface noise out. That also would explain why the tape "hiss" on recordings taken from reel tape masters is actually more of a quiet roar.)
ReDiscovery's CD-Rs come with the most minimal of "booklet" notes – actually, there is no booklet at all, just a title card – but Gideon's tender loving care is obvious at every level, and this is a first-class reissue in spite of its rather Spartan presentation. This pair of discs is selling at the special price of just $15, which includes shipping. It, and other ReDiscovery titles, may be ordered from www.rediscovery.us.
Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle