A new three-disc set on Columbia's Odyssey label (Y3-35420) restores six choice recordings made by the Budapest Quartet between 1932 and 1940, all of which, curiously enough, were issued here in their original 78-r.p.m. form by RCA Victor. There are three quartets by Mozart -- K.458 in B-flat ("Hunt"), K.465 in C major ("Dissonant") and K-590 in F -- and three by Beethoven:
This marvelous 1940 version of the "Hunt" Quartet, the second of three made by the Budapest with variously constituted personnel, was the introduction to chamber music for a huge number of young listeners in the 40's; I was one of them, and this certainly spoiled me for most of the early LP recordings of the work, including the Budapest's own 1952 remake. All six items in this set are extremely worth preserving, and all transfers are quite good.
The earliest of the Mozart quartets and the earliest of the Beethoven are played by the Budapest's prime-team lineBeethoven are played by the Budapest's prime-team line-up: Joseph Roisman and Alexander Schneider, violins; Boris Kroyt, viola, and Mischa Schneider, cello. In the other four works the violist is Kroyt's predecessor in the group, Istvan Ipolyi. The cover art includes two photographs of the ensemble, one with Kroyt and one with Ipolyi; in the former Sascha Schneider is missing and in his place is Edgar Ortenberg, who came in still later as his temporary replacement and is not in any of the recordings in this set. Columbia surely had many accurate pictures of the famous foursome: such photos appeared, in fact, on the jackets of some of the Budapest's last recordings.
It is curious, too, that Odyssey labels this "Volume 1" in its Budapest Quartet "Great Historical Recordings" series, since a previous collection was issued two or three years ago (Y4-34643); but the "Volume 1" is an implicit promise of more to come, and no one can be unhappy about that. I look forward especially to the resurrection of Columbia's own early-'40s recording of Beethoven's Op. 131.
From MCA, which now has taken over ABC Records, which earlier took over Westminister, comes a two-disc reissue of Pierre Monteux's 1962 recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra, whose chief conductor Monteux was then (Westmnister Gold WG-83643/82). The vocal contingent in the final movement comprises Elizabeth Soderstroem (soprano), Regina Resnik (contralto), Jon Vickers (tenor), David Ward (bass) and London Bach Choir.
This may not be the greatest Ninth ever, but with Monteux presiding (and with a really first-rate quartet of soloists) it has to be a deeply satisfying one, and the set hs an unusual feature: One side 4 there is a sequence of rehearsal takes and, at the very end (because the orchestra was about to visit Paris), a rousing performance of the "version officiael" of La Marseillaise followed by the Maitre's spoken words and some cheers from the orchestra.
The sound is a little dry but always clean, and it is edifying to hear such a master conductor in rehearsal. Monteux is a delight to listen to as, in a voice belyng his 86 years, he manages to be both firm and friendly, utterly in command yet relaxed and even respectful toward his musicians -- if not toward departed fellow conductors. In rehearsing a passage in the scherzo he remarks: "You are used to play that fortissimo because Mr. Weingartnaire add some horns . . . and of course those horns play loud, but eet is not Beethoven, eet is Weingartner and I don't like eet at all!"