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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century - Albert Coates


Release Date: 02/11/2003 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 75486   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Franz LisztAlexander BorodinNikolai Rimsky-KorsakovPeter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,   ... 
Performer:  Frida LeiderLauritz Melchior
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 2 Hours 38 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

When I was an impressionable young schoolboy, with a mania for both music and for second-hand bookshops, I picked up (in 1967, I see) "The Orchestra Speaks", a rather famous study of some of the conductors who were around in the 1930s by Bernard Shore, long-serving principal viola of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. A few of them – Boult, Barbirolli and Sargent – were still very much with us. Others – Beecham and Toscanini – were, in a sense, living presences still, for their records dominated the catalogue. Others again – Koussevitzky and Mengelberg – were legendary names that were always quoted when conducting was discussed. But Albert Coates, born in St. Petersburg in 1882 of an English father and a Russian-born mother of English Read more parentage, was a virtually forgotten figure. Yet what Shore had to say about him certainly sounded interesting:

"A man of immense proportions and commanding person; with the drive and power of a superman … his intense, warm-blooded temperament gives an unmistakable character to his performances … Russian music … takes on a vivid and arresting character in his hands, with restraint cast off and pent-up feelings allowed to run riot … the performance will have an intense feeling and grip that only a Russian can effect … Yet he is capable of exquisite tenderness and extreme delicacy … Half-tones and half-measures are not found in him … No music he plays will ever be dull. Everything will be intensely alive, and shot through with emotion and fire …" (Bernard Shore: The Orchestra Speaks, Longmans, Green & Co. 1938, pp. 77-82).

Occasional attempts have been made to revive his recordings, of which he made a great many in the 1920s and 1930s (for reasons not fully explained he faded out of the recording scene and ended his days in South Africa, where he died in 1953), especially his famous Wagner extracts, but this is my first opportunity to explore his art, and it has been fascinating to find that Shore’s words have completely stood the test of time.

First of all, though on paper his claims to be Russian may be thin, his manner when conducting Russian music is firmly in line with that of, say, Mravinsky, with a similar ability to stretch the orchestra to its limits and beyond (far beyond, I’d say, considering how lacklustre the LSO could sound at this epoch) with fanatically brilliant string playing (only in Tod und Verklärung are there some dodgy moments), screaming wind and no-holds-barred brass. Yet at the same time he could coax exquisite poetry from his woodwind soloists and wonderfully pliant expressiveness from the strings (but be prepared for at least as much portamento as with Mengelberg). All the Russian pieces here are superbly involving, but it was cunning to start the programme with Oberon since its tenderness, delicacy and wit (as well as vitality of course) immediately counter any idea that Coates’s music-making might prove gutsy and energetic but not particularly subtle.

Coates was also remembered as the conductor who perhaps recorded more Wagner than any other in the days when a recording of a complete opera by that composer was still only a pipe-dream. The Tristan extract, in spite of being pieced together (very well) from two sessions and venues, still shows what savage cuts had to be accepted those days, but it also shows what a powerful surge of emotion Coates could create. All the Wagner extracts make their mark with mighty climaxes and gentle poetry, and much the same can be said of the Humperdinck and Strauss pieces. My only reservation concerns the Ravel, too intensely Russian in concept and lacking those Viennese inflexions of which André Cluytens above all knew the secret.

But never mind, this is just one track and the rest will surely stimulate a desire to hear more; his Pathétique, for instance, or his Beethoven 3 and 9. The recordings are as good as can be expected of their dates and anyone with any curiosity about past styles (though, apart from the portamento, there is nothing stylistically dated about any of these performances) will rapidly forget the sound as they get caught up in some thrilling music-making.

-- Christopher Howell, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Episodes from Lenau's Faust, S 110: no 2, Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke "Mephisto Waltz no 1" by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/14/1930 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 39 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in B minor by Alexander Borodin
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869-1876; Russia 
Date of Recording: 11/1929 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 25 Minutes 35 Secs. 
3.
Mlada: Suite - Procession of the nobles by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903; Russia 
Date of Recording: 10/14/1930 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 0 Secs. 
4.
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Russia 
Date of Recording: 10/1930 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 50 Secs. 
5.
Sorochintsy fair: Hopak by Modest Mussorgsky
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Date of Recording: 10/23/1929 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1874 - 1880). 
6.
La valse by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
Date of Recording: 03/26/1926 
Venue:  Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 11 Minutes 19 Secs. 
7.
Tannhäuser: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845/1861; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/16/1926 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 11 Minutes 54 Secs. 
8.
Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/12/1928 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 20 Minutes 21 Secs. 
9.
Das Rheingold: Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/26/1926 
Venue:  Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 55 Secs. 
10.
Die Walküre: Magic Fire Music by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/26/1926 
Venue:  Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 19 Secs. 
11.
Götterdämmerung: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/26/1926 
Venue:  Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 15 Secs. 
12.
Tristan und Isolde: Isolde! Tristan!...O sink' hernieder by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Frida Leider (Soprano), Lauritz Melchior (Tenor)
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1929 
Length: 16 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: This selection is preceded by "Isolde! Geliebte!..."
This selection was recorded in two different places with two different orchestras: in Berlin on September 13, 1929, with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra; and in Kingsway Hall, London on May 6, 1929, with the London Symphony Orchestra. 
13.
Oberon, J 306: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor:  Albert Coates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825-1826; Dresden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/25/1926 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 3 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Oberon Overture J306 (2002 Digital Remaster)
Mephisto Waltz No. 1, 'Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke' S514 (2002 Digital Remaster)
Symphony No.2 in B minor (2002 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro moderato
Symphony No.2 in B minor (2002 Digital Remaster): II. Scherzo
Symphony No.2 in B minor (2002 Digital Remaster): III. Andante
Symphony No.2 in B minor (2002 Digital Remaster): IV. Finale
Mlada (2002 Digital Remaster): Procession of the Nobles
Francesca da Rimini Op. 32 (2002 Digital Remaster)
Gopak (Sorochintsy Fair, Act III) (2002 Digital Remaster)
La Valse (2002 Digital Remaster)
Tannhäuser - Overture (2002 Digital Remaster)
Das Rheingold - Entry of the Gods into Valhalla (2002 Digital Remaster)
Die Walküre (2002 Digital Remaster), ACT 3, Scene 3: Magic Fire Music
Götterdämmerung (2002 Digital Remaster): Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (Siegfried's Rhine Journey), Vorspiel
Tristan und Isolde: Love Duet from Act II : Isolde! Geliebte! - Tristan! Geliebter! Osink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe (2002 Digital Remaster)
Hansel and Gretel - Overture (2002 Digital Remaster)
Tod und Verklärung Op. 24 (2002 Digital Remaster)

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