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Complete Recordings 1953-1957 [5 Cd Box Set] Box set, Import


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Disc: 1
1. Espana
2. I Alborada
3. II Variazioni
4. III Alborada
See all 15 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Allegro Maestoso
2. Quasi Adagio - Julius Katchen
3. Allegretto Vivace - Julius Katchen
4. Allegro Marziale Animato - Julius Katchen
See all 13 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. I Reveries - Passions: Largo - Allegro Agitato Ed Appassionato Assai
2. II Un Bal: Valse: Allegro Non Troppo
3. III Scene Aux Champs: Adagio
4. IV Marche Au Supplice: Allegretto Non Troppo
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Les Preludes
2. Faust
3. Gretchen
4. Mephistopheles
Disc: 5
1. I Allegro Moderato
2. II Canzonetta: Andante
3. III Allegro Vivacissimo
4. I Andante Sostenuto - Moderato Con Anima
See all 7 tracks on this disc

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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Argenta Finally Stateside Jan. 27 2007
By Michael B. Richman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Like many of the recent Original Masters reissues, this 5CD set of music conducted by Ataulfo Argenta has been available since last July as an import, and now has finally been released in the U.S. For those who do not know Argenta's tragic story, he died accidentally of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 44 in 1958. Fortunately Decca and Spanish Columbia/EMI recognized Argenta as a massive talent in the making, and we have something to remember him by musically. The majority of the music collected here as "The Complete Decca Recordings 1953-1957" has been available previously on various single titles. Ten years ago as a budding collector, I had an early infatuation with Argenta, most of which I now realize was because of how hard (and satisfying) it was to track down his rare CDs, and not primarily because of the music itself. That it is not to say there aren't some absolute masterpieces within this set. His account of Chabrier's Espana, which fittingly bats lead off, is arguably the single best performance ever made! In fact the whole of CD1, originally available as "Espana" in both the old "Classic Sound" and "Decca Legends" series, is amazing. Also his performances of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Alfredo Campoli, and 4th Symphony (both of which I had never previously heard) are thoroughly enjoyable. However, his readings of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Debussy's Images and Liszt's Faust Symphony and Piano Concertos (with Julius Katchen), all of which I considered early personal favorites, haven't held up as I once expected they would, now that I have been exposed to so many other great performances. Despite this my biggest problem with this set, and any reissue that collects the "Complete" recordings, lies not with the music's quality, but with the fact that almost all of this material has been previously available elsewhere, and in most cases the original discs cost me a pretty penny. But that is the risk any serious collector runs, and it will not be a troublesome issue for most -- in fact there are probably a lot of people thrilled they now don't have to pay $50 just to hear Argenta's Fantastique. In all, this is a very good set by a man who, had he lived to a ripe old age, would without a doubt have been universally considered Spain's greatest conductor.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A lost talent given a fine memorial Feb. 6 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Mr. Richman has said all the necessary things about Ataulfo Argenta, who died tragically but embarrassingly when he and a music student sought to keep warm on a cold winter's night by sitting in the garage and turning on the car engine. That event in 1958 curtailed Argenta's discography, which in any case had only one classic recording, the "Espana" collection beloved by audiphiles for its vintage, spectacular analog sonics. They've come out very well in Decca's most recent remastering, and the album remains evergreen. So much for CD 1.

CD 2 begins with energetic, even brash readings of the two Liszt Pinao Concertos with Julius Katchen that are all but unlistenable because of the boomy, hollow, clattery sound given to the piano and the buzzy strings in the orchestra; God knows how Decca everr released these. Junky recordings of junky pieces. However, what follows is a delightful, idiomatic Iberia by Albeniz (orchestrated from the piano suite) that I've never heard. The Paris Conservatoire Orch. is in its element here, sounding at once exotic and dandyish. Argenta's phrasing couldn't be improved upon.

CD 3 gives us a Symphonie fantastique from the same orchestra that's French in all the wrong ways: wobbly horns, indifferent execution, and not much involvement from Argenta, either. Then Argenta returns to strength with Turina's alluring Danzas fantasticas, again with the Conservatoire forces, in a swinging, slam-bang reading.

CD 4 is devoted to Liszt's Les Preludes and Faust Symphony. EMI did Argenta no favors by trumpeting him as a Great Condcutor of the Century, hwere I first encountered this Faust Symphony with the Conservatoire orchestra sounding scrawny (but nicely spooky) and Argenta funning a decided second-best to Beecham from that era. The Suisse Romande orchestra, then in its heyday under Ernest Ansermet, play much better in Les Preludes, which gets a rousing, thoroughly enjoyable reading from Argenta.

CD 5 brings the acid test. If Argenta's name is to survive as more than a Spanish local colorist, surely he can do Tchaikovsky. Here we get the violini concerto with Campoli, a Decca star in early stereo, and the Sym. #4. Well, Campoli is soupy but incrdibly well recorded in the concerto; this is Moscow on the Tiber. The symphony brings in the Suisse Romande orchestra again, sounding a bit shrill but also tangy and not at all bland. And bless Argenta, he conducts with interest and originality, mostly on the brisk side but never succumbing to routine. I'm glad he puts his best foot forward at the end in a reading that ranks among his best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Argenta memorium March 26 2009
By C. S. Rathore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
How unfortunate for us when Argenta died accidentally! His recording of "Nights in the gardens of Spain"sends shivers down one's back. Unfortunately this particular recording is not included in the album. However, his talent as conductor is very evident in the Decca recordings. His growing authority and musical sensibilities are very evident in this set, a fitting memorial.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars for the Spanish Stuff May 2 2007
By Doug - Haydn Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Argenta died very young, as is mentioned in the other reviews. Years ago he was mentioned - in no small part due to his tragic death - in the same league as Cantelli. Historically that's difficult to justify. The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique was in its day a major Hi-Fi LP; today it still sounds pretty good, but the playing and Argenta's leadership is nowhere near challenging any number of currently available performances, let alone the best.
However; in Spanish music Argenta was excellent and, at times, tremendous; better than Frubeck de Burgos, who is otherwise a more well-rounded conductor. Argenta had a striking gift for conveying both the passion and the structure of his native music. Argenta recorded several works in Spain, issued on Lp, but today difficult to locate on CD. The Spanish selections on this Decca set showcase just how good he could be in music from the Iberian peninsula. Of particular note is his performance of the Debussy,- very few conductors bring such a nice balance of color and rousing energy to these pieces, especially the concluding Ronde de printemps. The recent Boulez may be more sophisticated but the fifty year old sound is quite impressive!
As for the price - at nearly 40 dollars this set is quite ridiculous. On sale, at 24.95, it seems worth considering; especially if you are a fan of Spanish orchestra music. Argenta has some stiff competition, especially Reiner and Dorati's famous performances of Iberia, and Paray, too, now that I think about it. But it seems to me he holds his own with those legendary performances. If you decide to buy this CD you will be paying a premium to hear one of the last century's premiere conductors of Spanish music. The remainder of the CD varies from good to disappointing and, here and there, borderline dross.
Buying CDs you will never play to hear excellent ones is up to you - but it seems unlikely the Spanish pieces will be issued separately - though the CD Gods have shown themselves to be fickle indeed.
As Spencer Tracy said about Kate Hepburn, 'there's not much meat on her bones, but what's there is is choice.'
Not as complete... Sept. 5 2007
By Alberto Machado - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This set brings welcome CD debuts of the Tchaikovsky #4 and the violin concerto with Campoli (briefly released on CD by the late, excellent Beulah label from England). But where are the Argenta stereo recordings made by DECCA in Spain? Some of these, such as Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with Narciso Yepes remain audiophile references on LP, as well as the complete Albeniz Goyescas, Falla's El Sombrero de Tres Picos, Noches en los Jardines de España and El Retablo de Maese Pedro among others. All of these titles, plus many of Argenta's zarzuela recordings are only available on CD in Spain.

Maybe this set should have been titled "The Complete DECCA recordings cleared for reissue."


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