Saturday, March 28, 2015

Robert Shaw conducts Stravinsky and Borodin

   The very first commercial album recorded digitally in the history of phonographic industry was The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky and Overture and Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin recorded by The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Shaw. Recording session took part June 19 & 20, 1978 with Soundstream Digital Recording System for the Telarc label. Those times Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was a rising star of American music, one of most interesting young orchestras recording in seventies and eighties. This was the best time in history of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra working this under direction of Robert Shaw. 
   Although officially Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1945, for more than two decades it was not known to wide public, while consequently building its condition under direction of its founder Henry Sopkin. In 1967 for the post of music director was engaged Robert Shaw. As a choirmaster he started his career in 1941, establishing in New York City the Collegiate Chorale. He was known for his significant role as the founder and a conductor of professional Robert Shaw Chorale. As he was preparing choirs for Arturo Toscanini he became almost instantly famous as the choirmaster. Arturo Toscanini recommended him saying: “In Robert Shaw I have at last found the maestro I have been looking for”. Robert Shaw Chorale was professional ensemble. With this chorale Robert Shaw was working in New York for almost two decades (1948-1965) and made great series of recordings for RCA, receiving Grammy for Bach’s Great Mass in B Minor (1962) and for Handel’s Messiah (1966).

Robert Shaw – Stravinsky – The Firebird (1978)

   Two years after famous choir was disbanded, in 1967 Robert Shaw took up the post of music director in Atlanta. In 1968 ASO became full-time, 52-week orchestra. Two years later director Shaw founded Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. In 1975 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus made its debut with 2LP album Christmas with Robert Shaw. Consequent work on repertoire and extensive guest performances gave artists from Atlanta prominence and quality. In late seventies well informed listeners knew this orchestra is one of the best – especially for Shaw’s recording experience. This is probably the reason Robert Shaw recorded the first digital album in the USA. 
   The sound of the orchestra is perfect. Shaw’s interpretations were generally focused more on sound than on structures. This performance of The Firebird suite in 1919 version, recorded with enhanced trebles and basses, was so much different, this recording was quite a surprise for listeners knowing sound of earlier recordings of Igor Stravinsky’s suite. The new kind of sensitivity was probably even more readable for young people and Shaw’s recordings enjoyed a good reputation. Second side comprises two fragments from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin. The sound here is more colorful than expressive, sound space is unbelievably wide and deep. The famous choir in Polovetsian Dances shows its power in clear beautiful recording. Four stars for pure musical qualities and a half star for historic position.

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