Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Phase 4 Stereo Revival: Eileen Farrell, Marilyn Horne & Robert Merrill

Decca Classics is scheduled to release a 41-CD box set of its Phase 4 Stereo recordings that will feature 11 first international CD releases. Choosing from over 200 albums dating back as early as 1964 when the company started recordings of big classical works for large scale symphonies, the collection features film scores, popular ballet titles, big band and light classics, alongside major piano and violin concertos. Included in the set are some vocal pieces as well. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana featuring Norma Burrowes, Louis Devos, and John Shirley-Quirk, under the direction of Antal Doráti, and Beethoven's Symphony #9 featuring Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Alexander Young, Donald McIntyre, with conductor Leopold Stokowski, have both been previously released on CD. Three other discs are coming to the market complete for the first time on CD: The Magnificent Voice of Eileen FarrellMarilyn Horne Sings Carmen and Robert Merrill: Americana. The Eileen Farrell recording totals 36 minutes and features tunes from
Broadway shows, spirituals and traditional American standards. One hopes that this will spur Sony Classics to release her other albums (originally recorded on Columbia) not previously made public like the Arias in the Grand Tradition, Carols for Christmas, This Fling Called Love, and highlights from Cherubini's Medea. Of rare interest is the disc with Marilyn Horne singing highlights from Bizet's Carmen with conductor (and then-husband) Henry Lewis. The recording features highlights from all four acts, including the title character's two big arias "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" and "Près des remparts de Séville." Also left unreleased by Sony Classics was the recording (originally for RCA) of Marilyn Horne Sings Carmen Jones, which comes from the soundtrack of the film featuring Dorothy Dandridge for whom the mezzo dubbed the singing. The third selection found in the new box-set is Robert Merrill: Americana. Much like the Farrell album, this recording features Broadway (Oklahoma), Stephen Foster classics and traditional American
songs ("Camptown Races," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," etc). Earlier this year, Decca released a host of treasures long in the vault. Let's hope that the executives continue to relinquish the goods. No word on whether these discs will be sold individually after the release of the box set. Listen to audio clips and see complete track list here for the Phase 4 Stereo box set. See some intriguing albums missing from the Phase 4 Stereo box set, read more about the Phase 4 Stereo history, and see the artwork for the new release, after the jump. 

The new box set from Decca featuring some rare discs.
"Phase 4 Stereo was a branch of Decca and its American label London Records created in 1961. Phase 4 Stereo supposedly created better sound by being recorded on a 10-channel, and later 20-channel, recording console. Approximately two hundred albums were released under the label, including popular music, "gimmick" records engineered to make the sound travel from speaker to speaker, records featuring percussion effects, and historical sound effect records. In 1964, a light classical Phase 4 'Concert series' was produced. The concept of Phase 4 Stereo has nothing to do with four channel stereo. But because there often are sounds out of phase the records give good results when played on Hafler circuits or other simulated four channel systems. In 1996 a CD The Phase 4 Experience was released with recordings from 1966 to 1979 (London 444 788-2 LPX/PY 871)." [Source] A complete list of Phase 4 recordings can be found here.

What's missing from the box set are such intriguing albums like:

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