LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: La mer; Chausson: Poeme de l’amour et de la mer; Scheherazade
PERFORMER: Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Margaret Price (soprano); BBC SO/Malcolm Sargent, LSO/Evgeny Svetlanov
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91742
Three ultra-live performances from the BBC Sound Archive guarantee a vivid experience. They alsoexplode critical prejudice. Would you match any of these musicians to the repertoire, except perhaps Baker? Sargent, however, is the star. Maybe his feeling for pace and texture was taken for granted.
It’s the control of changing tempo, the sensitivity to atmosphere and the long-range shaping of La mer that make it gripping, in spite of the phlegmatic BBC strings and some passages with more sweep than detail. The brass, for once, is all there and is expertly balanced. Sheherazade is finely paced again, and the young Price is powerful and agile, the tone already rich. It’s a forthright rather than subtle performance, but wonderfully sung and thrilling at the peak of ‘Asie’, always alert even in the tristesse of the last song.
Whereas Baker is the singer of pleasures taken sadly, stately at the start and positively stoical during Chausson’s final heartbreak. But the long phrases stretch on persuasively. As the mood darkens towards the centre of the work, so the singing intensifies, and the overall impact is highly charged. The LSO is very brassy, but authentically sumptuous. Robert Maycock