WORKS: Works by Weber, Brahms, Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Bach, Sibelius, Berlioz, Mahler, Elgar,
PERFORMER: Nikisch, Weingartner, Strauss, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Busch, Walter, Reiner, Koussevitzky, Szell, Beecham, Barbirolli, Klemperer, Karajan, Stokowski, Bernstein
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 5 65915 2 ADD mono Recorded 1913-77
There are two reasons why those interested in the art of conducting should buy not only these CDs but also the Teldec video which bears that tide. Firsdy, these CDs feature the same 16 conductors as the video, but in entirely different works. Secondly, you need to see diese men in action: die ever-watchful Reiner, Karajan conducting with his eyes closed, the puppet-on-a-string beat of Furtwangler and benign clarity of Szell, the aged, zombie-like Klemperer and the athletic Bernstein, the chirpy Beecham and irritable Barbirolli.
The equivalent aural experience is CD7 and its comparative versions of part of Beethoven’s Fifth, together with rehearsals by Beecham, hollering but to little effect, a demanding and intense Furtwangler, and a baton-rapping, vocal but fascinating Barbirolli — a bonus CD maybe, but regrettably not an extended compilation of the video rehearsal clips.
This set (subtitled Great Conductors of the Past, but really about the art of recording) starts in 1914 with Nikisch in Weber, revealing more about performance practice (much portamento, indifferent intonation and scrambled ensemble) dian die magic of his podium manner.
Strauss rushes swiftly through the Rosenkavalierfilm music (unbelievably bored in Till Eulenspiegel on video, impatient for the next game of cards). Of these early recordings Weingartner’s refined Brahms Fourth is notable for its spacious phrasing.
Toscanini (searingly dramatic in Brahms) and his musical antithesis Furtwangler (tender in Schubert) are juxtaposed wonderfully in gripping accounts of Wagner Preludes. Busch’s dazzling Mozart, Walter’s tender Mahler, Reiner’s cool Wagner and Koussevitzky’s rugged Sibelius are followed by some Beecham lollipops, Barbirolli’s committed Elgar (with grunts) and Szell’s immaculate Dvorak.
Klemperer and Karajan are chalk and cheese in Beedioven, Stokowski colourful in his own view of Bach and Respighi, Bernstein over the top as ever in Berlioz. All these men are of a bygone age. Their like will not and cannot be seen again, but here diey are preserved for posterity. Christopher Fifield