Decca: Legends

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Decca

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Eccentricity is not a charge that could be levelled at Clifford Curzon in a Decca Legends double of five MOZART concertos (468 491-2).

Whether in the limpid passagework of the outer movements, or charting the emotional territory of the central ones, Curzon makes every note count, and his legendary modesty and self-effacement give us a direct line to Mozart, reinforced by the sensitive orchestral contributions under Britten and Kertész.

Kertész’s strongly sung version of DVORÁK’s Requiem, with Lorengar and Krause among the soloists, has rarely been out of the catalogue, and now resurfaces on two CDs (468 487-2), with the Symphonic Variations and KODÁLY’s Psalmus hungaricus, in as intense a performance as you’d expect from this sadly missed Hungarian conductor.

Equally idiomatic are two recordings from the VPO: Kubelík’s 1955 account of DVORÁK’s Slavonic Dances (468 495-2), though the recording is on the harsh side; and Willi Boskovsky’s self-recommending 1979 NEW YEAR CONCERT (468 489-2), one of the first digital recordings, which comes up fresh as paint.

You expect the VPO to play MAHLER, but conducted by Boult? In fact, his contribution to Kindertotenlieder and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is fastidious and accommodating to Kirsten Flagstad’s deeply felt performances, though some allowance has to be made for her being nearly 62 – even a year earlier, in WAGNER’s Wesendonck Lieder under Knappertsbusch, her voice had more bloom (468 486-2).

Boult’s heard in more expected repertoire with VAUGHAN WILLIAMS’s Eighth Symphony (468 490-2), though I’m not sure that the coupling of RACHMANINOFF’s Third, good as it is, really has ‘legendary’ status.

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On the other hand, the reissue of Christian Ferras’s 1953 recordings is more than discographical archaeology, with white-hot performances of the CHAUSSON Poème and RAVEL’s Tzigane, and smaller-scale intensity in sonatas by DEBUSSY, FAURÉ and HONEGGER (468 496-2). (In passing, I urge EMI to look into reissuing Ferras’s Berg Concerto, absent for far too long.)