LABELS: Decca: Legends
Legends straddles the ground between reissues and historical recordings – it’s salutary to realise that most of the conductors and soloists here have been dead for some time.
Ernest Ansermet’s account of RIMSKY-KORSAKOV’s Antar from 1954 (Decca’s first stereo classical recording) still sounds well, though the 1960 coupling of Sheherazade shows the technical strides made in six years (470 253-2).
The slightly acid sound of the Suisse Romande Orchestra always suited Russian and French repertoire, and Ansermet’s justly praised performances of DEBUSSY have seldom been out of the catalogue: L’après-midi, La mer, Jeux and Khamma all demonstrate his interpretative clarity, though the orchestra isn’t always reliable in matters of tuning (470 255-2).
Julius Katchen and the LPO under Argenta take your breath away with their verve in the LISZT concertos, on a disc which includes a barnstorming Twelfth Hungarian Rhapsody and a beautiful but rather antique-sounding Funérailles from 1953 (470 257-2).
Also from the Fifties comes BRAHMS and WAGNER with the VPO and Hans Knappertsbusch (470 254-2). His slow speeds from a more comfortable era take some getting used to, but the flexibility that he brings to the Siegfried Idyll is most seductive, even with an unflattering mono recording.
In SCHUBERT’s Rosamunde music, Karl Münchinger’s chamber orchestra experience enables him to make the characteristic VPO sound lighter without losing its essential warmth of character (470 261-2), and there’s warmth aplenty, too, in the Academy of St Martin in the Fields versions of the Serenades by TCHAIKOVSKY and DVORÁK, and GRIEG’s Holberg Suite (470 262-2) – what I’d always remembered as rather athletic performances now seem rounded and relaxed.
Admirers of David Oistrakh are catered for by a self-recommending double album including an eloquent MOZART Sinfonia concertante with his son Igor, HINDEMITH’s Concerto and BRUCH’s Scottish Fantasy (470 258-2); and Abbado-fanciers by HINDEMITH’s Symphonic Metamorphoses, JANÁCEK’s Sinfonietta and a characteristically vigorous presentation of extracts from PROKOFIEV’s ballet Chout (470 264-2).
Rudolf Kempe’s richly Romantic performance of JANÁCEK’s Glagolitic Mass resurfaces with incandescent playing from the RPO, and superb singing from the Brighton Festival Chorus (470 263-2).