DG: Original Masters

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: DG
CATALOGUE NO: See text for individual catalogue numbers and BBCMusic Magazine Direct prices

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Lastly, a pair of nine-disc anthologies respectively showcasing FERENC FRICSAY (474 383-2, £59.99) and IGOR MARKEVITCH (474 400-2, £59.99) mark the high points of DG’s Original Masters series thus far.

As one can readily hear, Markevitch melded superbly with the pre-Karajan Berlin Philharmonic (cracking Mozart!) and post-Toscanini Symphony of the Air (a marvellous Eroica and Brahms First), while inspiring the Orchestre Lamoureux to exceed itself in Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy and Tchaikovsky.

That also holds true for lightweight fare like Gounod’s Second Symphony, Gluck’s G minor Sinfonia and Cimarosa’s Flute Concerto. A taped interview with Markevitch further confirms that the conductor cared deeply what his recordings sounded like.

Fricsay was no less a studio perfectionist and a maniac for clarity. Cases in point: the fleet, opera buffa-like Beethoven First and Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream, the nimblest Hindemith Symphonic Dances and Hartmann Sixth Symphony in captivity, vividly detailed renditions of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Franck’s Symphonic Variations and Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody that almost make you forget pianist Margrit Weber’s distinguished solo work.

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Turn next to one of the top five Tchaikovsky Sixths in the catalogue, a moving Haydn Seasons, the best mono Sheherazade, plus acutely judged Strauss waltzes and polkas. Connoisseurs of vintage orchestral recordings and exalted music-making should grab these sets without delay.