The LP record famously expanded listeners’ knowledge of the repertoire of early music; and it also charted and encouraged the rise of the period performance movement.
Now more and more CD reissues are revisiting those heady days; and while in some cases the excitement of discovery has worn off, in others it remains as potent as ever.
‘The Originals’ series is about far more than early music, and this batch gives a new lease of life to some other fine recordings.
There is Ferenc Fricsay’s highly theatrical 1958 account of MOZART’s Don Giovanni, with a variable cast dominated by Fischer-Dieskau’s commanding account of the title role (three discs, 463 629-2).
From the same year, also under Fricsay and also with Fischer-Dieskau, is a tautly controlled reading of BEETHOVEN’s Symphony No. 9, its excitement intensified by the high pitch of the Berlin Philharmonic – or has the recording been transferred sharp (463 626-2)?
A later era of the Berlin Philharmonic yields the happy 1980 collaboration of the 72-year-old Herbert von Karajan and the 17-year-old Anne-Sophie Mutter in appealingly unforced reading of the MENDELSSOHN and BRUCH (First) violin concertos (463 641-2).
Equally recommendable is Karajan’s classic Berlin coupling of STRAVINSKY and BARTÓK, respectively Apollo and the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, with glowing string colours and infinite refinement of texture (463 640-2).
These days, we perhaps prefer our Stravinsky a little more airy and our Bartók a little more earthy: but it is not only in the field of early music that CD reissues provide valuable and fascinating documentation of changing styles of performance.