DG: The Originals

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: DG

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At last! Karel Ancerl’s 1955 DG recording of SHOSTAKOVICH’s Tenth Symphony with the Czech PO is on CD (463 666-2, £10.99).

A performance of enormous tension and conviction, it sweeps the competition out of the door, with the scherzo taken at a hair-raising speed that few others have attempted, and none carried off with such intensity.

After that, JANÁCEK’s Glagolitic Mass sounds tame, with Kubelík concentrating on its lyrical qualities. Among the soloists, Evelyn Lear is too operatic, but Ernst Haefliger is outstandingly clarion-like: he brings more intimacy to The Diary of One Who Disappeared, but it’s a pity that it’s in German – the sound of the language is important in this piece (463 672-2, £10.99).

With Gérard Souzay in DEBUSSY, the language and the suave, vibrant timbre of the voice are perfectly matched, and his collection of mélodies from 1961 is a delight, with the two Fêtes galantes cycles as highlights (463 664-2, £10.99).

More classy singing comes from Gundula Janowitz and Eberhard Waechter in the best of Karajan’s stereo versions of BRAHMS’s German Requiem (463 661-2, £10.99): in 1964 he hadn’t yet become obsessed with beauty of sound at the expense of forward movement.

There’s plenty of propulsion in STRAUSS waltzes arranged by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern – a particularly delicious Schatz-Walzer from the latter. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players are equally convincing in the tart flavours of STRAVINSKY, though he’s an odd coupling: a convenient piece of housekeeping for DG, perhaps (463 667-2, £10.99)?

Two discs of CHOPIN make more sense: Krystian Zimerman is captured live in the First Piano Concerto, and in a studio recording of the Second (where his humming is more distracting), but his ability to make the piano sing is perfectly complemented by Giulini’s handling of the orchestra (463 662-2, £10.99).

The mercurial Martha Argerich miraculously seems to create the Preludes anew at the ends of her fingers, but brings structural strength to the larger canvas of the Second Sonata (463 663-2, £10.99).

Karl Richter’s Sixties BACH resurfaces on a triple album of the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites (463 657-2, £22.99).

These were groundbreaking in their time, moving away from an over-Romanticised view of Baroque music with their fast tempi, though they’re not as light as today’s even more historically aware performances.

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But there’s still much to enjoy, not least the solo playing of Aurèle Nicolet, and Richter himself at the harpsichord.