DG Panorama

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: DG Panorama

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Recent reissues have much to offer the inquiring connoisseur, the lover of vintage performances, the budget-minded library-builder and the newcomer to classical music – though their presentation doesn’t always seem to match their content in serving one or another of these segments of the market.

The two-disc Panorama series is clearly aimed straight at new buyers of classical discs; but these compilations from the Universal group back-catalogues aren’t always as inviting as they could be.

VIVA ESPAÑA (469 253-2) is a somewhat lacklustre pull-together of music from and about Spain, with a high proportion of Fifties and Sixties recordings, including Sviatoslav Richter playing Debussy’s La soirée dans Grenade on what sounds like a wretched piano.

À LA FRANÇAISE (469 250-2) is a more imaginative collection of French orchestral music, including Satie’s Parade gleefully played by the LSO with Antal Dorati, and Daniel Barenboim’s exciting account with the Orchestre de Paris of Franck’s Le chasseur maudit.

VIRTUOSO VIOLIN (469 235-2) has relatively little that matches the title, apart from some sensational Paganini from Salvatore Accardo; but it would make a useful gift for a budding violinist, with a range of great players also including Arthur Grumiaux, David Oistrakh, Henryk Szeryng (the Bach Chaconne), Itzhak Perlman (the Franck Sonata with Vladimir Ashkenazy) and Gidon Kremer (Beethoven’s Spring Sonata with Martha Argerich).

A single-composer set devoted to STRAVINSKY (469 205-2) includes Karajan’s cool 1975 Rite of Spring, Charles Dutoit’s colourful Petrushka with the LSO, and Neville Marriner’s springy Pulcinella Suite, as well as a fervent but decidedly rough Symphony of Psalms conducted by Igor Markevitch in Moscow in 1963.

All these Panorama sets have very short notes, supplemented by unusually silly examples of the currently fashionable time-line. Mostly they’re just about adequate; but where opera is concerned they fall down completely.

The ROSSINI set (469 193-2) includes, as well as some suave overtures and string sonatas from Karajan, Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne in stunning extracts from the complete 1966 Semiramide and Teresa Berganza as a silky Cenerentola: but you’ll find no clue as to what they’re singing about (though you will find the ingredients for Tournedos Rossini).

Similarly, a selection of unusually long chunks of WAGNER’s Ring cycle (469 223-2), in Karajan’s strongly sung and orchestrally resplendent late-Sixties recordings, will send you straight to the reference books in search of translations or synopses.

And what ought to be a self-recommending selection of PUCCINI highlights (469 175-2) – Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi in La bohème, Mirella Freni as Tosca and Madam Butterfly, Plácido Domingo in the Tosca and in Turandot – is no more than a sequence of thrilling noises without any indication of meaning or context.

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‘Entry-level’ is the trade phrase for issues like these; but with so little help to the newcomer, they might, sadly, turn out to be ‘exit-level’ as well.