DG: Panorama

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: DG: Panorama
CATALOGUE NO: See text for individual catalogue numbers

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A job lot’: a collection of miscellaneous items to be auctioned off together. Not a phrase you hear much these days: but it was brought to mind by the latest batches of DG’s Panorama series and Decca’s British Music Collection.

Performances in different styles, recordings of different vintages transferred at different levels, are thrown together, often (or so it seems) with little regard for what anyone, seasoned collector or novice, might actually want or need.

For example, who will choose to buy an album of BACH’s solo instrumental music featuring – to mention only the keyboard players – as wide-ranging a group of artists as the thoughtful Wilhelm Kempff, the controlled András Schiff, the excitable Martha Argerich and the dapper Trevor Pinnock (469 259-2)?

Or a MOZART set which yokes together concerto performances by the characterful Géza Anda and the much heavier Emil Gilels with an hour of highlights from Karl Böhm’s unevenly cast Magic Flute (469 307-2)?

Or a SCHUBERT collection that includes Kempff’s magisterial B flat Sonata, the Beaux Arts Trio’s treasurable B flat Trio, random bits of Claudio Abbado’s complete Rosamunde, and an overweight and sometimes eccentric Third Symphony under Carlos Kleiber (469 313-2)?

A couple of Panorama issues are unified by the presence throughout of the Berlin Philharmonic. A BRAHMS set includes Emil Gilels’s classic Second Piano Concerto, conducted by Eugen Jochum, and Herbert von Karajan’s 1963 First Symphony, generally reckoned the best of his five versions – though I’ve never taken to his showy way with the introduction to the finale (469 298-2).

A MAHLER album features some outstanding singing: Edith Mathis is fresh and appealing in the finale of the Fourth Symphony, and Christa Ludwig brings great insight to the Rückert Lieder, both with Karajan; Brigitte Fassbaender is moving, and Francisco Araiza strong and clear, in a carefully balanced Lied von der Erde under Carlo Maria Giulini (469 304-2).

The Berlin Philharmonic also features on a VERDI compilation in Karajan’s 1972 Requiem, not always ideally focused in sound, but matched with some strong opera excerpts – among them highlights from Karajan’s 1961 Otello, with Mario Del Monaco and Renata Tebaldi in dramatic form on Decca’s wide sound-stage (469 319-2).

Two albums offer especially useful introductions to a composer’s oeuvre. SAINT-SAËNS is well represented by Daniel Barenboim’s high-octane Third Symphony with the Chicago SO, Pascal Rogé’s fluent Second Piano Concerto, and a spirited Carnival of the Animals led by Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire (469 310-2).

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SHOSTAKOVICH comes over powerfully in Leonard Bernstein’s live First Symphony in Chicago, and the earlier of Mstislav Rostropovich’s Washington accounts of the Fifth Symphony, with Riccardo Chailly’s insouciant Jazz Suite No. 2 and Argerich’s incisive First Piano Concerto rounding out the portrait – though the suite-form String Quartet No. 11 is an unlikely choice to represent the entire post-war period, well played though it is by the Hagen Quartet (469 316-2).