Brand loyalty is an elusive thing in the record industry; and especially in the field of reissues, with multiple versions of standard works and many star performers reappearing on different labels.
EMI and Warner are the latest to try to attract consumer fidelity with distinctive new lines.
EMI’s Encore has a clear design identity, featuring a kitschy version of the company’s old ‘recording angel’ symbol; the fold-out booklets have short notes on composers, works and artists, in English only, and a lot of pictures, but no texts or translations.
Warner’s Apex is also easily recognisable, with a notably clean, uncluttered look; the booklets have English-only notes on the music, and (usually) texts when needed.
For Encore, EMI has drawn on its back catalogue of the last 40 years and more – on the whole cleverly, seeking out a great deal of worthwhile material which has been difficult or impossible to find lately.
Many discs are reissues of previous CD compilations; most of the new remastering effort seems to have gone into apparently obligatory anthologies like FAVOURITE ADAGIOS (CDE 5 74768 2), which includes a flowing, intense Barber Adagio from Leopold Stokowski.
Admirers of the high-Romantic virtuoso pianism of Georges Cziffra will welcome back to the catalogue his recordings of LISZT concertos (CDE 5 74736 2), the GRIEG Concerto and the RACHMANINOFF Second (CDE 5 74732 2), and the TCHAIKOVSKY First Concerto – now coupled with an equally high-voltage account of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto by Leonid Kogan (CDE 5 74757 2).
EMI’s roster of great singers is well reflected in the lists. MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ is at her stunning best in a selection of Bellini and Verdi operatic extracts (CDE 5 74723 2), and stars with Plácido Domingo in highlights from Riccardo Muti’s 1974 recording of VERDI’s Aida (CDE 5 74759 2).
Christa Ludwig is richly expressive in MAHLER orchestral songs (CDE 5 74738 2). The classic partnership of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore is incomparable in a generous collection of SCHUBERT Lieder, including a graphic ‘Erlkönig’ (CDE 5 74754 2).
In a good selection of French music, Simon Rattle’s finely detailed account with the CBSO of RAVEL’s Daphnis et Chloé and Boléro stands out (CDE 5 74750 2); Jean-Philippe Collard and Lorin Maazel give vivid accounts of the two Ravel piano concertos (CDE 5 74749 2).
An enjoyable DEBUSSY programme from Michel Plasson and the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra includes the rare Printemps (CDE 5 74727 2), but a cheerful anthology of piano and orchestral music by MILHAUD contains an even greater rarity, the clangorous Paris suite for four pianos (CDE 5 74740 2).
GOUNOD’s euphonious St Cecilia Mass, under Jean-Claude Hartemann, is coupled with his delightful Petite symphonie, given surprisingly staid treatment by the Hallé wind section and John Barbirolli (CDE 5 74730 2).
Other highlights of this first batch of 50 releases need little more recommendation than the artists’ names.
Here we have a vividly played and recorded coupling of STRAVINSKY’s Rite of Spring and the MUSSORGSKY/RAVEL Pictures at an Exhibition from Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra (CDE 5 74742 2); STRAUSS tone poems from the tried and trusted set by Rudolf Kempe and the Dresden Staatskapelle (CDE 5 74756 2); sonorous WAGNER orchestral excerpts from Klaus Tennstedt and the Berlin Philharmonic (CDE 5 74762 2); the SCHUMANN concertos for cello and piano poetically played by Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim (CDE 5 74755 2); and a pleasingly unfussy traversal of the three BRAHMS violin sonatas by the young Anne-Sophie Mutter with Alexis Weissenberg (CDE 5 74725 2).