EMI: Great Recordings of the Century



Klemperer is featured in the latest batch of EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century, again beautifully remastered at Abbey Road, and this time with detailed documentation as well as useful essays (and full opera texts and translations where relevant).

Two beethoven symphonies from 1955, the Fifth in mono and the Seventh in experimental stereo, are weighty but less massive than his later re-recordings (CDM 5 67851 2, £10.99).

A set of wagner orchestral excerpts from 1960-61 is notable for its clarity of texture, and is crowned by the Siegfried Idyll in its original chamber scoring (CMS 5 67893 2, 2 discs, £20.99). Klemperer was also to have conducted mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1959, but he fell ill and Giulini took over.

The Italian drives the piece along energetically, with Eberhard Wächter’s virile Giovanni and Giuseppe Taddei’s characterful Leporello exchanging recitative at high speed, and Joan Sutherland, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Luigi Alva a starry trio of avengers (CMS 5 67869 2, 3 discs, £30.99).

mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov is added to the series in the 1962 recording conducted by André Cluytens: the now discredited Rimsky-Korsakov version, yes, but a commanding performance by Boris Christoff in the title role (and two other parts) (CMS 5 67877 2, 3 discs, £30.99).

And there is puccini’s Madam Butterfly from 1966, with Renata Scotto not always conventionally beautiful-sounding but infinitely touching in the title role, Carlo Bergonzi as a sympathetic Pinkerton and John Barbirolli returning with relish to an opera he had first conducted 40 years earlier (CMS 5 67885 2, 2 discs, £20.99).

Barbirolli also conducts the Berlin Philharmonic in a compelling mahler Ninth Symphony from 1964 – a timely reminder that Simon Rattle is not the first British conductor to wow the Berliners with his Mahler (CDM 5 67925 2, £10.99).

Thomas Beecham’s conducting of french ballet music with the RPO has predictable charm and panache, but he finds much more than that in Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (CDM 5 67899 2, £10.99).

Also worth snapping up if you don’t have them in earlier issues are Rudolf Kempe’s classic early Seventies Dresden recordings of strauss’s Tod und Verklärung and Ein Heldenleben, beautifully paced and balanced (CDM 5 67891 2, £10.99), and Mstislav Rostropovich’s authoritative 1974 recordings of cello concertos written for him by dutilleux and lutoslawski (CDM 5 67867 2, £10.99).


And finally, lovers of great Lieder-singing – however many versions they already have of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in schubert’s Winterreise – should find room for his fresh-voiced, perceptive first recording, made in mono in 1955 with Gerald Moore (CDM 5 67927 2, £10.99).