EMI: Great Recordings of the Century

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: EMI

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EMI proudly displays the HMV dog and trumpet on its Great Recordings of the Century, but half the latest batch are from the Columbia stable, including Lipatti’s SCHUMANN Concerto: the recording is beginning to show its 54 years, but the playing comes across as limpidly as ever.

The MOZART K467 from the 1950 Lucerne Festival is sonically more muffled, but musically compelling for Lipatti’s clean lines in the slow movement, and his own elegant cadenzas (CDM 5 67774 2, £10.99).

So totally self-recommending that I need hardly do more than say ‘they’re back’ are the horn concertos by RICHARD STRAUSS and HINDEMITH in Dennis Brain’s faultless recording (CDM 5 67782 2, £10.99). If you don’t know it, you’re missing a treat.

A brief welcome to two veterans: Klemperer’s earlier Philharmonia recording of BEETHOVEN’s Eroica Symphony, rock-solid, but with a surprisingly fast funeral march (CDM 5 67740 2, £10.99); and Boult’s final recordings of ELGAR’s Enigma Variations and HOLST’s Planets, made when he was in his eighties, and showing a lifetime’s commitment to the music (CDM 5 67748 2, £10.99).

Wolfgang Sawallisch’s SCHUMANN symphonies were recorded as unscheduled replacements for Wagner’s Rienzi in 1972: maybe that’s why there’s such freshness in the music-making from the Dresden Staatskapelle (CMS 5 67768 2, £20.99).

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Outer movements are vigorous, scherzi are light and slow movements are affectionately moulded, but the sound is always transparent, proving that Schumann wasn’t a stodgy orchestrator – he just needs players who pay attention to detail.