EMI: Great Recordings of the Century

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: EMI

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He had only to sing one phrase before I knew I was in the presence of a master,’ wrote accompanist Gerald Moore in his autobiography Am I Too Loud?, recalling the first of his many recording sessions with baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in October 1951.

Their earliest documentation of SCHUBERT’s Schwanengesang (the first of Fischer-Dieskau’s five) was assembled piecemeal between then and 1958, but any rehearing, particularly of EMI’s newly digitised transfer (CDM 5 67558 2), explains Moore’s conviction that Fischer-Dieskau’s artistry ‘takes me deeper into the heart of Schubert than I have ever been before’.

A distinguished account of MAHLER’s Wayfarer songs (the famous Furtwängler/Philharmonia recording) coupled with Kindertotenlieder, five songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and five Rückert Lieder, taped between 1952 and 1978, form another instalment in EMI’s ‘Great Recordings of the Century’ series (CDM 5 67556 2).

Otto Klemperer’s 1965 recording of BEETHOVEN’s Missa solemnis (CDM 5 67546 2) and Giulini’s 1963 VERDI Requiem (CMS 5 67560 2, 2 discs), both with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, now also claim rightful places in EMI’s ‘Great Recordings’ pantheon.

Where the young Giulini brought an electric urgency and matchless sense of theatre to Verdi’s setting, Klemperer’s craggy elucidation of Beethoven’s spiritual odyssey attests unforgettably to his own faith in this implacable masterpiece.

Transfers of both vintage Kingsway Hall productions seem excellent, but wouldn’t Klemperer’s Philharmonia Beethoven and Brahms symphonies make obvious candidates for this series?

Thomas Beecham’s DELIUS performances with the Royal Philharmonic were definitive, and EMI’s new compilation (CDM 5 67552 2) will afford lasting satisfaction, though Beecham’s French ‘lollipops’, not to mention his Sibelius recordings, are due for reappraisal.

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And a charismatic recital disc (including the third piano sonatas of Chopin and Enescu, with works by Ravel, Liszt and Brahms) from DINU LIPATTI (CDM 5 67566 2) reminds me that this great artist’s sublime realisations of Bach’s keyboard Partitas (BWV 825-30) also warrant rehabilitation.