RCA: 24/96 Sound Dimension

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: RCA: 24/96 Sound Dimension

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In the battle for the budget market with the brand new recordings of Naxos and Arte Nova, the majors’ biggest weapon is the array of star names in their back catalogues.

For example, RCA’s new ‘24/96 Sound Dimension’ series – excellently refurbished sound, refreshingly un-gimmicky presentation, but with the German notes poorly translated into English – offers some of the greatest of 20th-century pianists.

Arthur Rubinstein in four popular BEETHOVEN sonatas (74321 68006 2); Vladimir Horowitz in a CHOPIN selection full of poetry as well as brilliance, though in variable recordings (74321 68008 2); and Earl Wild bringing coruscating pianism to his classic GERSHWIN programme with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra (74321 68019 2).

Among the most desirable in a long list of orchestral recordings are a brilliantly played selection of ROSSINI and VERDI overtures, including the discarded full-length overture to Aida, from the London Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado (74321 68012 2); three of HAYDN’s London Symphonies in intelligent, spirited big-band performances by the Philharmonia under Leonard Slatkin (74321 68003 2); a subtly textured RAVEL programme by the Dallas Symphony and Eduardo Mata (74321 68015 2); and powerful accounts of SIBELIUS’s First and Fifth Symphonies from Colin Davis’s Nineties cycle with the LSO (74321 68017 2).

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RCA is also reaping the rewards of its loyalty to the masterly Günter Wand over many years, recycling some of his live Seventies and Eighties recordings with radio orchestras in Cologne and Hamburg: BRUCKNER’s Fourth Symphony, not always perfectly executed but a bargain at this price (74321 68010 2); a fine pairing of SCHUBERT’s Unfinished and Great C major Symphonies (74321 68007 2); a generous coupling of BRAHMS’s First and Third, affectionately phrased though with some unsettling tempo changes in the finale of the First (74321 68009 2); and a BEETHOVEN Ninth that builds up a terrific head of steam in the choral finale (74321 68005 2).