Universal: Eloquence

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Universal Eloquence

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Since its launch in 1983, the CD has provided the most comprehensive re-homing facility the record industry has ever seen, yet the sheer scope and diversity of the reissue listings has often seemed bewildering.

Cash-conscious collectors profited whenever top-drawer performances reappeared at reduced cost, though what’s been largely absent from the release schedules until recently has been any tangible sense of structured, logical planning.

But with the big three (Philips, DG and Decca) coordinating their output more and more under Universal’s umbrella, things should change as two major reissue initiatives, Eloquence and Panorama, come on stream.

A no-frills marketing concept (without recording data or booklet notes) focusing on core repertoire, Eloquence might signal a threat to Naxos. At mid-price, Panorama mines the treasures of the three companies’ archives (though chiefly DG), but provides only entry-level annotations. Baroque music fares well among Universal’s reissues.

Arthur Grumiaux’s aristocratic reading with Davis is back on Eloquence (468 114-2), and Henryk Szeryng’s performance (more volcanic in temperament, but often less sympathetic) under Haitink is still available.

From Colin Davis’s unsurpassed BERLIOZ cycle, Eloquence has reissued the Symphonie fantastique (468 114-2); let’s have the rest, please – especially Nobuko Imai’s Harold en Italie and the remaining overtures.

Francophiles will welcome the return of Ernest Ansermet’s classic Suisse Romande recording of CHAUSSON’s Symphony, with Dukas’s Sorcerer and a magically inflected and haunting account of Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande (467 443-2).

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Equally indispensable are Vladimir Ashkenazy’s barnstorming performances of the four RACHMANINOFF piano concertos, with Previn and the LSO (on two separate discs, Nos 1 & 3 on 467 419-2, Nos 2 & 4 on 467 453-2), as is a timely review of SECOND VIENNESE SCHOOL concertos from Brendel (Schoenberg Piano) and Zeitlin (Berg Violin) (469 606-2).