Universal: Trio

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Universal

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Universal’s latest mid-price line, ‘Trio’, focuses principally on mainstream repertoire, offering complete groups of works in drab-looking but nonetheless decently annotated three-CD packages.

Alfred Brendel’s live 1983 Chicago traversal of the BEETHOVEN piano concertos (470 938-2, £20.99) with James Levine often reached moments of sublime stasis and poetic insight (try the Largo of Concerto No. 1 for example) before a rapt and respectful Orchestra Hall audience.

The 1977 Choral Fantasy, however, comes from Brendel’s earlier Philips cycle with Haitink. Surprisingly, Riccardo Muti’s survey of BRAHMS symphonies from Philadelphia met with critical indifference when originally issued, but these new transfers sound radiant and sonorous (470 942-2, £20.99), and the orchestral playing is exemplary.

Abbado’s famous LSO RAVEL series (469 354-2, £20.99) is back, too. These strikingly empathetic performances (his Daphnis is hardly outclassed by Dutoit’s famous Decca version) shouldn’t be missed, and the sound is outstanding.

Although from analogue masters, Rafael Kubelík’s Bavarian RSO DVORÁK cycle from the mid-Seventies remains largely unparalleled. Trio’s useful new set (469 366-2, £20.99) includes the complete Slavonic Dances, the five overtures, the symphonic poems and the Symphonic Variations.

The digitised transfers have some top-end congestion, particularly at high playback levels, but don’t let that deter you – these are among the finest versions in the catalogue.

The conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra showcases its own hugely accomplished principals in DG’s recordings of MOZART’s complete wind concertos.

Highlights include Charles Neidich’s account of the Clarinet Concerto and a bracingly energetic reading of the disputed E flat Sinfonia concertante for wind – Trio’s set (469 362-2, £20.99) is another amazing bargain.

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It’s also good to welcome back the legendary Grumiaux Trio recording of MOZART’s K563 Divertimento, coupled with impeccably stylish and beautifully engineered performances of the six string quintets (470 950-2, £20.99), the latter with the added enticement of Deryck Cooke’s elegant 1974 notes reproduced intact.