Virgin: The Classics

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Virgin

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Virgin’s commitment to reissues in double-CD format has sometimes led it to throw two discs together like a scratch meal made with whatever happens to be in the fridge.

Not that there’s anything cold about the rhythmically alert playing of Sonnerie in RAMEAU’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts (VBD 5 61872 2), and its harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson in suites by FORQUERAY.

Artistry of a more insinuating sort comes from the late Scott Ross (VBD 5 61869 2): in BACH’s Goldberg Variations his lingering rubato can get in the way of the music, though it suits the improvisatory nature of FRESCOBALDI’s toccatas.

But wouldn’t it make more sense for each of these CDs to be available separately? On the other hand, two CDs of PURCELL’s Songs and Airs creates a satisfying package (VBD 5 61866 2), with the clear-toned Nancy Argenta attacking an outgoing song like ‘Halcyon days’ as stylishly as she caresses the inwardness of ‘Music for a while’.

It’s logical also to repackage Christoph Eschenbach’s recordings of SCHUMANN’s Symphonies with the Bamberg SO (VBD 5 61884 2). I like the warmth they bring to the inner movements of the Rhenish Symphony, and the generally well-judged tempi, though the Adagio of the Second almost stops moving. But the playing isn’t always out of the top drawer, and in this price range I’d prefer Masur on Teldec Ultima.

No such doubts over Mikhail Pletnev’s collection of HAYDN’s piano concertos and sonatas (VBD 5 61881 2), a good introduction to a still underrated area of his output. The music may not equal Mozart in depth, but Pletnev gives it full value with playing of character and affection, backed up crisply by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.

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Hungarians Dohnányi and Kodály might be surprised to find themselves in a collection called CZECH CHAMBER MUSIC (VBD 5 61904 2), but it’s good to welcome back such stylish performances by Domus – and among real Czechs, Martinu’s Piano Quartet is a highlight.