Warner: Apex

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Warner

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Warner was a late player in the bargain reissues game, but the quantity of product appearing in its Apex series shows a determination to catch up.

PURCELL IN THE ALE HOUSE (0927-40829-2) actually contains only three pieces of Purcell, alongside some by his near contemporaries, and Pro Cantione Antiqua sometimes seems too cathedral-choir polite for the bawdier of the partsongs, though the handful of lute songs are distinguished by Ian Partridge’s beautiful singing.

More idiomatic (and 100 per cent Purcell) is SONGS OF WELCOME AND FAREWELL (0927-41378-2), a gathering of several occasional pieces, including the two exquisite Elegies on the Death of Queen Mary.

They’re all delivered by Tragicomedia with touching simplicity. From the same period comes BAROQUE MUSIC OF BOLOGNA (0927-40838-2), with Torelli as the main composer.

There’s a lot of nifty solo work from the (uncredited) trumpeters, as well as neat playing from the St James’s Baroque Players, though I became rather tired of so much D major: to be taken in small doses.

Not so BACH’s wonderful English and French Suites (0927-40808-2, 0927-40814-2, 0927-40813-2), energetically performed by Alan Curtis on a magnificent harpsichord from 1728.

The last of the French Suites, where Bach effortlessly displays his mastery of eight dance styles, is a real tour de force. A brief welcome back to Thomas Zehetmair’s recording of three 20th-century violin concertos (0927-40812-2): rather cool in BERG, but fully engaged in JANÁCEK and HARTMANN.

From the Finlandia stable, the New Helsinki Quartet seem efficient rather than idiomatic in the JANÁCEK quartets (0927-40603-2), but there’s no doubt about the commitment of the Ostrobothnian CO in works for strings by SIBELIUS (0927-40607-2), including some rarities: two short melodramas, and the Suite for Violin, a curiously innocent late piece.

Two discs of Michelangeli from Italian radio archives of the early Sixties are distinguished more for their pianism than for their recording quality, or, in the case of the SCHUMANN and LISZT concertos (0927-40650-2), for the orchestral playing.

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But the CHOPIN disc (0927-40647-2) contains miracles of touch, phrasing and rubato, as well as those irritating eccentricities which were part and parcel of Michelangeli’s musical personality.