Warner: Elatus

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Durufle,Dvorak,Faure,Mozart,Rimsky-Korsakov,Sibelius,Strauss,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Warner
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: See text for individual catalogue numbers

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Mainly recent fare dominates Warner’s recently launched mid-price Elatus line. Avoid the FAURÉ and DURUFLÉ Requiem coupling (0927-49001-2).

Despite excellent soloists in Thomas Hampson, Jennifer Larmore and Barbara Bonney, Michel Legrand’s overly reverential, flaccid conducting, plus murky engineering and the Ambrosian Singers’s occasional intonation problems, make for painful listening.

If Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s 1982 MOZART Requiem with Concentus Musicus Wien (0927-46739-2) is fussily detailed (the hyper-articulated Kyrie fugue, a breezy and clinical ‘Hostias’ and tight-fisted dotted rhythms), the conductor leads the pack among modern-instrument, chamber-orchestra BEETHOVEN Ninths for ensemble finish, vocal distinction and sonic splendour (0927-46736-2).

It’s good to have Maxim Vengerov’s polished forays into the TCHAIKOVSKY and SIBELIUS Violin Concertos coupled together, the former with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, the latter with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony (0927-46743-2).

Barenboim is particularly good at exploiting the darker undercurrents of Sibelius’s scoring, but his similarly heavy, bass-oriented approach to RIMSKY-KORSAKOV’S Sheherazade obscures the music’s timbral contrast and sparkle.

Strange, for the Chicago Symphony and Barenboim play the daylights out of Rimsky’s Tsar Saltan Suite (0927-46724-2). While Mstislav Rostropovich’s DG DVORÁK Concerto and TCHAIKOVSKY Rococo Variations are justly famous, I prefer the more valedictory remake with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. It’s better recorded and balanced, and by then the cellist had acquired his uniquely resplendent Stradivarius (0927-46727-2).

An older, wizened Sviatoslav Richter turns MOZART’S C major Concerto, K503, into a dour autopsy and leaves a gaping hole in place of a first-movement cadenza (since Mozart didn’t write one, Richter simply doesn’t bother). Martha Argerich, by contrast, allows the D minor Concerto to spill into a bag of pianistic tricks (0927-46740-2).

Passion and discipline, however, can work well together, as you’ll hear in Hélène Grimaud’s brawny, monumental, utterly fabulous BRAHMS D minor Concerto, with the Berlin Staatskapelle making a joyful noise under Kurt Sanderling’s galvanising leadership. Next to this, the felicitous STRAUSS Burleske coupling seems immaterial (0927-46768-2).

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Attractive abstract black and white photos adorn the booklet covers, while most but not all releases contain full texts and translations..