I know I'm becoming redundant by repeating this so often, but I have to say it again: EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series (now Warner Classics) was one of the best lines of reissues on the market. I mean, other ventures like RCA's "Living Stereo," Decca's "Legends," DG's "Originals," Mercury's "Living Presence," et al, are wonderful and I love them, but their companies usually had only three or four great artists apiece on their rosters. EMI, on the other hand, had Beecham, Karajan, Furtwangler, Klemperer, Barbirolli, Previn, Ashkenazy, Cluytens, Kleiber, Bernstein, Giulini, Walter, Szell, Menuhin, Muti, Lipatti, Perlman, Rostropovich, Pollini, the list goes on and on. And EMI remastered every disc beautifully using their ART (Abbey Road Technology), making them sound better than they had ever sounded before, the discs filled to the edges with music aplenty and offered at a mid price.
I think EMI meant for Mozart's Symphony No. 41 "Jupiter" to be the main draw on this entry, but, in fact, the accompanying concertos actually take the honors. Beecham had championed Mozart for most of the twentieth century, practically playing his music before the composer became the household name he is today, and Beecham recorded the "Jupiter" twice before this 1957 rendering. The previous two performances had been in monaural, and reviewers have said they were better than the final, stereo version we get here.
|Sir Thomas Beecham|
In any case, the Clarinet Concerto and the Bassoon Concerto are different matters. Here we find the old Beecham magic on full display. Jack Brymer's clarinet sounds particularly felicitous in the first of the concertos, and Gwydion Brooke's bassoon work in the second concerto is equally top-notch.
Producers Lawrance Collingwood and Victor Olof and engineer Robert Becket recorded the Symphony at Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, in 1957. Producers Victor Olaf and Peter Andry and engineers Paul Vavasseur and Neville Boyling recorded the clarinet piece at Salle Wagram, Paris and Abbey Road Studio No. 1 in 1958. And producer Peter Andry and engineer Neville Boyling recorded the bassoon piece at Abbey Road Studio No. 1 in 1958-59. The sound in all three of these works appears smoother and more refined than the same recordings in earlier CD and LP versions, the sound in the concertos perhaps a trifle smoother and fuller than in the symphony. This disc replaces my old CD of the two concertos alone, so the "Jupiter" is like icing on the cake. And did I mention the disc contains a few seconds less than eighty minutes of material? That's certainly of value.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: