The  Hidden Heart is a DVD of a 2001 TV documentary by Jake Martin concerning Benjamin Britten, his compositions and his relationship with Peter Pears (EMI 50999 21657191). Following the immediate success of Peter Grimes in 1945, Britten was acclaimed and music lovers around the world waited for his next opera. Then came The Rape of Lucretia in 1946, Albert Herring in 1947 and The Beggar’s Opera in 1948. The relationship between the composer and his tenor was no secret but it was against the law in Britain in those days. “The Hidden Heart” leads us through their lives to the last opera, Death in Venice. Some of their private correspondence is read and it is their last words which close this exceptionally well fashioned appreciation of their special relationship. Film clips of Britten, the operas, rehearsals, and many new and archival videos around The War Requiem are featured in this memorable presentation. Get It.


A recent Britten- Pears DVD from the BBC archives (DECCA 0743257) contains a formal Winterreise produced by John Culshaw in 1970 with Britten accompanying off-stage and also three of the songs filmed in rehearsals at home. Many of Britten’s arrangements of folk songs are heard in a recital before a select audience in 1946. For me, these little songs were worth the price of the disc... The Foggy Foggy Dew; The Ploughboy; O Waly, Waly; Oliver Cromwell; and many others. Oh, by the way... Decca has assembled their Britten recordings into several packages: Operas, volume 1 on 8CDs (4756020): Operas, volume 2 on 10CDs (4756029): Choral works on 10CDs (4656040); and a mainly instrumental collection of 7CDs (4756051). Check out the contents with your dealer or on the Decca site at


Last year’s MET production of Peter  Grimes, as seen live in high definition on movie screens around the world, is available on an EMI DVD exactly as seen live, plus interviews and behind the scenes activities (EMI 509921 741494, 2 DVDs). Donald Runnicles conducts with Anthony Dean Giffey perfectly cast as the unfortunate Grimes. Watching at home is quite an experience, arguably better than sitting in the opera house, especially with the (optional) English subtitles to clarify the text.

Among the foremost violin exponents of the 20th Century, Christian  Ferras (France 1933-1982) holds a special place. He had a rather short career but while his playing was well in the league of the superstars of the era, Heifetz, Oistrakh and Francescatti, he suffered from severe depression which eventually led him to end his life. His achievements from an early age were so sensational that EMI placed him in their top line-up along with Menuhin and Oistrakh. His success was such that the powerhouse DGG picked him to assume the top position on their roster. In short time he recorded the four most popular concertos of the repertoire, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven and Sibelius with Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic. These marvellous recordings remained in the active catalogue for over forty years. DOREMI’s 2cd set of four live concerto performances from Paris confirms his place in the violinists’ pantheon (DHR-7880/1). The Mendelssohn E minor (1965) is beautifully communicative; Tchaikovsky (1968) impassioned; Mozart K.219 (1955) pure and stylistic while Jean Martinon’s intriguing, post-Berg 2nd concerto (1968) is brilliant. Derived from recently discovered pristine radio archives, this is an attractive collection.


The illustrious Zino  Francescatti (France 1902-1981) had a totally different kind of career and personal life. For more than half a century he was a frequent and favourite guest of almost every important orchestra in the world. We know him from his many Columbia recordings with the New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras but none with Boston, with whom he often performed. DOREMI has corrected this in Volume 3 of their Francescatti discs (DHR-7888) with Charles Munch conducting the Tchaikovsky (1958, stereo) and Brahms Double (1956) with first chair cellist Samuel Mayes. Hear Francescatti in his prime and his distinctive sonority and characteristic artistry. I have reservations about the sound but the three bonus tracks from The Bell Telephone Hour of 1952 are very good.


Silvia  Marcovici (Romania b.1952) had a sparkling career during the last three decades of the century. Lesser known than the above, judging from these live performances she well deserved prime billing on a major label but was only heard on a number of lesser ones, except for the Sibelius on BIS and the Glazunov with Stokowski on Decca. Marcovici’s complete mastery of the instrument is amply conveyed playing seven concertos in the new DOREMI set (DHR-7942-4) containing 2 CDs and a DVD. Her characteristic sensitivity and warmth illuminate the Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven, and Saint-Saëns No.3 on the CD. On the DVD she plays Lalo, the Bruch no.1 and the Bartok 2nd to perfection, made all the more enjoyable by her striking, charismatic stage presence.










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