Lately I have had the pleasure of going through several complete sets of Beethoven Piano Concertos by leading pianists such as Barenboim, Zimmerman, Pletnev, and others. Each is special in its own way. Because his unassuming, self effacing demeanour, I really did not have high expectations of a new DVD set played by Murray Perahia (Medici Arts/BBC 3085298, 2 DVDs). However, as I write this I am of the opinion that this set is the best of all... for pianistic command, musicality, beauty of phrasing, and rapport between soloist and conductor. These 1988 performances were transmitted live from The Royal Festival Hall, showcasing the young and deservedly esteemed Perahia with the ever perfect Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. None of the other versions generates the sense of forward motion and excited expectancy that often has the listener (figuratively) on the edge of his, or her, chair. This edition easily eclipses the Sony CDs of Perahia’s collaboration with Haitink and the Concertgebouw recorded in 1983-86. When I want to hear any of these concertos this is the set I’ll turn to.





One of the colossal masterpieces of the Romantic era, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, remains a particular favourite. Even though I have heard it countless times, live and on record, I was tempted to acquire yet another performance. This one was recorded live during a performance in Stuttgart on November 2nd, 1960 with a dream cast of distinguished soloists; Fritz Wunderlich, Maria Stader, Marga Höffgen, and Gottlob Frick. The Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir, the Stuttgart Bach Choir, the Stuttgart Singing Teachers Association Choir are conducted by Hans Müller-Kray (DG 4766382 2CDs). What a treasure this turned out to be! To my ears this is a total performance that achieves a level of comprehension that transcends excellence. It glows from within. Quoting from Hans Hey, now president of the Gottlob Frick Association, who remembers this performance... “Normally the soprano and tenor are prominent in the ensembles but this time everything was well balanced, just like a string quartet... it was just as it should be: mutual respect, listening to one another making music together.” For readers who may not know the soloists, they were Germany’s best of the era and all steeped in the Bach tradition which accounts, I believe, for their perception what this work is about. Muller-Kray un-erringly draws four soloists, three choirs and orchestra together in this exceptional performance. In excellent sound, this appears to be a co-production with the SWR.

For many classical music lovers who listen to FM radio, WBEN-FM is the station of choice. I listen to it in my car and recently I heard, not on the same day, outstanding performances of two long time favourites, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, opus 45. I sat in my driveway waiting for the extros to identify the recordings. As it turned out, they were both NaxosTchaikovsky was played by the Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko (8.570568) and the Rachmaninov featured the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Enrique Batiz (8.550583). I acquired both discs and found them to be all that I expected both in the high octane performances and wide-open, dynamic sound. I recommend them enthusiastically.

discs! The


Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, The Voyevoda




Pierre Monteux, one of the finest and revered conductors of the last century, had a long association with the Boston Symphony, starting in 1919. In his 1947 book, “The Other Side of the Record”, Charles O’Connell, RCA’s producer and conductor argued that Monteux’s music making was superior to Toscanini’s! Pierre Monteux in Boston 1951-58, West Hill Radio Archives (WHRA-6022, 8 CDs priced as 5) brings us some solid reasons to agree with O’Connell. These were halcyon days for Monteux as he guested in Boston after a 27 year absence. Included in this treasure trove of live performances in astonishingly good sound are lots of Tchaikovsky’s including the last three symphonies and the Hamlet Overture, Le Sacre du Printemps, Petrushka (a suite and also complete in stereo), Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, Schumann’s Third, and Prokofiev’s First. Also works by Bartok, Debussy, Wagner, Szymanowski, Elgar, and others. The aristocrat of conductors with the “Aristocrat of Orchestras” – self recommending I would think.

A true legend but not a household name in the celebrated elite group of 20th century violinists, Paul Makanowitzky did not make many recordings but he has a most devoted cult following. Recently on EBay a three LP set sold for US$6,500! Makanowitzky had the élan of the French School with the expressivity of the Russian School. He was born in Sweden to Russian immigrants in 1920 and studied in Paris, aged four, with the mega pedagogue Ivan Galamian. Later with Jacques Thibaud and Nadia Boulanger. The ex child prodigy became a war hero as a volunteer in the USAF in WW2. After the war he enjoyed a brilliant career as soloist with American orchestras. In 1954 teamed up with fellow Boulanger alumnus, Noël Lee who was based in Paris. As a duo, they were critically acclaimed and their performances were always a hot ticket everywhere. For the French label Lumen they recorded the complete Bach, Beethoven and Brahms violin sonatas, the Bach set winning the 1959 Grande Prix du Disc. DOREMI’s new 4 CD set contains the Beethoven (1955/6) and the Bach(DHR7946/9). The musical revelations are both striking and satisfying in their communication of heartfelt and sincere music making. Listeners will be surprised at the refreshing sweetness and purity of tone. The engineer for the Lumen LPs was the iconic André Charlin, whose work is faithfully transmitted here. (1958) sonatas




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