The Classical Records re-issued by Speakers Corner mostly hail from the early stereo era - from the late 1950’s through the 1960’s-  a period hailed by many as the "golden era" of classical recording. Taken from labels noted for their superlative sound and masterful performances (Decca, Mercury Living Presence, Phillips and DGG), they range from sonic blockbusters to recordings noted for their refined sound quality (often on the same recording). Original copies of these records are extremely rare, and the Speakers Corner is to be applauded for making these long out of print records available once again.

Also available are some later seventies releases – again noted for quality performances and recording – and also there are a new series of classical recordings from Tacet a label known for their top end sound quality – all analogue of course!


Speakers Corners Classical Composers A to D

Classical E to L

Albeniz: Suite Espanola : Fruhbeck De Burgos Fruhbeck De Burgos - Albeniz: Suite Espanola (Transcription by Fruhbeck de Burgos) - New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos

Tuneful, exotically scored (by the conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos), and giving orchestra and recording engineers alike a chance to show their paces, the Suite Española makes highly entertaining listening. We are given here seven pieces from Albeniz's original piano suite plus Cordoba, which is from the same composer's Cantos de Espana. As this has a very fetching tune to end the record graciously, no one is likely to complain. But try the opening Castile for its glittering castanets or the Asturias with its eloquent and sonorous brass chords to offset the flurry of strings. This is a demonstration disc par excellence. Decca

Albeniz : Iberia/ Turina: Danzas Fantasticas : Ansermet Ernest Ansermet - Albeniz: Iberia/ Turina: Danzas Fantasticas Ernest Ansermet conducts the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande performing Isaac Albéniz's Iberia and Joaquín Turina's Danzas Fantásticas

As in numerous other works by Spanish composers, Isaac Albéniz's aim in his Iberia Suite was to portray the landscape and express the zest for life which is so abundant in southern countries. Infused with folkmusic elements, the suite is introduced by the dancelike Evocacian which vividly evokes a picture of Iberia. The lush, extravagant harmonies and the stark contrasts of the dynamics in particular - from the softest pianissimo to the extreme fortissimo - certainly whet one's appetite. Don't worry - Spain has a lot to offer! The next movement, El Corpus en Sevilla transports us to Andalusia where a solemn procession is taking place to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. This is followed by a sparkling Triana in which the various complex and brilliant rhythms of the national dances Almeria, Rondena and Fandango are ingeniously combined. The two movements El Puerto and El Albaicin are no less exciting: the first presents a rich potpourri of Spanish songs, while the second - held in the minor key - conjures up a picture of Granada's gypsy quarter. Decca

Albert Wolff - Overtures In Hi-Fi Albert Wolff - Overtures In Hi-Fi Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Even the loveliest and lengthiest opera would seem so incomplete without an overture, like a male model without his socks. The other way round is no problem, though ideally the overture music should already contain the musical synopsis which later unfolds pleasurably into the arias and choruses. Of the six instrumental powerhouses heard here, three have their origin in the French opera comique tradition and the three others originate in the colourful musical life of the Austrian monarchy, and all are given the full limelight here by Albert Wolff and the orchestra of the Paris Conservatoire.

One is amazed at the way in which the maestro’s brisk pace still allows the listener to sample the subtleties which otherwise tend all too often to be subsumed into the sweet array of melodies. Served up with a good eye and a light touch, the more calmly flowing passages also unfold their full, fragrant aroma of chamber-music style clarity.

A delicate titbit and at the same time a listening tip: Reznicek’s Donna Diana overture. This piquant piece – which is not terribly easy to get hold of in digital form– enjoys a rarity value on vinyl and without doubt belongs in this repertoire. Decca

Ataulfo Argenta - Espana! Ataulfo Argenta - Espana! Sonically, this record is one of the best ever produced by Decca (recorded in 1956/57). The unprepared listener is literally swept off his or her feet. To better enjoy this tremendous experience, we would advise the listeners to put their feet up, relax, and listen with rapt attention. A Do-not-disturb sign on the door is to be recommended. What rushes out to the connoisseur from the loudspeakers lets them feel the rousing breath of the music straight away. The LSO, conducted by Ataulfo Argenta, plays with a vitality rarely achieved. They play with animation, vivacity and pure enjoyment, with precision and lucidity. The pieces chosen are a carefully assembled medley of Spanish music. Interestingly enough, most of the music was written by non-Spanish composers. All in all, it has become a legendary recording, which caused quite a stir even in its mono version. The FFSS version ranks among the very best recordings ever issued. Decca
Bach: Brandenburg Concertos : Stuggart Chamber Orchestra The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra recorded Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos twice. The first was the famous old Decca recording made under the baton of Karl Munchinger, which disappeared from the market as an LP many years ago. The second is a new recording, made for Tacet with outstanding soloists and never before released as an LP, which became famous for being Tacet's first Real Surround Sound recording. But now this Brandenburg Concertos recording is available on vinyl: in Tacet's warm tube-only sound, on two-and-a-half 180-gram LPs in a luxurious linen-covered box accompanied by a large-sized booklet - just like the old days. Further works by Johann Sebastian Bach fill the remaining time of the third record. Tacet
Bach: 6 Cello Suites : Janos Starker Janos Starker - Bach: 6 Cello Suites

Rare originals of this recording have been going on Ebay for upwards of $1,500. The sound quality and performance are absolutely to-die-for.

Today, it is difficult to understand that despite the tremendous Bach renaissance that took place in the 19th century, many compositions by the Cantor of St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig had been underrated. The Cello Suites, for example, have been regarded for almost 300 years as purely a set of tricky etudes that every virtuoso in the making simply must tackle. Janos Starker’s recording of the Suites from 1965 makes a lasting impression on the listener, and even record producers who are well used to recorded excellence have been highly impressed. Starker’s full-bodied sound and technical brilliance are complemented by his finely chiseled interpretation that lends immense expression to Bach’s thrilling harmony and verve to the strict rhythmic construction of the movements.

Just listen to his organ-like double-stopped passages, the eloquent dialogues, and the pure excitement he conjures up with his bow. Then you will surely agree with the often-quoted paradox that Bach's Cello Suites are "polyphony for a solo instrument."

"The sound on this Speakers Corner reissue, mastered by Willem Makke at Universal's Berliner facility in Hanover, from Harold Lawrence's original three-track mastertapes, is superb. The cello, situated to the right of stage center and back a bit from stage front, is gorgeously rich and full in tone color; dynamics are exceptionally impressive...There is music for occasions, and there is music that creates a world to dwell in, rather than merely visit - Bach's Cello Suites are quintessentially the latter. This is a set that all music-loving audiophiles should own." - Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound, June/July 2005, Issue 154

"You don't have to know a Bourree from a crème brulee to be moved by this music. You can listen without the annotation and appreciate both Bach's emotional power and Starker's prowess. Or you can read along and understand the music's intellectual and structural underpinnings. This Mercury release from 1966 has long been treasured by music lovers and audiophiles for both the performances and the sound. Thanks to Speakers Corner, this beautifully produced, three-LP boxed set - mastered by Willem Makke at Universal's Berliner mastering facility in Hanover, Germany, from the original tapes - restores this historic set to the catalog. The updated annotation includes new notes by the 80-year-old Starker." - Michael Fremer, Stereophile, February 2005

Hi-Fi+ Record of the Year 2004 "Although Speakers Corner has already won a Product of the Year award for their Mercury Living Presence project, I felt, and after some persuading so did RG, that the release of Janos Starker's highly regarded set deserved its own recognition. Timed to honour Starker's eightieth birthday last year, this is an extremely special reissue...This is one of those records that seems to hold a magic mirror to sound - in this case the sound of a man playing a violoncello in space, in time, captured forever. This is a near physical manifestation of a performance out of thin air...I have always been a fan of the original records, but this is one of those rare instances, especially of such a highly regarded and sought after set, where the re-issue offers far greater pleasure and insight than the original release...Starker's technique, his touch, his grasp of instrument and line is simply as riveting and utterly convincing as one could ever hope to hear - and hear it you do...the icing on the cake is the memoir concerning Mercury and these particular recording sessions, written by Starker himself, exclusively for this release...Congratulations to Speakers Corner Records who have outdone themselves with this most valuable and masterfully produced set, a sentiment that seems to be becoming a habit." - Richard S. Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 36 (3 LP Box Set) Mercury Living Presence

Bach : Partitas No. 1 & 2 : Florin Paul Formerly concertmaster of Sergiu Celibidache’s Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, today Florin Paul occupies the same position with Hamburg’s North German Radio Symphony Orchestra. Some years ago he travelled to a small and rather unattractive church in the south of France, which was blessed with heavenly acoustics. With a precious, loaned Stradivari, he performed a silky and delicate yet crystal-clear Bach which Andreas Spreer captured using dust-free Neumann tube microphones. Thanks to the church’s slight resonance, an aura of consummate polyphony with lingering harmonies is created when the music ebbs away. With Bach’s Partitas sounding like this, it is irrelevant who the soloist was in days gone by. How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy such glorious sounds today!
Bartok: Dance Suite : Antal Dorati Antal Dorati - Bartok: Dance Suite "…These are dramatic orchestral works that are sure to please both the music lover and the audiophile. Bartok may not be considered easy or accessible, but this disc suggests otherwise and is not to be missed." – Richard S. Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 51

Bartok composed his Dance Suite as the result of a commission from the city fathers of Budapest to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union of the two towns Pest and Buda. While on his travels, Bartok liked to collect old folksongs, and he used this opportunity to express the act of fraternity in his music in the manner of a hidden program. As he himself stated, he made use of Arabian, Hungarian and Romanian influences in the Suite, whose dances are linked together by means of ritornello-like interludes. Glossiness in order to achieve romantic tonal magnificence is uncalled for here. Dorati's conducting is oriented towards the archaic strength, and the dry and at times rustic nature of the Suite. He allows the orchestra to seethe, whistle and stamp, driven on by ever-changing rhythms which lend the work its impulsive urge. Together with the highly expressive Portraits, Op. 5 and the two excerpts from Mikrokosmos, originally composed for the piano and heard here in an arrangement for orchestra by Tibor Serly, this compilation offers an excellent insight into Bartok's musical thoughts and works. Mercury Living Presence
Beethoven: Complete Incidental Music to Goethe's Egmont : George Szell George Szell - Beethoven: Complete Incidental Music to Goethe's Egmont Beethoven - Complete Incidental Music to Goethe's Egmont/ Pilar Lorengar / Klaus-Jurgen Wussow / VPO / George Szell

"It is a happy state of events to see two great masters unite in a glorious work and thus fulfill every wish of the thoughtful connoisseur. Beethoven has proved that he alone - among many composers - was certainly the one to comprehend the tender and at the same time powerful poem deep in his innermost soul: every tone which the poet struck resounded in his heart like a string tuned at the very same pitch and vibrating at the same rate, and so the music was created which now threads its way and binds all together like a brightly coloured ribbon woven from brilliant tones."

Such were E.T.A. Hoffmann's enthusiastic words about Beethoven's Egmont: indeed very little else needs to be added - except that this recording has been newly pressed and is now available on the DECCA label once again. The chambermusic-like directness of the interpretation and the fact that the individual instrumental groups are easily identifiable will be appreciated by the perceptive listener. On top form, Pilar Lorengar sings her vocal part with playful lightness and dramatic expressivity. The speaking role is performed by the famous actor and member of the Burg Theater, Klaus-Jurgen Wussow, whose clear and dignified recitation throws a literary bridge to the music. Decca

Beethoven: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 1 : Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli - Beethoven: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 1
The performance history of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos is, it appears, bound up with a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, every great pianist must almost feel destined to perform these works at least once in his lifetime. But on the other hand, so many heroes of the schellac era have left future generations their excellent recordings that these are filled with awe and respect, their otherwise nimble fingers become lame - and often only a mediocre recording is the result.

The present recording, a milestone among the multitude of televised recordings made in the heyday of analogue recording technique, is highly impressive for its depth of musical focus, even without any visual support. Benedetti Michelangeli’s performance is a far cry from sugar-sweet pedaling and showy virtuosity, rather he displays a highly individual understanding of the intricately constructed musical material. Each phrase blossoms out to become a unique event in time composed. The soloist and the excellent orchestra here give a performance which sums up all Beethoven’s famous compositions and in which the pianist’s amazing sensitivity penetrates even the smallest detail. Deutsche Grammophon
Beethoven: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra/ Schneiderhan, violin: Eugen Jochum Eugen Jochum - Beethoven: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra/ Schneiderhan, violin Wolfgang Schneiderhan / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Eugen Jochum

The serene spiritual beauty of the slow movement and the playing of the elusive second subject have seldom been surpassed on record, and the orchestra under Jochum provides a background tapestry of power and dignity. Against it Schneiderhan's small silvery tone and purity of style are so consistantly poised and have such an innate sense of classicism that the senses and spirit alike are satisfied. Remastered with Cello equipment! Deutsche Grammophon

Beethoven: Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) : Clifford Curzon Clifford Curzon - Beethoven: Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch

The Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra, composed in 1809 at the time of Napoleon's siege and occupation of Vienna, was Ludwig Van Beethoven's last work in this form. The heroic optimism at the heart of the Concerto finds expression in the majesty of its design and the innovative virtuosity of the solo part. The dialectic between piano and orchestra creates an electric atmosphere of brooding depth and sweeping grandeur. Beethoven's choice of the E-flat major key was not arbitrary, but gave voice rather to the wild pathos in his own soul. Clifford Curzon's interpretation of the score is intelligent and refined, his execution characterized by introspective discipline. The exemplary interplay between Curzon and Hans Knappertsbusch evokes the light and shadow latent in each of the Emperor's three movements. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra displays its customary symphonic brilliance throughout. This Decca recording, one of the very earliest in stereo, is convincing both musically and tonally. More than a document, it is a milestone of our musical history.Decca

Beethoven: Sonatas for Piano and Violin Nos. 5 & 9 : Lew Oborin and David Oistrakh Lew Oborin and David Oistrakh - Beethoven: Sonatas for Piano and Violin Nos. 5 & 9 At first sight Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas appear to occupy only a subordinate role when placed alongside his great symphonic works and the piano sonatas. While the earlier works in the genre were viewed in their time with skepticism due to the rare difficulty and learnedness of their piano part, the later sonatas however display an increasingly marked independence of the violin part. For this reason, the A major Violin Sonata (which was dedicated to the French violinist Rodolph Kreutzer), and the so-called Spring Sonata soon became two of the most famous representatives of their genre. David Oistrakh, the brilliant violinist in this Philips re-release, certainly needs no further introduction. All the more attention, therefore, should be given to the great achievement of the less well-known pianist, Lev Oborin, a frequent chamber-music partner of Oistrakh’s. Every possible facet of the instrumental dialogue is captured in Oborin’s performance. He is restrained in passages where the melody is given over to the violin; he and his partner toss the motifs back and forth between them; and he takes the reins firmly into his hands when the music demands it. All this takes place with the precision of a Swiss clock but by no means with mere mechanical virtuosity. Philips
 Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 / No. 2 -  Polish Chamber Orchestra / Wojciech Rajski Considering the enormous number of excellent Beethoven recordings on the market, it requires a great deal of self-confidence to put out yet another Symphonies Edition. The latest production offered by the Tacet label is like a breath of fresh air in the lofty heights of the Viennese Classical period, and threatens to blow some of the mighty from their pedestals. The reason for this is not only to be found in the outstanding, glowing sound of the two early symphonies but rather in the spirited interpretation. Wojciech Rajski and the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra offer a joyous, thrilling Beethoven performance which is neither sensational nor illustrative. In masterly fashion the musicians combine the explosive kernel with the tender mantle of the surrounds and bestow upon us a transparent yet full sound which is a sheer pleasure to hear. The wind passages have been recorded and reproduced with loving care and attention, which is reminiscent of the substance and intensity of Otto Klemperer’s recordings in the 50s and 60s. In contrast to the old master, however, Rajski indulges in vigorous tempi in the outer movements, and unleashes virtuosic power particulary in the explosive finale of the Second Symphony. While waiting eagerly for further symphonic fireworks from Tacet, collectors are recommended to enjoy this benchmark recording. Tacet
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 : Wojciech Rajski Wojciech Rajski conducts the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Released on 180-gram vinyl. The indomitable rhythmic insistence in Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 brought the work a considerable number of pictorial descriptions with the object of explaining the mysteries contained within the persistent repetition of the first movement's motif. In addition to famous pertinent phrases such as "an apotheosis of the dance" (Richard Wagner) and "victory of the symphony over the supreme power of rhythm" (Walter Riezler), such allegorical quips ranging from "ancient wine festival" to "march against France" were bandied about. Equally as rich as the wealth of quotes about this unique symphony is the number of its interpretations, which range from an orgiastic dash to plodding, meek or pussyfooted versions. As can be expected from Wojciech Rajski, the former kapellmeister of Bonn's Beethovenhalle Orchestra, his stalwart Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra delivers a lively, fresh and sinewy performance. In accordance with the modus operandi of Tacet, audiophile tube-only technology was used for this recording thus guaranteeing sound reproduction of the highest quality. Tacet
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 : Wojciech Rajski The indomitable rhythmic insistence in Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 brought the work a considerable number of pictorial descriptions with the object of explaining the mysteries contained within the persistent repetition of the first movement's motif. In addition to famous pertinent phrases such as "an apotheosis of the dance" (Richard Wagner) and "victory of the symphony over the supreme power of rhythm" (Walter Riezler), such allegorical quips ranging from "ancient wine festival" to "march against France" were bandied about. Equally as rich as the wealth of quotes about this unique symphony is the number of its interpretations, which range from an orgiastic dash to plodding, meek or pussyfooted versions. As can be expected from Wojciech Rajski, the former kapellmeister of Bonn's Beethovenhalle Orchestra, his stalwart Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra delivers a lively, fresh and sinewy performance. In accordance with the modus operandi of Tacet, audiophile tube-only technology was used for this recording thus guaranteeing sound reproduction of the highest quality. Tacet
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 : Herbert von Karajan Herbert von Karajan - Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 Of the four Beethoven cycles which Karajan recorded over four decades, the present cycle is undoubtedly at the very top of the list. This cannot alone lie in the sumptuous sound which was both praised and criticized at the time. Rather more, in masterly fashion Karajan places more emphasis on the youthful freshness of the early symphonies, gets right to the heart of the drama in the Third, and allows the multi-layered Fourth to sound stringent and decisive. Powerfully yet without exaggerated, fateful relentlessness, the Fifth plows on towards its triumphant C major finale, while the filigree expansiveness of the Sixth ensures that it is not merely a sugary tonal painting. The Berlin Philharmonic present the Seventh and Eighth at a comparatively breezy pace, while never losing sight of the hidden depths of the score. Finally, we have the glorious sound of the agitated Ninth, sung by the stars of the day, whom the Maestro leads surely and safely – just as his orchestra – through the score. Deutsche Grammophon
Berlioz : Symphonie Fantastique : Ataulfo Argenta Ataulfo Argenta - Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Behind the mysterious title Symphonie Fantastique is to be found what was undoubtedly one of the most powerful musical compositions of its day. The highly controversial discussions which this autobiographical, extraordinary work provoked are quite understandable when one considers that Beethoven and Schubert had just put down their quills for the last time and that Wagner had only just left his childhood behind him. In commenting upon the daring cyclical structure of the work, one French music critic said "In Berlioz's Symphony we believe that we have seen the prelude to a revolution in instrumental music."

In spite of being acknowledged and praised as a composer, Berlioz was never given the professorship he coveted at the Paris Conservatoire, and it might appear as if the renowned Conservatoire Orchestra was making its apologies for this in the present excellent recording. The various scenes of the intoxicating program music are presented in a low, gloomy and dark timbre until finally a heroic attitude comes to the fore, accompanied by thundering drum rolls, when the death sentence is pronounced. Decca

Bizet : Carmen & L’Arlésienne : Orchestre de la Suisse The 19th-century suites with their collection of favourite songs and instrumental excerpts from operas are the clear forerunners of today’s 'Best-Of' culture. The "Carmen Suite" was assembled after Bizet’s death and brought the operatic masterpiece into the concert hall. The overture is fresh and rousing, the toreador theme marches in proudly and purposefully, followed by the destiny motif in the minor key which burns itself into ones ear and mind. With every bar it becomes obvious that this suite is not so much a series of excerpts but rather the true substance of its creator’s musical ideas.
All that remained of the five-act play "L’Arlésienne" after its unsuccessful premiere was Bizet’s incidental music, which he himself orchestrated lavishly and premiered with success. Similar to "Carmen", popular melodies are treated with the composer’s own unique style to make them ageless, and Ernest Ansermet and his orchestra stages them delightfully for all eternity.
Bizet-Sarasate: Carmen Fantaisie Op.25/ Ruggiero Ricci, violin : Pierino Gamba Pierino Gamba - Bizet-Sarasate: Carmen Fantaisie Op.25/ Ruggiero Ricci, violin Bizet - Carmen Fantaisie Op. 25/ Sarasate - Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 No. 1/ Saint-Sa'ns Havanaise Op. 83, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso Op. 28 - Ruggiero Ricci /LSO /Gamba

Some violinists enrapture their audience with their purity of tone, others with their warm timbre or their amazing technical virtuosity. Pablo de Sarasate y Navascuzz was one of the very few violinists who combined all these merits, and in addition was a composer in his own right. The most famous of his 50 works are Zigeunerweisen, based on traditional gypsy folklore and the fiendishly difficult Carmen Fantasy. And what better proof is there than Saint-Saens Rondo capriccioso that it is perfectly possible to unite high-spirited joyfulness with a minor key. As the name suggests, his Havanaise is filled with the melodies and colorful rhythms of Spain: no wonder this piece is known as the violinists' warhorse.

It goes without saying that these 19th-century bravura pieces are an absolute must for all those who wish to join the annals of great virtuoso violinists. And today, 40 years after the making of this recording, general consensus has it that Ruggiero Ricci has taken his rightful place among the great virtuosos. Decca

Borodin : Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3/ Prince Igor Overture : Ansermet Ernest Ansermet - Borodin: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3/ Prince Igor Overture Ernest Ansermet conducts the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande performing Alexander Borodin's Symphony No. 2 in B Minor, Symphony No. 3 in A Minor and Prince Igor Overture.

Anyone believing in the old adage that science and the fine arts do not mix must rethink his ideas when he becomes acquainted with Alexander Borodin's biography and his music. The Russian professor of chemistry constantly stole time from his lectures in order to compose; it was musical elements and formulas rather than chemical ones that occupied him. Without a doubt, the Second Symphony in B Minor best reflects Russian feeling and temperament. It's rather harsh and mechanical theme is contrasted first by a lively little song and later by a conciliatory second subject. Cheerful and soothing melodies are heard in ever new combinations until the main theme returns once again and the movement is brought to a powerful close.

The Scherzo, with its throbbing horns, march rhythms and thrilling woodwinds, is equally electrifying. The contemplative Andante is followed by a highly explosive Finale based on two Russian dance melodies which are widely varied during the course of the music. Both old and new friends of Russian symphonic music are highly recommended to experiment in their own sitting-room laboratories with this musically and chemically pure vinyl pressing. (This LP was originaly only released as a London, so the reissue was released just like the original.) London

Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 in D/ Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8 : Borodin Quartet Borodin Quartet - Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 in D/ Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8, op. 110
With the Borodin Quartet, it wasn't easy for Alexander Borodin to receive due recognition in comparison to his younger fellow countryman, Tchaikovsky. As a professor of chemistry, he found very little time to compose music although Borodin is considered one of the most important Russian symphonic composers of the 19th century. Borodin also created works for small ensembles; because of the beautiful and slow notturno, his String Quartet No. 2 belongs to one of the most important compositions in chamber music. Dmitri Shostakovitch, born in 1906, has been often honored as one of the outstanding composers of this century. Shostakovitch was devasted by the destruction of Dresden and used the composition of his moving String Quartet No. 8 as a means to overcome his war experiences. The intensity of this piece is displayed by the relaxedness of its climax in the largo, a serene ending to his composition. The international career of the Moscow Philharmonic Quartet began in 1955 with its reception of the honorable title, The Borodin Quartet. These 1962 recordings show the greatest level of interpretation by its musicians. The result is a penetrating performance with great expressiveness and feeling. Even the highest demands are met by the warm and full, but intelligible sound pattern. Decca
Brahms : Hungarian Dances/ Dvorak: Slavonic Dances : Reiner Fritz Reiner - Brahms: Hungarian Dances/ Dvorak: Slavonic Dances Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner

Fritz Reiner dedicated himself to the interpretation of the work of modern composers such as R. Wagner, Richard R. Strauss and B. Bartok. For this reason it suited him well to tackle works like Brahms's Hungarian Dances and Dvorak's Slavonic Dances. These compositions imply a lot of motion and require a conductor whose interaction with the orchestra is vivacious and animated. Reiner always demanded utmost concentration and perfection from his orchestras, but this time, he let the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra play full of enthusiasm and without restraint so that at no time a sterile concert-atmosphere would arise. Reiner's fondness for effects does not annoy in this case - here it adds highlights which support his very musical interpretation, brings the listener colorful music so rich in facets and nuances. From the tonal point of view the music is beautifully balanced, it reaches top level standards despite its recording date of 1960 - or maybe just for that reason. The sound of the record is characterized by its brilliance, warmth and such liveliness that listening becomes a true musical event. Rated 17/20 in London Blueback Guide. Decca

Brahms Violin Concerto : Erica Morini Erica Morini - Brahms Violin Concerto When one considers that Erica Morini's 60-year career on the concert platform brought her together with such orchestras as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic and took her as far as New York's Carnegie Hall, the number of recordings she left us is very small indeed. In order to obtain an idea of this violinist's great talent, which she developed to perfection as one of the very first women to attend the Vienna Conservatory, it has generally been necessary to delve into the shellac record archive. And of course, such records crackle and hiss, thus ruining the listener's pleasure. But now here is the remedy: a stereo recording of Brahms' Violin Concerto which the 61-year-old Erica Morini recorded for the Westminster label. Her clean and highly-differentiated timbre, her lyrical expression, technical perfection and of course her very own thrilling spirit is marvelous to hear. Westminister
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet/ Wagner: Adagio for Clarinet & String Quartet : Members of The Vienna Octet Members of The Vienna Octet - Brahms: Clarinet Quintet/ Wagner: Adagio for Clarinet &  String Quartet Brahms: Clarinet Quintet Wagner (Baermann): Adagio for Clarinet and String Quintet - Alfred Boskovsky and Members of the Vienna Octet

Alfred Boskovsky and members of the Vienna Octet perform Johannes Brahms' - Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115 and Heinrich Joseph Baermann's - Clarinet Quintet, Op. 23. Recording date and venue: April 1961 at Sofiensaal, Vienna Date of release: December 1996.

This autumn release nicely coincides with a composition by Johannes Brahms which he wrote during the autumn of his life: the masterly Clarinet Quintet op.115 displays all the characteristics of Brahms' mature chamber style at its zenith. Highly expressive themes, extensive modulation, rich development, and a finely balanced interweaving of the parts are the chief characteristics of this enchanting late work.

The music combines gentle reveling with mellow cheerfulness - one might say that Brahms is once again declaring his love for Hungarian folk music, as he did so often in numerous earlier works. It is known today that the Adagio for Clarinet and String Quartet was not composed by Wagner but by the clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Joseph Baermann. The very fact that this seldom performed little work was attributed to the Bavarian music dramatist gives an inkling of its compositional standard. A gentle clarinet melody, supported by the four string instruments, imbues the piece with soft iridescence. This DECCA recording, made with members of the Vienna Octet in 1961, is still valid today as a true work of reference. Decca

Brahms: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra : Curzon Clifford Curzon - Brahms: Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra

"…none have recorded Brahms' Piano Concerto 1 with the combination of skill and passion displayed by Englishman Clifford Curzon in this outing with George Szell and the London Symphony Orchestra. The music leaps from the grooves of this (mostly) well-made stereo recording, excelled by none other at putting across the sheer physical force of which Curzon was capable…The Speakers Corner LP reissue of the Decca original is superb: as good as this sort of thing gets." Stereophile Records To Die For – Art Dudley, Stereophile, February 2008

Concerto No.1 For Piano and Orchestra - Sir Clifford Curzon and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Szell

With Curzon and Szell and the London Symphony Orchestra. This is a monumental performance of this Brahms masterpiece. There is evidence that the session between Curzon and Szell was filled with verbal insults between soloist and conductor. However, their anger must have been channeled into the performances in the form of an electric energy. Listed as RM #20 by Robert Moon & Michael Gray. Decca

Brahms: Sonatas For Cello & Piano : Janos Starker Janos Starker and Gyorgy Sebok - Brahms: Sonatas For Cello & Piano "This is a stunning record. While I own an early original pressing, sonically speaking it doesn't hold a candle to the re-issue. Starker's cello is bold, woodsy and seated with proper perspective near Sebok's piano. The performances recorded here are lively, romantic and heartfelt…An outstanding pair of performances in equally outstanding sound. What more could you want? This is a must own issue!" Recording = 10/10; Music = 10/10 – Richard S Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 52

Brahms' Cello Sonatas could well be described as "romantic expression dressed in classical garb," filled as they are with the same musical philosophy that is to be found in many of his instrumental works. Although 21 years lay between the two compositions, Brahms remained true to the formal musical language of the Viennese masters, and this brought him – and other composers of his time – the reproach of imitating Beethoven.

The unmistakable personal style of Brahms is reflected in the sweeping first movement which is in the manner of a serious song and calls for sensitive but by no means feeble bowing. Starker's wiry, austere playing keeps a check on any excessive emotion and instead brings the music to life in great detail. Mercury Living Presence
Brahms: Trio for Violin, Horn & Piano/ Sonata No. 2 : Joseph Szigeti (violin), Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano), John Barrows (horn) Joseph Szigeti (violin), Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano), John Barrows (horn) - Brahms: Trio for Violin, Horn & Piano/ Sonata No. 2 In the 18th and 19th century, a great many chamber-music works for winds were composed with a specific occasion in mind. Brahms’s Horn Trio, however, is an exception in that it was not especially written for a contemporary virtuoso. It is known, though, that Brahms himself played this difficult instrument fairly well, that he valued the beauty of its tone, and that he was inspired to compose the work recorded here by an inner urge.

In his performance, John Barrows concentrates upon bringing out the compositional layout of the work, which largely dispenses with a display of virtuosi fireworks. The sonorous tonal character of the horn and its range of expression – from lyrical to mournful – are shown off to great effect. In the rapid Finale, however, Barrows pays tribute to the various playing techniques offered by this aristocratic instrument. With blaring staccatos and organ-like bass notes, he goads his fellow musicians to join him in a musical hunt, as it were, and they take up his challenge with thrilling effect.Mercury Living Presence
Britten - Britten: Nocturne/ Grimes: Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia Benjamin Britten - Britten: Nocturne/ Grimes: Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia Nocturne for tenor solo, seven obligato instruments and string orchestra, Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes - Peter Pears and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten

Although numerous truly remarkable and wholly satisfactory recordings of works by Benjamin Britten - conducted namely by the composer's assistant of many years standing, Steuart Bedford - have been released in recent years, those recordings made with the composer himself simply cannot be surpassed. What can be more authentic than a composer conducting his own works? And this is certainly true for the present recording. The song cycle Nocturne Op. 60 was composed by Britten for the tenor Peter Pears who was not only Britten's life companion but also the most supreme interpreter of his works. Pears is, however, not only the key to the Nocturne, a work which takes night and sleep as its theme, but also to Peter Grimes, Britten's very first opera. This work not only brought the composer his international breakthrough but opened the gateway to British opera in its own right. The sharply focussed Four Sea Interludes which separate the individual acts of the opera reflect the various states of mind and soul of the tragic hero and often appear on a concert programme as a self-contained work. The Interludes are complemented here by the Passacaglia from the Second Act of the opera, again conducted by the composer. It really goes without saying that this truly authentic recording can never be bettered. Decca

Britten: Sonata in C for Cello and Piano/ Schumann: Fünf Stücke im Volkston/ Debussy: Sonata for Cello and Piano Britten & Rostropovich - Britten: Sonata in C for Cello and Piano/ Schumann: Fünf Stücke im Volkston/ Debussy: Sonata for Cello and Piano Schumann: Fünf Stücke im Volkston/ Debussy: Sonata for Cello and Piano - Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten

In the hands of masters these 5 pieces in folk style have a rare charm, particularly the last with its irregular rhythm. This is an excellent recording. Britten's five-movement work was written specially for Rostropovich, it is unlike anything Britten wrote previously. The idiom itself is unexpected. However, although it demands fantastic feats from the cellist, it is hardly a display piece. Each of the five movements is poised and concentrated. It is an excellent work to wrestle with on a record, particularly when the performance is never likely to be outshone. The recording is superb in every way. Debussy's Cello Sonata was the first of a planned cycle of six sonatas for different instruments, written, so Debussy emphasized, by a musician francais. The writing for the instruments is brilliant. Britten and Rostropovich bring a clarity and point which suit it perfectly. The recording is excellent. Decca

Bruch: Scottish Fantasia/ Hindemith: Violin Concerto : Oistrakh Horenstein/ Hindemith - Bruch: Scottish Fantasia/ Hindemith: Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto - David Oistrakh, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jascha Horenstein and Paul Hindemith

Oistrakh's performance here is a complete revelation. Hindemith's concerto has never before blossomed into such rewarding lyricism. Even the orchestral contribution under the composer himself is strikingly passionate and with the soloist to provide many moments when the ear is ravished by the beauty of phrasing and inflection, the listener has much to enjoy. The recording is one of the very finest ever made of the combination of solo violin and orchestra. The Oistrakh/ Horenstein performance completely displaces its competitors. It is marvelously well recorded -- Oistrakh has never sounded so real on a disc before -- and the reading owes nearly as much to the conductor as the soloist. The expansive dignity of the opening of the brass sets shows immediately how fine the orchestral contribution is going to be and Oistrakh's playing throughout is ravishing, raising the statue of the work immeasurably. The slow movement is especially memorable. Recorded in September, 1962. John Culshaw, producer; Alan Reeve and Michael Mailes, engineers (we think). Rated 19 /20 in Robert Moon, Blue Back Guide. Decca

Chopin & Liszt: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 : Argerich Claudio Abbado - Chopin & Liszt: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 The virtuoso concerto is often criticized by audiences chatting in the concert hall foyer as being superficial and narcissistic, but a brilliant soloist performing with a dramatic and sonorous orchestra certainly has no need for excuses. Let's be honest: We all want to enjoy the brilliance and ecstasy of such music. Putting Chopin's brilliant youthful work, with which he took Paris by storm, alongside Liszt's symphonically structured work with its manifold improvisatory passages is rather like comparing apples and oranges. However, a compilation of the two works on one record is highly desirable, especially when the youthful and athletic Martha Argerich is at the keyboard. She lends Chopin's dominant piano part elegance, pearly lightness and brings out his exquisite harmonies to create haunting poetry in music. Deutsche Grammophon
Chopin: Scherzo No. 3/ Brahms: Rhapsodies : Argerich Martha Argerich - Chopin: Scherzo No. 3/ Brahms: Rhapsodies The debut recording by the Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich took the public by storm all over the world – and the applause has still not subsided. A mere glance at the repertoire shows that she was reaching for the stars. To bring five composers together on an LP of roughly 45 minutes length means nothing other than speaking five different musical languages – and Martha Argerich proves herself a master of them all. Deutsche Grammophon
Copland: Appalachian Spring/Billy The Kid : Antal Dorati/London Symphony Orchestra Antal Dorati/London Symphony Orchestra - Copland: Appalachian Spring/Billy The Kid A great record by a great American composer recorded long before record companies discovered that American music sells. Dorati is world renowned for his interpretations of both symphonic and ballet scores. This ballet tells the dramatic story of Billy's life and death as unfolded in Dorati's compelling performance. Mercury Living Presence
Corelli: Concerto Grosso No. 8 in G Minor : Karl Munchinger Karl Munchinger - Corelli: Concerto Grosso No. 8 in G Minor Pachelbel: Kanon/ Ricciotti: Concertino No. 2/ Gluck: Chaconne - Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Münchinger

With Munchinger and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester. Arcangelo Corelli was a man of cultured taste and remarkably wide artistic interests. A violin virtuoso of considerable fame in his own day, he was then better known for his talent in this direction than for his compositions, and so great was his influence over the playing of the instrument that he laid firm foundations for the subsequent development of its technique. The Christmas Concerto is perharps his best-known composition in this field, and is an excellent example of his style. It is written for two violins and cello soloists and a string orchestra ripicno. Decca

Debussy & Ravel : Pierre Monteux Conducts Pierre Monteux - Monteux Conducts Debussy & Ravel This disc is highly competitive, with its excellent couplings. The Nuages drift by gently and Fetes has a luminous quality that is highly attractive: The Prelude a l' apres-midi d' un faune is cool, clearly focused. The recording has plenty of detail and presence and a natural aural perspective. The LSO plays superbly for Monteux, and he achieves a balance and a contrast between a mood of quiet introspection for the opening of the Rhapsodies and a vivid, flashing brilliance for the Feria. The Pavane is wonderfully poised and played most beautifully. The recording expands and glows excitingly in Decca's Demonstrate worthy recording. Decca
Debussy: Images Pour Orchestre : Ataulfo Argenta Ataulfo Argenta - Debussy:  Images Pour Orchestre And the blind shall see - promising words indeed! And very apt to describe the impressionist tonal paintings of Claude Debussy, who exchanged the paintbrush for a pen and the canvas for manuscript paper. Debussy's musical tools were not so much the etching-needle or sharp pencil but rather more a rich variety of glorious paints on his palette and thick brushes and sponges to form flowing figures and shapes on his musical canvas. With the Images pour Orchestre, the art lover possesses three of the mature composer's most important musical paintings to hang in his gallery. Thanks to its rhythmic and melodic structure, Iberia is very probably the most striking of these three studies. The impressionistic, frazzled theme is lent substance through the familiar sounds and rhythms of Spanish folk music; Debussy conjures up the moods and impressions of a landscape which he himself hardly knew. And should the listener not be in a position to wander the streets and pathways, to breathe the perfume of the night, nor to enjoy a fiesta morning, then this record will certainly enable him to see all this for himself. London
Dvorak: Concerto for Cello & Orchestra in B Minor : Janos Starker Janos Starker - Dvorak: Concerto for Cello & Orchestra in B Minor The outstanding success of Speakers Corner's release of Bach’s Cello Suites performed by Janos Starker has encouraged them to follow this up with a no less important interpretation of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto by the Hungarian virtuoso. Starker tackles this concerto with amazing confidence; technical difficulties encountered by others in its performance appear unknown to him. Tonal purity, even in the dreaded upper register and the cadenzas, remains unscathed, so that one can concentrate wholly on the meditative magic of the music.

Janos Starker has found worthy fellow musicians in Antal Dorati and the London Symphony Orchestra. The conductor and soloist set a benchmark in how to work together as a team in concert in that it is less the often-lamented emulation than the interpretation, which stands in the foreground in this performance. Rather, the two protagonists commit themselves to a chamber-music-like reading, which is distinguished by the dynamically moderate intonation of the orchestra and the slender tone of the soloist throughout. An ever-welcome encore is found on side two with Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, performed with verve and a good portion of romantic, melting sweetness, which allows this evergreen to flourish.

"...Regardless of which performance you may love, nothing will come close to the sound Mercury has captured at Wembley with this recording. Originally a 35mm recording, Willem Makkee, utilizing Wilma Cozart Fine's 1960 two-track mix downs, has once again, delivered a recording we all should treasure, and in by far the best, readily available sound...Top Recommendation and a must own recording!" - Richard Foster, Hi-Fi+, Issue 40, www.hifiplus.com
Dvorak: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra : George Szell George Szell - Dvorak: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra Dvorák: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra - Pierre Fournier and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by George Szell

The Cello Concerto Op. 104 is the last orchestral piece Dvorák wrote during his stay in America. Unlike his Ninth Symphony which borrowed folkloric themes from the New World, the charming Cello Concerto reveals Dvorák's yearning for his Bohemian homeland.

This piece demands masterly playing and interpretation from the soloist which is enhanced by a sumptuous sound in the strings and explosive brass. Dvorák reaches back to various musical passages from the first and second movements in the finale and so illustrates his style of composition in his later works.

Yearning for the Old World must have motivated George Szell to briefly leave his adopted home, the USA, in order to set down this late-Romantic musical gem together with the master cellist Pierre Fournier and the Berlin Philharmonic. The artists were obviously inspired by this favourable constellation during the recording which sets the standards for artistic quality and perfection of sound technology. Indeed, this LP is among the most successful classical productions of the Sixties. Thirty years on, this recording is just as popular as it ever was. Deutsche Grammophon

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8: Kertesz In comparison with Dvorák’s cyclical Ninth Symphony, the Eighth always seems to fade into the background somewhat, although it is actually far more venturesome as regards its formal structure than its later sister-work. The wealth of poetic mood paintings, heartfelt melodies and seemingly improvisational episodes were described by the composer as unique ideas upon which he elaborated in a completely new way, and which were intentionally far removed from his other symphonies.
In spite of the highly individual movements, the whole composition is full of airy, lyrical contrasts. The transitional passages are gentle and flowing, as for example in the chorale-like opening which leads into the disciplined, spirited main theme of the first movement. This is followed by a rhapsodic slow movement and a waltz-like Allegretto, and finally a strangely interwoven amalgamation of sonata form and set of variations.
During the course of his short career, István Kertész championed Dvorák’s Symphonies in that he was the very first to record the complete works for the DECCA label. For this reason alone, the recording constitutes an excellent performance by the London Symphony Orchestra led by its Hungarian principal conductor.
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 (''From the New World'') : Kertesz Istvan Kertesz - Dvorak: Symphony No. 5 (''From the New World'') Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Istvan Kertész

Kertesz's approach is as simple and straight forward as could be, yet the hushed intensity of the playing conveys a depth of feeling that makes one hear the music with new ears. The recording quality is outstanding, among the best this symphony has had. The performance is enjoyable and agreeably fresh, and there is a sudden quickening of tempo after its reprise at the end. There is plenty of excitement and the Vienna Philharmonic plays the Largo most beautifully.

(Note the cover shows this Symphony as No. 5 - when recorded only five of Dvorak's symphonies had been published, so this is actually No. 9) Decca

 

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