This is not going to be an "objective" review, because I specifically asked that Australian Eloquence issue this compilation for the express purpose of bringing back into the catalog the Surinach Piano Concerto, a dazzling, hell-for-leather contemporary Spanish romp that would bring the house down in a live setting, and that has never been released on CD until now. The truth is, I heard it on my car radio in 1984 and sat transfixed in a parking lot, engine running, late for work, until it was done. Then I ran to my local Tower Records to buy it, only to find that it was out of print (it was recorded in 1977). I couldn't find it used, and never heard it again. I was extremely annoyed that Decca Legends released the equally gorgeous and little-known Montsalvatge Concerto Breve (which isn't so "breve" after all, lasting about 25 minutes) in tandem with a miscellany of solo works, when the Surinach would have made the perfect coupling. All of the material included here is vintage Larrocha. The Albéniz and Turina performances are famous and highly regarded anyway, making this CD the ultimate 20th-century Spanish piano concerto collection that does not include the ubiquitous Nights in the Gardens of Spain. So aside from saying that the performances are spectacular, the sonics are terrific, and coming clean about my complicity in this enterprise, I'm just going to limit myself to a heartfelt "Thank you!" I hope that you agree.
Today we take high fidelity sound quality for granted, but how did it start? When was the moment when compressed and scratchy sound gave way to natural, realistic sound that captured the whole picture of a performance?
Decca Sound ‘Mono Years’ seeks to answer that question and shows how, 70 years ago, amidst war-time privations, a small team at Decca made technological breakthroughs that brought hi-fi to the world. This latest cube explores Decca’s earliest high-fidelity history, and restores some restores critically acclaimed albums from ensembles such as the Trio di Trieste, Quintetto Chigiano and Griller Quartet which have not been available since their original LP release more than sixty years ago. An equally impressive array of soloists includes pianists Clifford Curzon, Julius Katchen, Friedrich Gulda and Moura Lypmany and violinists Ruggiero Ricci and Alfredo Campoli. Several generations of cellists are represented with recordings by Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron and Zara Nelsova.
This 2CD album brings together ten of the most famous tenors, performing nearly 50 of the greatest arias of all time. It also features a 16-page booklet with everything you need to know about each tenor – nationality, short biography, best recording, trivia and more – in an appealing and witty design.
Decca was a fairly wide-ranging label whose trademark sound was a strain of commercially palpable hillbilly pop perfected by producer (and, beginning in 1958, label head) Owen Bradley. These three discs offer an assortment of stars (Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn), subordinates, and the uncelebrated. The latter, in fact, are what makes this box stand out. A great deal of the fun comes from antiquated time pieces like Johnny Wright's "Hello Vietnam" ("I hope theworld will come to learn/That fires we don't put out will bigger burn") or that master of the hayseed soliloquy Red Sovine's "If Jesus Came to Your House" ("Would you have to change your clothes before you let him in?/Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been?"). Overall, From The Vaults serves as an evocative sampler of what a rural jukebox was playing when Gunsmoke ruled the tube.
For her 34th studio album, Anne Murray recorded a set of duets with many of her favorite female singers, from Nelly Furtado to Sarah Brightman. There are a number of country duet partners here, such as Shania Twain, Emmylou Harris, and Martina McBride, but there are even more pop-oriented women singing with Murray, encompassing the likes of Celtic Woman and Celine Dion. This makes perfect sense, as Murray's always straddled the pop-country fence effortlessly. Her singing on Duets: Friends and Legends is just as effortless. Now in her fifth decade as an active recording artist, her voice hasn't lost a beat, sounding just as pure and clear as it did on 1970s "Snowbird" (done here with a surprisingly relaxed, easy vocal from Brightman, sounding for all the world like a young Olivia Newton-John). The majority of these songs are ones which have been sizeable hits for Murray in the past, most of which work nicely recast as duets, or at least showcases for harmony singing.
This fabulous five disc set is replete with some of those old Stokowski warhorses all recorded in absolutely mind boggling Phase 4 sound, overblown perhaps but astounding for its time. Decca's remastering is absolutely magnificent and the discs are jam packed with almost six hours of music. This is another fine memorial to a great conductor who remained astonishingly vital until the very end of his life.
Bernard Haitink conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms’s great orchestral works, including the complete symphonies. The concertos feature three great soloists: pianist Claudio Arrau, violinist Henryk Szeryng, and cellist Janos Starker. "No one, I trust, will deny that Arrau has lived with, wrestled with, and in a truly terribly way ’known’ the D minor Concerto for more years than most of us can consciously recall. Where contemporary pianists have often tended to refine or domesticate the concerto, withdrawing it from the world of heroic endeavour, Arrau has always done the reverse. No pianist, apart possibly from Serkin in his several recordings, has communicated so formidably the work’s scope: its seriousness and its anxious, tragic mood. Often Arrau makes free with the text. But the vision is huge, the technique astonishing. Haitink is a worthy accompanist."