DG has reissued a whole slew of their classic LPs on the excellent DG Originals mid-priced label, most of which had also been available as CDs at full price. The line does not have the same hyperbole-laden title as EMI's "Greatest Recordings of the Century," but somewhat more modestly, claims that these are critically acclaimed "milestone recordings" from their vinyl catalogue. That is true for every release that has been reissued. Whether or not they still hold up to today's competition is another question altogether.
R. Wagner, Tristan & Isolde, C. Kleiber
C. Debussy, Images, Préludes, A. B. Michelangeli
L. van Beethoven / J. Brahms, Triple, Double Concerti, Schneiderhahn, Fournier, Anda, Starker, Fricsay
F. Schubert, Sy. Nos. 5 & 9, E. Jochum
H. Purcell, Dido and Aeneas, Ode to St. Cecilia's Day, Mackerras
J. S. Bach, Organ Works (3 CDs), Karl Richter
W. A. Mozart, String Quintets, Amadeus Quartet
G. Bizet, Carmen, C. Abbado
In unrelated Abbado news: he has just renewed his Lucerne Festival contract until 2010, which according to my logic, forbids him from dying for another five years, which is great news for the music world. Thereby heading the best pick-up ensemble in the history of music, too, is an enticing prospect and should yield more stellar performances such as the recent Mahler 2nd / Debussy La Mer (DG).
Orchestral bon-bons, Paul Strauss
For me it was a fun tour through all of Offenbach's operas without having to listen to them in full length. La Vie Parisienne, Orphée aux Enfers, La Belle Hélène, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Mesdames de la Halle, Le Voyage dans la Lune, Trom-al-Cazar, and Robinson Crusoé all in under half an hour is a splendid ride to that effect. Before I knew it, I was whistling along. Le Beau Danube is a Roger Désormière bastardization of the Blue Danube, turned into a ballet score again and fortified with Fledermaus elements and a slew of other waltzes, some of which apparently are of Johann Strauss I origin. At least it stays in the family, a family of which the conductor is not a member. It's big and swinging and light fun—the sort that has casual crowds swing back and forth in classical music open airs—with children eating roasted almonds and bemused parents drinking beer brought from home. Taking that image as a cue and opening a cold one were one and the same fore me, and sure enough, the disc became even more enjoyable.
Berlioz's Le Corsaire and Auber's Fra Diavolo overtures are left unmolested. The most substantial offering is probably the Dvořák Carnival overture, but here, too, does the pervading Gypsy spirit keep with the theme of lightness and faux exoticism. The recording, taken from 1958, 59, and 60 originals, are stereo and sound marvelous, especially given their age. The Penguin Guide called the Offenbach selections "vivacious" and offering "sheer vitality." This is not familiar musical ground for me, but I heard no evidence to the contrary.
M. Ravel, Piano Concertos, etc., M. Haas, P. Paray