Magazine article Gramophone

Iconic Conductors: Blockbuster Box-Sets from the EMI Vaults by Sir Colin Davis, Eugen Jochum and Carl Schuricht

Magazine article Gramophone

Iconic Conductors: Blockbuster Box-Sets from the EMI Vaults by Sir Colin Davis, Eugen Jochum and Carl Schuricht

Article excerpt

Although viewed nowadays as a grand maestro--perhaps the grand maestro--among British conductors, Sir Colin Davis as ayoung man was averitable dynamo, both in opera and orchestral repertoire. His early LPs enjoyed much popularity at the time and it's good to see EMI devote an 'Icon' set to recordings that Davis made with the Sinfonia of London, the Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

All date from the period 1959-63, and include an imposing account of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (with Sir Ralph Richardson narrating in English) and aversion of Berlioz's Harold in Italy with Yehudi Menuhin (viola)--possibly the musical highlight of the set--that still lays claim to being the best post-Koussevitzky version. Mozart symphonies, overtures and the Oboe Concerto (with Leon Goossens) are alert without sounding rushed; there are nicely phrased Rossini overtures, and a Beethoven Seventh, long available as one of the only stereo 'Concert Classics' LPs, which with its sense of joyful engagement still justifies the critical accolades that helped cement its high reputation. Other works featured include the recording of Sir Michael Tippett's Piano Concerto that is also included in EMI's John Ogdon 'Icon' box (see next page).

Two further sets that warrant serious attention are devoted to major German conductors. The Eugen Jochum 'Icon' collection is especially valuable in that it grants collectors a renewed opportunity to acquire complete Brahms and Beethoven symphony cycles that were taped here in London during the 1970s, the former with the London Philharmonic, the latter with the LSO. Sound-wise, there can be no grounds for complaint: textures are full and well balanced, the range of dynamics impressively wide and definition is for the most part all that one would wish for.

As to the performances, which are generally speaking sleek and very well played, Jochum habitually phrased with an ear for malleable lines, unlike Furtwangler (with whom he has often been compared, wrongly in my view), whose interpretative freedoms were more the result of insights into harmonic structure. Similarities between the two were relatively superficial, with Jochum playing the urbane sage to Furtwangler's rough-hewn god. …

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