Magazine article Gramophone

Half a Dozen Superb Box Sets

Magazine article Gramophone

Half a Dozen Superb Box Sets

Article excerpt

The death of the pianist Zoltan Kocsis (see page 141) prompts a rather belated notice for a superb set issued earlier this year by Decca, Bela Bartok Complete Works (32 CDs selling for about 55[pounds sterling]). It says much for the central role of Hungarian musicians in the classical music world that Decca didn't have to 'buy in' many recordings to make a complete survey (there are a handful of Hungaroton and BMC recordings, mainly of vocal music needed to top up the offertings from Decca, Philips and DG). With conductors like Fricsay, Kertesz, Dorati, Solti and Ivan Fischer, and instrumentalists like Kocsis, Szekeley, Foldes and Anda well represented there's an authentically Hungarian flavour to the set.

Many old friends are here: Fischer's Concerto for Orchestra, the Chung First Violin Concerto, the Kocsis/Fischer piano concertos, the Kertesz Bluebeard, the Takacs string quartets, the Argerich/ Kovacevich et al Sonata for two pianos and percussion, Kocsis's wonderful piano works as well as some historic classics (the Anda/Fricsay piano concertos and Szekeley Second Violin Concerto among them).

Listening to this music, it's hard not to be struck--on every single disc--by Bartok's astounding sound world, his very distinctive modernity and his prodigious talent. Treat yourself!

Reger: The Centenary Collection comes from Warner Classics, and makes a nice introduction to a composer I always feel more 'sinned against than sinning'. The delightful Hiller and Mozart Variations fill the first disc--the latter nicely done by Joseph Keilberth (though Christian Thielemann's exquisite Proms performance this year is hard to dispel from the memory). A Ballet Suite is a charmer and I enjoyed the orchestration (from the string quintet) of the Liebestraum. Mark Latimer's disc of the Bach and Telemann Variations got quite a drubbing from Jeremy Nicholas, and even though I learned the Telemann from Jorge Bolet (cited by JN), I enjoyed this different approach. Latimer certainly has the measure of these scores, as well as the technique (the piano sound is very fine). They're slightly smaller scaled than Bolet's performances, but nicely detailed. As a make-weight, Konstantin Scherbakov's version of the Improvisation on An die schonen blauen Donau is a charmer from a very different sort of pianist (one rather more in the Bolet/Cherkassky school). Two and a half discs of organ music--worth exploring--slightly unbalance the set, but the songs and choral music are terrific, and to have the likes of Fischer-Dieskau, Olaf Bar and Christa Ludwig sing them is a treat. Selling for about 18 [pounds sterling], well worth a punt. …

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