PHILIPS ORIGINAL JACKETS COLLECTION
Decca 478 4614 (55 CDs) / *****
Did anyone mourn when the iconic Dutch record label Philips was absorbed by the British Decca group in 1998 and ceased to exist in name some ten years later? Here is a walk down memory lane with a retrospective look at some of its best-loved recordings, with the original cover art retained.
Artists forever linked with Philips are immortalised, including conductors Dutchman Bernard Haitink (in Bruckner, Debussy and Mahler), Russian Valery Gergiev (Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring), pianists Alfred Brendel (Liszt late works and Beethoven piano concertos), Mitsuko Uchida (late Beethoven sonatas and 2nd Viennese school pieces) and violinist Arthur Grumiaux (Brahms Violin Concerto and chamber music).
There are two complete operas within: Rossini’s The Barber of
(Thomas Allen in the
title role, conducted by Neville Marriner) and Verdi’s The Corsair (a star-studded cast of Jose Carreras, Montserrat
Caballe and Jessye Norman). Whether one randomly dips into the set or listens
alphabetically according to performer, from Italian violinist Salvatore Accardo
(Bruch violin concertos) to Dutch maestro Edo de Waart (Mozart’s Gran Partita), there is much to marvel
and enjoy. Seville
Available at around $130 (including postage and packaging) at www.prestoclassical.co.uk
PROKOFIEV Symphony No.4
The Prodigal Son
Recycling of earlier music by composers for use in their new works has been an age-old practice. J.S. Bach and Handel were experts in filling old wine into new bottles. Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) most notably did the same with his ballet The Prodigal Son (1928), written for the impresario Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, by refashioning the music for his Fourth Symphony (1929-30). The symphony was further revised in 1947, and this is the version included here.
Listen first to the ballet for its narrative on the familiar biblical parable and its melodic themes. A number of these themes later appear in the symphony’s four movements with the added dimension of development. For example, the sultry theme of the seductress in the ballet becomes the flesh of the symphony’s third movement. Although this symphony is not as popular as the heart-wrenching wartime Fifth Symphony, it matches its successor for originality and invention. Both ballet and symphony are each about 40 minutes long, and the Sao Paulo Symphony led by Marin Alsop bring out Prokofiev’s gift for lyricism and dramatics.