Wednesday, 15 February 2017

CD Review (February 2017)

RCA Red Seal  88985321742 (60 CDs) / ****1/2

The third collector's edition box-set of RCA Red Seal Living Stereo recordings dates from 1956 to 1966, and focuses mostly on solo recitals, chamber and choral music. 

With all the “big names” accounted for in the two preceding volumes, this 60-disc set highlights the debuts and early recordings of “rising names” including Bolivia-born violinist Jaime Laredo, American coloratura soprano Roberta Peters, the Juilliard Quartet, and late legends like American violinist Erick Friedman (a Heifetz student) and Poland-born pianist Andre Tchaikovsky. The listener is also introduced to French-Canadian violinist Liliane Garnier whose solo recital is a revelation.

Older and established names like violinist Henryk Szeryng, cellist Antonio Janigro, pianist Alexander Brailowsky, soprano Birgit Nilsson are also represented at the heights of their careers. With the thaw of Soviet-American relations, Russian greats Leonid Kogan, Galina Vishnevskaya and Daniil Shafran were also being recorded for their first times in the West. 

Not to be forgotten are two discs by the piano duo of Victor Babin and Vitya Vronsky in mostly Russian repertoire (their take on Rachmaninov’s two Suites is unforgettable), and the generically-named Festival Quartet (led by violinist Szymon Goldberg and includes violist William Primrise) in piano quartets by Brahms and Schumann.

Most of the discs play for about 40 minutes, corresponding to LPs of the day, but quality of performances rather than quantity is the key. The remastered sound is also more than acceptable for many hours of pleasurable listening.

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