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Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
Holberg Suite Op. 40
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 – 1904)

Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22.
Edward ELGAR (1857 – 1934)

Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20.
Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra/Conrad van Alphen.
recorded in MCO Studio 1, Hilversum, Netherlands, 5-8 March 2003 DDD
TELARC CD-80623 [59.36]


Sometimes I wonder at the sense displayed by the record industry. We have them bleating all the time about poor sales and how difficult it is to sell product with the high level of costs and diminishing returns plus of course the effect of pirating on the market. We see them sitting on a relative goldmine of back catalogue which many collectors like myself would pay good money for, and yet doing nothing about it, except one or two enlightened companies – e.g. Universal with their recent boxed sets of well respected artists of the earlier era e.g, Curzon, van Beinum, Markevitch and Fricsay. I hope the sales of these superb boxes will persuade them to issue more of these.

Still, off my soapbox and on to the current issue – three popular string serenades, well played, conducted and recorded at premium price by relatively unknown artists. This is the sort of disc that EMI would issue on their "Debut" label at budget price. With the full price level of this release, even taking into account the respected label of Telarc, notable for their superb recording quality, I fail to see how more than only small sales will be achieved for this disc apart maybe from in Rotterdam where the orchestra is likely to be better known.

Let me say at once that these are perfectly good performances of these works with accurate intonation and with the playing captured in an acoustic that more than does justice to the players. Many people I know buy Telarc discs for the hi-fi aspects of their recordings. With this release, even this significant selling advantage is lessened, since there are no spectacular sounds to be had from a small chamber orchestra. What we do have here is a perfectly good sound quality more than adequate to give the listener a good idea of the interpretations and the works themselves. Almost any other supplier could however have matched this.

The first work on this disc is the Holberg Suite of Grieg, Op. 40. It harks back to the olden days of the orchestral suites by the Classical composers. Accordingly we have a Prelude, Sarabande, Gavotte, Air, and finally a Rigaudon. This pastiche works very well and it is no wonder that it is so popular. In this performance the playing is first class, allowing us to thoroughly enjoy the composer’s inspiration.

The Dvořák Serenade is again beautifully played and recorded but memories of Czech performances with Vicek, Suk and Bĕlohlávek remaining in the forefront of my mind, this recording has no special competitive edge. This lovely work continues to deliver its magic and, played as well as this, we are lucky to have so many good versions available in the catalogue.

The Elgar Serenade is also not devoid of superb performances either, by such conductors as Barbirolli, Boult, Handley et. al. The present performance is perfectly satisfactory, and those attracted by the Telarc label will not be disappointed by the house quality of the recording

This is a very attractive programme, superbly recorded, and as such, highly recommended.

John Phillips


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