I would not go so far as The Daily Telegraph in saying that you
cannot go wrong with the Penguin Guide. However, it is certainly
the best classical CD and DVD vade mecum
so it is on a hiding to nothing because apart from errors of commission
the field to be covered is so vast that a paper volume - even
of this magnitude - can only ever be selective. That said it could
be somewhat better as we shall see.
As the 2009 edition, you would expect more up
to date coverage but repeatedly it falls down on this. I did
not do a comparison with previous editions but my impression
was that many of the reviews had appeared in previous issues
- nothing intrinsically wrong with this but the preponderance
should be new. If the Guide is an annual then it needs to introduce
more new material. Not that it is absent. New issues are covered
but the coverage is patchy.
Unaccountable omissions - and I am not
talking about 2008 now - include the Decca complete Malcolm
Arnold boxes. That really is regrettable.
How wonderful though to see some obscure issues
covered such as the Alwyn symphonies 1 and 2 conducted in archive
recordings by Barbirolli (Dutton). I would not agree though
that they are in good sound.
Inclusive - that's the word - well, up
to a point. The seal is set by a review of Komei Abe's Symphony
No. 1 on Naxos on p. 1. The Rochberg Naxos series is represented
by the Fifth Symphony but what about the others (2 and Violin
Concerto)? They deserve at least a mention.
Rodrigo: there’s no sign of the Brilliant
box licensed out by EMI. Brilliant produced a pretty good and
inexpensive complete Haydn symphonies box at their usual price.
The sort of price people might be happy to pay. Those Adam Fischer
recordings ARE mentioned but instead we get the Nimbus originals
(a sequence of separate and admirable boxes). The Brilliant
Classics version of these recordings at even less expense isn’t
even mentioned. Why? Why are the budget bargain basement folk
so often left out in the cold by these guides. Yes, Naxos is
covered but Regis and especially Brilliant seem often to be
beyond the pale. The hard pressed budgets of collectors seek
a more inclusive approach.
Regis does however get a look-in with a treasured
Barber-Measham collection with Molly McGurk's rightly admired
Knoxville and much else.
We also get a review of the Harriet Cohen Bax
Winter Legends and Goossens’ version of the Bax
Second Symphony on Dutton. This is excellent.
There’s no Gösta Nystroem though.
Bring him back in from the cold. It’s not as if recording
are not available. Mind you Robert Layton never had much time
for his Sinfonia del Mare - so perhaps that explains
Borodin’s three symphonies from Tjeknavorian
are there - and that’s good news even if I would
contest the compromised **(*) - it should be a *** and
key symbol … but degustibus non est disputandum.
They say that Miaskovsky’s Fifth by Downes
is to be preferred to Ivanov and the USSRSO - once to
be had on an Olympia CD. Anyone who has listened to the two
side by side will agree that the Ivanov sound is deficient by
comparison but artistically Downes while powerful lacks the
flaming intensity of Ivanov.
There is no mention of the Miaskovsky symphonies
recorded complete in a Warner box at a very attractive price
- yet the again magnificent single Svetlanov issues from
Regis are given entries.
On page 529 there is a review of Roy Harris’s
Second Symphony on Albany TROY515. It states that the coupling
is Harris 3. No such thing. It’s Morton Gould 3 and an
entry on p.472 confirms as much.
On the other hand newish boys on the block such
as Lyrita - returned Lazarus-like from the dead and now more
fully reconstituted than we could ever have hoped for - are
well represented at least among the stereo issues: Benjamin,
Bax, Moeran, Finzi, Howells, Ireland and Jacob.
So here’s a Guide that isn’t perfect
- not by any stretch - but in the printed media
you won’t find its coverage matched or in general its
You won’t find its printed coverage matched or judgment
bettered ... see Full Review