Sometimes, recorded issues tend to be so excellently produced and brilliantly
read that they tend to overwhelm the competition. This is entirely the case
with Richard Fawke's admirable concoction; 'A History of Classical Music'.
The five hour long epic story is read with succinct ease and fine authority
by Robert Powell of 'Jesus of Nazareth' fame. The story begins with the very
first intonations coming from 11th century monasteries on to the
classic compositions of Byrd, Tallis et al together with the Italian Madrigals
and French motets.
Naxos insert a number of profoundly intriguing musical interludes, most of
them by the Oxford Camerata in music of 13th century provenance
together with the more familiar works of Ockghehem, Gibbons and Weelkes.
The second CD contains more familiar material ranging from Monteverdi, Purcell
and Couperin onto Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. The symphony also makes its first
appearance and with Beethoven and Mozart, we are definitely on home ground.
It is fascinating to hear Powell's highly charged reading of the Beethoven
story and the culmination dedicated to the 'Ode to Joy' is a masterpiece
of dramatic production.
The third CD is dedicated to the Romantics and here one may warm to the wonderful
melodies of Schubert, Chopin, Grieg and the famous Russian 'Kuchka' amongst
others. The story develops into the operatic scene with Verdi, Puccini and
Donizetti making their first appearances. The listener can also appreciate
the intricate soundworld of Mahler and Bruckner. The fourth CD concentrates
on modern music with Stravinsky, Janacek and the American connection. Scandinavia
is also present with Sibelius together with the British greats of the likes
of Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams accorded a fleeting mention.
It is impossible to describe the whole project with the required detail but
I cannot recommend this magnificent issue too highly as it is a joy for both
the beginner and the expert as there is something for all.