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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in b minor, opus 104 (1895) [40:06]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Double Concerto in a minor, opus 102 (1887) [33:56]
Paul Tortelier, cello
Yehudi Menuhin, violin
London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn (Dvorák) Recorded in September 1977, Abbey Road Studios, London
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Berglund (Brahms) Recorded in November 1984 at Abbey Road Studios, London
Presumably ADD, though not indicated
EMI CLASSICS ENCORE 75865 [73:31]



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There is perhaps no greater treasure trove of recorded music in the world than that which lies in the vaults of EMI. One of the oldest record labels in the world, EMI sits on a gold mine of great performances from some of the world’s finest artists. Shame it is then, that they do not dig deeper and release even more of their long cost-recuperated material for us to enjoy once again.

Be that as it may, there are still reasons for rejoicing in the "Great Recordings of the Century" series, and now this presumably middle-to-budget price series entitled encore. This arrives on the scene complete with a trendy all-lower-case logo and eye-catching if not overly informative program booklets.

The series is dedicated, of course, to warhorses and seasoned soldiers, and this combination is at the head of the line. Of all the great cello virtuosi of the last century, there was probably none more capable of fine cantabile playing than Paul Tortelier. Both as soloist and collaborator, there is little fault to find in the playing of this grand gentleman of music. We also have him to thank for bringing out the talents of Jacqueline DuPre, whom he taught for some years. The late Sir Yehudi Menuhin, while one of the art’s finest spirits, brought forth his most outstanding work at a very young age. In his later years, intonation was always an issue, and there were questions as to the solidity of his technique as well. Nonetheless, Menuhin, the musical humanitarian, continued to prosper in the musical establishment, and achieved legendary status during his lifetime.

There is little to say about these two well-known works. The Dvořák concerto is arguably the greatest work of its kind in the repertoire. Packed with drama and tunefulness and with virtuosity to burn, this is definitely a ‘desert island’ work. Tortelier turns in a near flawless performance, perfectly balanced and executed with astounding ease and command. Brahms’ double concerto, so unique, receives an equally outstanding performance. The whole disc is worth the money just to hear these fine players in the gorgeous compound metered middle movement.

Accompaniments by both orchestras are excellent. These performances, of course, have already earned their keep in the catalogue, and do not need my meager help to promote them. Suffice it to say that if you have no recordings of these works, this is a choice that is beyond safe. If you do, then add these to your musical wine rack for status.

Program notes are minimal, but attractive. You get what you pay for. Analog sound quality is fine. Recommended without hesitation.

Kevin Sutton



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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