This will all be very familiar to the Brain collector. This two-disc
set mixes commercial recordings with live ones. Everything here
has been issued before, often multiply so. The Mozart Concertos
with Karajan are canonic Brain repertoire though interest is generated
by the addition of a live performance of No. 3 in E-flat, K. 447
with Hans Rosbaud. The Strauss is the less familiar No.2, the
Hindemith is not the sonata for horn and piano or the concerto,
so often the subjects of reissue, but the Sonata for Four Horns.
The earliest item is the Beethoven sonata, a famous wartime traversal
with Denis Matthews.
EMI’s Mozart concertos have been pretty
much permanent fixtures of the discography. They’re currently
available in the GROC series coupled with the Quintet for
piano and wind. What is intriguing about this collation of
them is the inclusion of the live Rosbaud performance of the
Third, K. 447. The two seem to have formed a powerfully sympathetic
partnership and despite the faded sonics – more cloudy and
boxy than the contemporaneous commercial recording with Karajan
– we can still hear that Rosbaud imbues the music with greater
flair and incision than Karajan. Accelerandi and dynamics
register with great immediacy. Demerits include some tape
tremor and deterioration Their other non-commercial collaboration,
of the Second Concerto, has been available and if you can
find it, it’s highly recommended.
The second disc is, to be blunt, a dog’s
dinner of a compilation. The Strauss Concerto (commercial)
joins the Hindemith (live) which is followed by the Beethoven
sonata (commercial, 78) and is itself followed by the well-known
1952 disc of the Schumann Adagio and Allegro with Gerald Moore.
Two encore pieces, both live, round off a very uneven selection
in terms of compatibility though not quality. None of this
is new or rare. And in addition the claim of “London 1954”
for the Marais and Dukas should be “Edinburgh, August 1957”,
live performances made only days before Brain’s death.
There are plenty
of Brain items still locked in the vaults or having received
limited release. As for the Dukas and the Schumann there are
Britten accompanied versions from 1956 as well as ones by
Klaus Billing for RIAS three years earlier. Conrad Hansen’s
broadcast with Brain of the Beethoven sonata exists – RIAS,
1950. There’s a performance of the Strauss with the BBC Welsh
and Rae Jenkins from 1951. There is no shortage of Mozart
concertos. I see that this month BBC Legends is bringing out
a Malcolm Sargent accompanied performance of the E-flat, K.
447 but there are others certainly – van Kampen (RIAS 1953)
and Schmidt-Isserstedt with the NDR the following year.
Andromeda has omitted details of Brain’s collaborators in
the Strauss Concerto - Sawallisch and the Philharmonia. It’s
rather indicative of an erratic selection of items you will
have seen elsewhere. No notes as usual from this source. The
transfers are serviceable though the first movement of the
Rosbaud-Mozart seems to have had inherent pitching problems
and tape degradation.
Brain collectors will
have all this. Newcomers may be attracted by the Mozart but I
would advise them to take a more expensive but systematic approach
to Brain’s discography initially via the BBC and EMI.