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Legendary British Performers (Classic Archive)
Jacqueline du Pré; Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears; Alfred Deller; John Barbirolli; John Ogdon; Solomon; Myra Hess
ANONYMOUS
Have you seen but the white lily grow
Filmed in Paris, 26 December 1972
Alfred Deller and Mark Deller (counter-tenors); Desmond Dupré (lute/guitar)
John BLOW (1649-1708)
Ah, Heav'n! What is't I hear?
Filmed in Paris, 26 December 1972
Alfred Deller and Mark Deller (counter-tenors); Desmond Dupré (lute/guitar)
Henry PURCELL (1658-1695)
Sound the trumpet
Filmed in Paris, 26 December 1972
Alfred Deller and Mark Deller (counter-tenors); Desmond Dupré (lute/guitar)
Philip ROSSETER (1567-1623)
What then is love but mourning?
Filmed in Paris, 26 December 1972
Alfred Deller and Mark Deller (counter-tenors); Desmond Dupré (lute/guitar)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (from Cantata BWV147)
Arr.Myra Hess, Filmed in London, 20 October 1954
Myra Hess (piano)
Adagio (from Toccata, Adagio & Fugue, BWV564)
Filmed in London, 20 October 1954
Myra Hess (piano)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110
Filmed in London, 20 October 1954
Myra Hess (piano)
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Go Not, Happy Day
Filmed in London, 7 May 1964
Peter Pears (tenor); Benjamin Britten (piano)
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Down by the Salley Gardens
Filmed in London, 7 May 1964
Peter Pears (tenor); Benjamin Britten (piano)
The Plough Boy
Filmed in London, 7 May 1964
Peter Pears (tenor); Benjamin Britten (piano)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K478 - Andante
Filmed in London, 7 May 1964
Benjamin Britten (piano); Emanuel Hurwitz (violin); Cecil Aronowitz (viola); Terence Weil (cello)
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66
Filmed at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 30 January 1962
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas: Intermezzo
Filmed in London, 4 February 1962
Jacqueline du Pré (violoncello); Iris du Pré (piano)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Song Without Words in D, Op. 109
Filmed in London, 4 February 1962
Jacqueline du Pré (violoncello); Iris du Pré (piano)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Allegro Appassionato in B minor Op. 43
Filmed in London, 4 February 1962
Jacqueline du Pré (violoncello); Iris du Pré (piano)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Aprčs une lecture du Dante - Fantasia quasi Sonata
Filmed in London, 26 October 1961
John Ogdon (piano)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptu in A flat major, D899 No. 4
Filmed in London, 15 January 1956
Solomon (piano)
NTSC System 4:3; Colour Mode BW; Disc Format DVD9; Sound Format LPCM Mono 2.0 (PCM dual mono) sound remastered for DVD; Menu Languages E, F, D, E
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVB 38846192 [100:12]

 


This is one of the latest in the Classic Archive DVD series and I whiled away a good five minutes trying to work out a rationale for the contents of this Legendary British Performers release. Not that I’m ungrateful – far from it. You’d have to be mad to spurn one of the rare opportunities to see Solomon as indeed you would to see Myra Hess in 1954 – that’s to say not the familiar earlier film footage of her - but see the caveat below regarding the Hess film. And then there’s some coruscating pianism from a very different musician, John Ogdon. There’s Deller the Magnificent with his son Mark and lutenist and guitarist Desmond Dupré. Britten and Pears appear together and the former joins those superb string players Hurwitz, Aronowitz and Weil in Mozart. Naturally Jacqueline du Pré is here as well, accompanied by her mother Iris in a 1962 broadcast. Which leaves only Barbirolli in Dvořák.

So this is frankly a rag, tag and bobtail collection. We have one conductor, one composer/pianist, a tenor, three pianists and a counter-tenor.

Solomon’s Appassionata has already been released in this series. It would have made sense to conjoin it with this Schubert so ultra rare is film footage of him. Instead the collector will now have to harness this to a Serkin DVD to get the “Complete” Solomon. Barmy from that perspective, of course. The intro titles are in quaint 1950s style and the picture is slightly fuzzy but Solomon is Solomon.

The Hess footage is unfortunately compromised by the sound. There’s a considerable amount of wow and with the grainy 1954 picture this is something of a trial for all but the most hardened of admirers. Held chords suffer unmercifully. The slow tracking shots are sensitively done, Hess’s noble self as sympathetic as ever, and the playing unaffected and fine. But the film damage also includes flickering and fading over an already touch-and-go picture. Be warned – this is the most compromised of the films and the routine disclaimer on the box should perhaps have gone into this particular case in considerably greater depth.

Ogdon is also filmed in black and white. The camera work is similarly autocratic though simple and untricksy. A few shots are “face on” and there seems to have been at least one crane-tracking shot. His playing is tremendous.

The Dellers appear in an informal Parisian setting – jacket and tie and roll neck sweater ensemble. There is some clever camera work that manages to superimpose Alfred Deller and Desmond Dupré’s lute in the Rosseter. They acknowledge the studio audience’s applause with a certain awkward intimacy. Mark keeps a watchful eye on his father when tricky entrances are in the offing.

Britten and Pears appear in jumpers, Pears behind the piano and looking relaxed. He sings The Shooting of his Dear solo and with tremendous artistry. Britten joins his string colleagues for the Andante from K478. The director obviously considered this a solo performance with minimal intrusion from the other three. Fair enough, I suppose, if you want to capture every speck of Britten’s august pianism – but rather inconsiderate to the string players and to Mozart as well. One delightful touch – a broad grin between Pears and Britten as the former hands the latter the score of The Plough Boy.

Du Pré’s footage is early – 1962. The first thing one notices is the gown – and then the raised platform on which she sits and the air of patrician elevation of the whole scene. This is a rather self-consciously formal affair, reeking of class – though that’s hardly the fault of the musicians and anyway would that we had programmes like this now.

And finally we have the variously gymnastic, pugilistic and fulsomely camp conducting of Barbirolli in the Scherzo capriccioso in the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1962. This has it all, starting with a weird orchestral lay-out with the band miles from the rostrum and the solo harp marooned in front of him. JB indulges knee bends – a touch of shadow boxing perhaps – and generally hamming it up something rotten for the middle-aged ladies with hats in the audience. To be fair to JB the audience seems to consist of nothing but middle-aged ladies in hats.

Let’s not worry about the “legendary” appellation. But, really, what a strange collection. The Solomon and Hess items should have been rationalised together. The Ogdon should go in an all-Ogdon DVD. Barbirolli deserves his own disc as well. We should have a Deller release comparable to the new Russell Oberlin DVD – I assume there’s enough footage of Deller. Lumping together this stuff looks like Anglo off-cuts. Or do the powers that be think that this is the only way to present this material?

As I said I’m grateful to have it but I’m sure it should have been done differently – and better.

Jonathan Woolf


 


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