Classics for Pleasure label was unveiled in 1970 and gained a
considerable reputation for making classical music accessible
at budget price. I recall purchasing my first vinyl classical
recordings on CFP at my local Woolworths in Manchester. In fact
I still have the first classical recording that I ever bought
which was Schubert's Symphony No. 8 'Unfinished' and Symphony
No. 5 performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under John
Pritchard on CFP 40370. The reinvigorated label has been reissuing
many of their most popular releases and producing some new recordings.
The present recordings from 1964 and 1967 have
been digitally remastered at the Abbey Road Studios and I can
report that both works have the advantage of clear, full
and well balanced sound.
at the cover design it feels like being dragged back to the nineteen-seventies.
I wonder if the label has missed a golden marketing opportunity
to freshen-up the budget appearance and increase their appeal
and profile to new and returning listeners. Here CFP have failed
to make full use of the wonderful painting: ‘The Entombment of
Christ’ by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato. However, I
notice that one or two of the label’s newer releases such as that
from Natalie Clein and Charles Owen, performing Brahms and Schubert
chamber works, have been given updated cover designs. Thankfully
there was no need for CFP to update the quality of these evergreen
1964 and 1967 performances.
Masonic Funeral Music was composed in Vienna. Originally
scored for two violins, two violas, clarinet, basset horn, two
oboes, two horns and bass it was intended for a combined memorial
service given at the ‘Lodge of Sorrows’ for two Viennese aristocrats
who were brother Freemasons. At some stage Mozart added parts
for two additional basset horns and a contrabassoon. Klemperer
sets a reasonably brisk pace in this darkly coloured score, yet
he also expertly maintains an appropriate reverential quality.
A classic performance from Klemperer, a most passionate Mozartian,
delivering a performance of respectful and restrained spirituality.
Requiem was composed in 1791 in Vienna. Over the years
much has been written about the mysterious origins of this score
with much speculation about the events leading up to its composition.
The dramatic Requiem was Mozart's last composition and
has become one of his most familiar scores. He did not live to
finish the score and his friend and pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr
was responsible for the completion. Cast in fourteen movements
the Requiem is scored for soprano, contralto, tenor and
bass, chorus and orchestra.
my reintroduction to this CFP reissue my first choice was John
Eliot Gardiner’s highly praised 1986 London account using authentic
instruments and applying period performance practice. Gardiner’s
soloists are Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie von Otter, Hans Peter
Blochwitz and Willard White, the Monteverdi Choir and the English
Baroque Soloists on Philips 420 197-2, c/w Kyrie K. 341.
The high tension and reverential splendour provided by Frühbeck
de Burgos and the New Philharmonia is wonderfully maintained from
beginning to end. Much as I admire the excellent Gardiner it does
not have the same weight and sacred intensity. Frühbeck de Burgos
achieves rich and full orchestral textures whereas Gardiner’s
players provide thinner and generally more transparent accompaniment
with slightly more prominent brass and timpani.
this version recorded at the Kingsway Hall in 1967 I was impressed
with the opening Introitus: Requiem aeternam and
was immediately struck by the reverential and inspiring quality
of the singing from soloists and chorus. The endearing singing
of soprano Edith Mathis from her entry at 2:25 is quite superb.
In the Kyrie the re-entry of the women’s chorus to join
the men at 1:15 is enthralling. The four soloists in the Tuba
mirum are inspired and spine-tingling, and in the short Rex
tremendae the chorus impress with their dramatic proclamations.
I loved the disturbing and agitated character that the chorus
provide in the brief Confutatis maledictis and their singing
of the Lacrimosa is gripping and overflowing with pathos.
In the Benedictus the incisive soloists and chorus perform
radiantly. I was impressed by quite outstanding playing from the
New Philharmonia, for example at 4:43-4:57. The performance of
the Agnus Dei is thoroughly persuasive, containing an air
of mystery, combined with a degree of anguish. In the concluding
movement Communion Frühbeck de Burgos and his forces provide
a performance of ardent gravity and sacred inspiration.
excellent performances are a match for any rivals in the catalogue
and one feels swept along on a spiritual journey. This is a certain
contender for one of my ‘Desert Island’ discs.