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Legendary British Performers (Classic Archive)
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
Filmed in London/Paris 1954-1972
Directed by Patricia Foy, Phil Bates, Walter Todds, Jacques Brialy
EMI CLASSICS DVB 38846192 [100:12] 


I recently attended the conference at the British Library on the Proms put on by the BBC and King’s College London. We were treated to several film clips from the likes of Wood, Sargent, and I was struck by the stilted, now dated TV transmissions we watched 40-50 years ago; indeed it became rather too much the subject for discussion compared to the radio presentation of the Proms. 

This DVD contains similar gems presented in a way which we would not encounter today. They come from a variety of television programmes such as International Celebrity Recital (1954 - Hess), Music at Ten (1956 - Solomon), Celebrity Recital (1961 - Ogdon), International Concert Hall (1962 - Barbirolli), Music in Miniature (1964 - Britten/Pears). Du Pré seems to have been a one-off in 1962 whilst Deller was filmed in Paris for the programme Un ton au dessus in 1972. 

First of all let it be said that all the segments are musical treasures, and considering that our musical heritage is shot through with tragic omissions, crass decisions to wipe or destroy tapes, bureaucratic mismanagement or the action of the dreaded bean counters (no Ferrier for example), we must grateful for having them. The televisual antics are another story. 

We start with the just 17 year-old du Pré, very serious throughout, though watch for a glimmer of a smile about to appear when the fade-out takes over, perched on a roundabout-like podium, fixed angle, wide-two-shot taking in back of mum at the piano; she never gets the treatment Britten gets as accompanist. Du Pré fille still has the bob haircut but also there are those physical gestures which were loved or loathed as part of her playing style. Just five years later and she would present a totally different public image from this one when she appeared in Christopher Nupen’s film, cavorting with Barenboim in the park and doing hi-jinks with him, Zuckerman, Perlman and Mehta, swapping instruments as well as making serious music. By then the flaxen hair was flowing. Similarly stilted and stiff in their presentation are Britten and Pears in grandfather cardigans; this is one sequence in which, amongst three songs there is a curious diversion, the slow movement of a Mozart piano quartet. It gives Britten a chance to shine - he was a brilliant Mozart pianist as well as a sensitive accompanist. That said, one does get distracted by sloppy direction such as Pears walking backwards and forwards as music carrier, taking an awfully long time to find the right page for Britten. The string players - redundant after their contribution but having to sit out the last song – fiddling, no pun intended, with their music and getting bow in shot. Oh yes, and then there’s the lady page-turner, who at one point threatens Pears as she lunges for the music. One can see why, in this cosy encounter, Britten turns the pages himself whenever he can. This was ideal material for the send-up by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and one can see why the Aldeburgh set must have loathed them. 

One of the most enjoyable sections comes next with Alfred Deller in beautifully phrased renditions of his special repertoire, joined for a couple of duets by his son Mark, all accompanied by another Dupré, this time Desmond on lute and guitar. Again it is the TV direction that irritates, all that cross fading and mixing implies a recent discovery of the technique on the part of the French director. The only orchestral sequence is that of the Hallé Orchestra with Sir John Barbirolli in his heyday. This is a concert at the Free Trade Hall, with the camera shot of the audience behind JB making no attempt to hide empty seats, the rest filled mainly by women in hats. We get the normal shots at instrumental solos or of whole sections, predictable cuts after four or eight bar phrases, but only at the end as the camera pulls away from its position back into the hall do we get the measure of the huge space immediately to the front and to the side of the conductor. It is devoid of players save one, the lady harpist, placed soloist-like centre stage for no accountable reason – another directorial decision perhaps? The performance itself is rather stiff, reflected in the too score-bound JB’s beat, until the Bohemian waltz sequences when he lets go and dances beautifully on the podium, the beat now with a broad sweep, as if hoping the harpist would abandon her instrument to become his dancing partner. No such luck, there she remains seated in splendid isolation. 

The final sequences are all solo pianists, Ogdon, Solomon and Hess respectively, each of them legendary. Ogdon’s technique is so formidable, it blurs, the camera failing to keep up with his huge hands; Solomon’s performance is refined if breathlessly phrased, while Hess looks very uncomfortable, bids us an awkward spoken farewell, and, with her eyes, continually checks with someone off-camera for reassurance that she is doing it all correctly. ‘Bonsoir’, she says for this International Celebrity Recital, ‘and goodnight to all my friends here and abroad’. Sound distortion is unfortunate in her contributions of half a century ago, an era in which the birth-pangs of music on television are laid bare for all to see – but meanwhile there’s enough to enjoy the music and the performances for what they are, legendary gems. 

Christopher Fifield 

See also Review by Jonathan Woolf



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