According to my trusty copy of Collins English Dictionary,
the only possible one of several meanings of “legendary” that
can be appropriately applied to a commercial recording is “very
famous or notorious”.
far as I am aware, these nearly forty years old live radio
performances are neither famous nor notorious – let alone
“very” of either. Perhaps Doremi are suggesting, by their
labelling, that they ought to be so regarded? If so,
I think they are, to say the least, over-egging the pudding
for, even if graced by the participation of some very highly
thought of musicians, these are essentially run-of-the-mill
and rather muddily recorded outings.
there is a competing and identically-coupled pair of performances
that has genuine claims to legendary status. One of EMI Classics’s
Great Recordings of the Century, it features Oistrakh,
Rostropovich and Richter, along with Karajan and the Berlin
Philharmonic, in the Beethoven, after which Oistrakh and Rostropovich
are accompanied by George Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra in the
Brahms (EMI Classics 5 66902 2). Alongside this giant, the
“legendary” performances on the new disc fade back into the
obscurity they have inhabited since they were first broadcast.
the very opening of Beethoven’s first movement, Ferras, Tortelier
and Heidsieck sound, to my ears, somewhat cautious and tentative,
almost as though they are working out on the hoof exactly
how to interact with each other and are desperate not to steal
too much of the individual limelight. Their Russian rivals,
on the other hand, play with supreme individual flair and
complete confidence, both in each other and as a collective
unit, so that even if in reality their timings for all three
movements are longer, each seems to go with more of an innate
picture in the Brahms is much the same, I am afraid. Comparatively
dim sound and rather ordinary performances hamstring this
issue from the start and despite some moments of attractive
playing from the soloists, this is really uncompetitive.
current fashion for trawling the archives of European radio stations
has, as demonstrated by the Medici masters series, certainly recovered
some lost treasures. But, as this disc demonstrates, even with
the involvement of artists of the first rank, there is also a
great deal of nondescript material out there too, most of it probably
best consigned to the ether for ever.