MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Edward GREGSON (b. 1945)
Tuba Concerto (1978) [18:57]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Ein Heldenleben (1898) [49:03]
Venezuelan Philharmonic Orchestra/Edgar Meinhardt
rec. live, 2 July 1986, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London,
CLAUDIO ARCHIVE CA5255-2 [68:02]

The decision to market these performances on CD in the year 2019 seems somewhat odd.  While we are, of course, used to the re-release of classic performances of the past, neither this Heldenleben nor the accompanying Gregson tuba concerto merits that elevated status.  Moreover, even the 21st century remastering that has been employed on this CD can presumably only achieve so much when applied to original recordings made more than thirty years ago and in the less than optimal circumstances of a live concert.

Of course, some older recordings are re-released, quite regardless of performance quality or sound, when the primary aim is to commemorate great artists.  In this case, however, the musicians are less great than, it would seem, greatly forgotten. Googling Venezuelan Philharmonic Orchestra produces online references only to the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra or, somewhat bizarrely, to Gustavo Dudamel.  Similarly, the search engine doesn’t seem to recognise any conductor named Edgar Meinhardt, while his omission from the several thousand entries in John L. Holmes’ exhaustive study of Conductors on Record (London, 1982), published just a few years before this concert was recorded, suggests that neither can he have been a familiar face in the recording studio.  Still, at least Mr Meinhardt gets his own name-check. Utterly unforgivably, the tuba concerto’s soloist remains completely unidentified, at least in this CD’s documentation, even though I imagine that, had the effort been made, a polite request to the Queen Elizabeth Hall’s archivist might have extracted the appropriate information.  Given that major omission, it hardly comes as a surprise that the name of the solo violinist who portrays “The hero’s companion” in Ein Heldenleben quite competently, if without much individual characterisation, also goes un-noted.

Obscure or unknown performers aside, may the Claudio Archive have uncovered here a couple of hitherto unappreciated musical gems?  Sadly, I think not. In a highly competitive field, this account of Ein Heldenleben makes no particular or individual impact at all.  While Edgar Meinhardt seems to have a secure grasp of the work’s structure, his is in no way an interpretation of any great distinction.  He is, moreover, let down at times by the orchestra. Somewhat undernourished strings are bad enough in this repertoire, but the real problems arise from a brass section that from time to time produces some wincingly sour notes.

Matters are redeemed somewhat, however, by the inclusion of Edward Gregson’s rarely encountered tuba concerto.  Originally written in versions for both brass band and orchestra in 1976, it reappeared in a revised orchestral version two years later and that is what we have here.  Kevin Wood’s booklet notes claim that it “challenges the usual stodgy notion of music for this instrument” and the anonymous but clearly accomplished soloist certainly delivers the piece with some vivacity and musical wit.  The prolific Gregson has been described by Robert Matthew-Walker as “one of the most significant British composers currently active in this country” (see and I was pleased that this disc allowed me to make the acquaintance of one of his many concertos.

It goes without saying, though, that good CD booklet notes are of the greatest use when encountering such less than familiar music.  Unfortunately, on this occasion the documentation falls short when we find that less space is allocated specifically to the Gregson concerto than to the history and development of its solo instrument - interesting though that may be to those of us whose knowledge of the instrument has never progressed much beyond Danny Kaye and Tubby the Tuba.  While the Strauss tone poem will probably, on the other hand, already be well-known to many listeners, anyone coming to it for the first time will be left pretty well in the dark, as the essay concentrates almost exclusively and irrelevantly on Strauss’s troubled relationship with the Nazi government of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. 

As mentioned earlier, the original performances heard on this disc were recorded more than three decades ago and under less than ideal conditions.  This CD proclaims, however, that the material has been “HD mastered” and lists on its rear cover a whole battery of recording and monitoring equipment presumably utilised in that process.  The disc’s clear, bright and generally pleasing sound quality presumably testifies to the engineers’ success, especially in Strauss’s densely-scored tone poem which benefits from all the sonic transparency it can get.  I am, though, obliged to wonder whether the effort involved in restoring these performances to circulation was actually justified for, apart from appreciating the opportunity to sample the rarely heard concerto, I strongly suspect that many listeners’ final thoughts will centre on a familiar adage concerning silk purses and sows’ ears.

Rob Maynard

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing