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Jonathan Woolf
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The Best of Tasmin
Tasmin Little (violin) 
rec. 1992-2019
Reviewed as lossless (wav) press preview.
CHANDOS CHAN20185 (2) [78:41 + 80:57]

These two CDs are sold as for the price of one – but beware: some download providers are charging as for two, though not so Chandos themselves from their own website Ignore the incorrect statement made there: ‘originally recorded in 2018’; the earliest recording dates from 1992, the most recent from 2019.

The withdrawal of Tasmin Little from public appearances surely deserved to be marked by a voluminous edition – and that from me, who dislike such blockbusters. Alternatively, a major new concerto recording would have been a nice touch. This 2-for-1 release will have to do instead, and it is worthwhile in its own right, though after the first CD, containing complete performances of the Walton and Britten concertos, with the heartfelt second movement of the Elgar in-between, things become rather bitty. Inevitably, too, some of the recordings are more worth having than others, but it’s fitting that three of the works presented complete come from the British repertoire, which she has done so much to enhance.

Tasmin Little’s Vivaldi, for example, though a good example of a modern-instrument recording with a sense of style, is not really competitive in a hotly contested market. The recording which contains it (CHSA5175 – review review) is of most interest for the filler, Roxana Panufnik’s Four World Seasons. Like several of the other recordings which have been mined for this twofer, the original comes on SACD; the new recording is CD only and the only download available from is 16-bit, though some dealers offer 24-bit, albeit at more than twice the price of the CDs.

The two complete concertos provide the best argument for buying the new recording. The Walton was released originally with Symphony No.1 on CHSA5136. My only cause for hesitation in reviewing that concerned the coupling, with my preferred pairing for the Violin Concerto being Walton’s Viola Concerto, but the availability of the latter work on Hyperion, with Rubbra’s under-rated Viola Concerto, was sufficient to overcome that hesitation. With other very fine versions of the First Symphony to choose from, as listed in my original review, that makes the reissue on the new twofer competitive, unless you must have the concerto on SACD.

John Quinn – review – and Michael Greenhalgh each went one better and made the Walton a Recording of the Month – review. Both made a point of praising the SACD layer of the recording, which, to repeat myself, you won’t get with the reissue.

The slow movement of the Elgar, too, is good enough to compete with, but not to replace, the finest versions; after hearing this account, listeners will surely wish to investigate, and possibly invest in, the parent SACD – review review December 2010.

The lack of an SACD is not a problem with the Britten, which was originally released on CD, coupled with his Piano Concerto. That’s a special recording because it includes the original 1938 version of the third movement of the Piano Concerto. Otherwise, the reissue is as desirable as Michael Cookson found the original – review.

The Britten was released at much the same time as a Chandos recording of Lutosławski’s Partita for violin and orchestra, volume IV of their series of recordings of that composer, with Tasmin Little, the BBC SO and Edward Gardner (CHSA5108). It would have been more adventurous if something a little more out of the way, like the Lutosławski had been included on the farewell CDs. I reviewed the Lutosławski in DL News 2013/6, the same edition where I made the Britten recording my Recording of the Month, as heard in 24/96 sound. Cue for another boring reminder that the new twofer isn’t available in that format, only mp3 or 16-bit lossless. On the positive side, it sounds very little inferior to the 24-bit originals.

The next most substantial work is Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, recorded with the BBC Philharmonic and Andrew Davis on CHAN10796, with Moeran Violin Concerto and short works by Delius, Holst and Elgar, including the Chanson de matin and Salut d’amour, also included on the new twofer, first recordings in this arrangement. The Lark Ascending is such a popular piece that it’s not surprising that it gives its name to the original CD, though I can never understand why it seems more popular than VW’s Tallis Fantasia, Flos campi and Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus.

The Moeran is the main attraction for me on that original release, together with the availability of 24/96 sound, but there are fine alternatives for it, as listed in my review in DL News 2013/17. Overall, I thought that album a winner; John Quinn made it a Recording of the Month – review.

The shorter works add little of value, except to remind us of what a talent we are losing when Tasmin Little steps down, which we already knew. Otherwise, these tasters are likely to tempt the listener to buy the parent recording, especially in the case of the single movements from longer works. On the other hand, they may, like the Beethoven, confirm Jonathan Woolf’s feeling that there is better to be had in a few cases – review. Or more appropriately coupled, as in the case of Lloyd Webber’s (not Andrew, but his father) charming ‘late summer impression’, Gardens at Eastwell, perhaps best heard in the context of William’s other piano, chamber and vocal music (Hyperion CDA67008).

All but two of the originals are, of course, from Chandos, but the Shostakovich Gadfly exerpt and the final Monti Csárdás come from Warner Classics for Pleasure recordings, both now download only at more than twice the price as lossless downloads compared with the CDs – and no digital booklet. I need hardly add that almost all Chandos downloads, including all those listed here, come complete with a pdf booklet.

I’ve mentioned the fact that the new twofer is available only on CD and in 16-bit CD-quality download sound. I suppose the argument would be that because some of the originals are 16-bit only, the reissue has to be at the lowest common denominator, but BIS have boxed some of their series, the originals of which come with a mixture of 16- and 24-bit sound, entirely in 24-bit, with a clear warning that the older recordings have been remastered. Why could Chandos not do the same?

This is not wholly the parting present that Tasmin Little deserved, but if the contents appeal, and you are certain that you don’t wish the original couplings of the original albums, it’s worth having. But do be sure that you are not being charged as for two albums.

Brian Wilson

Sir William WALTON (1902– 1983)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Revised version, 1943) [33:06]
BBC Symphony Orchestra Edward Gardner (from CHSA5136)
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857 – 1934)
Violin Concerto in b minor, Op.61 (second movement) [12:07]
With Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis (from CHSA5083)
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913– 1976)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op.15 (1938–39, revised 1950, 1954, and 1965) [33:19]
With BBC Philharmonic/Edward Gardner (from CHAN10764)
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
‘Spring’ Concerto from ‘The Four Seasons’, Op.8/1 [10:18]
With David Wright (harpsichord); BBC Symphony Orchestra (from CHSA5175)
William LLOYD WEBBER (1914-1982)
The Gardens at Eastwell [2:44]
With Piers Lane (piano) (from CHAN10899).
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Lark Ascending [15:31]
With BBC Philharmonic/Sir Andrew Davis (from CHAN10796)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Movement I from Violin Sonata No.1 in G, Op.78 [10:23]
With Piers Lane (piano) (from CHAN10977)
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Chanson de matin [3:00]
Salut d’amour [3:13]
With BBC Philharmonic/Sir Andrew Davis (from CHAN10796)
Amy BEACH (1867-1934)
Romance [6:14]
With John Lenehan (piano) (from CHAN20030)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Notturno in E-flat, D897 Adagio [9:34]
With Tim Hugh (cello), Piers Lane (piano) (from CHAN10850, 2 CDs)
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Romance from ‘The Gadfly’, Op.97a [3:12]
With Piers Lane (piano) (from Warner Classics for Pleasure)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Movement I from ‘Spring’ Sonata, Op.24 [10:11]
With Martin Roscoe (piano) (from CHAN10888, 3 CDs)
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)
Csárdás (arr. Tasmin Little and John Lenehan) [5:52]
With John Lenehan (piano) (from Warner Classics for Pleasure)

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