This is a well-filled sampler which serves two aims: promoting the BBC Proms
1999 and showcasing the Teldec catalogue. There is a message from Proms supremo
Nicholas Kenyon and details of the disc source for each of the tracks.
The two discs make excellent Classic FM type listening. Wall-to-wall music
but nothing long enough to be challenging. Magpied together and including
recordings dating between 1963 and 1999 it comprises complete movements from
works. Thus we get only the Alleluja from Exsultate Jubilate,
the Pie Jesu from Fauré's requiem, the rondo from Mozart's
Horn Concerto, the Larghetto from Poulenc's Concerto for two pianos, etc.
Complete and free standing are Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, Sarasate's
Caprice Basque, a song by Ives, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and,
standing shoulder high,amid this tatterdemalion company is Barber's nostalgic,
slow-moving, warmly enveloping scena for soprano and orchestra: Knoxville:
Summer of 1915 (all 15:06 of it). The soprano in the Barber is Dawn Upshaw.
Her 1989 recording is simply glorious as sound and as advocacy for music
of wondering innocence. The downside is that the text is not included.
Newcomers to classical music (for want of a better phrase) will find this
set a rewarding introduction with performances drawn from a very strong
catalogue. Others would do well to pass on the other side unless they happen
to pick this up in a market-stall for a couple of pounds long after the Proms
are over. This will be a very attractive way of getting to know Barber's
essay - a 20th century masterwork.
As for the Proms this is the world's most exclusive festival; a catalogue
of missed opportunities and closed doors. Of course there must be closed
doors but when is it we will hear such great works as Havergal Brian's Gothic
Symphony, Alan Hovhaness symphonies, Louis Glass's overflowingly romantic
Sinfonia Svastica, Medtner's piano concertos, any work by Sorabji, Bax's
Sixth Symphony (Spring Fire was excellently done there a couple of years
ago), Allan Pettersson's symphonies (his seventh would be devastating there)?
The unfamiliar is in large part represented by modern works commissioned
specially. A world festival - yes, but its repertoire choices seem to be
very narrow. Let us celebrate what is there but lament the narrow and often
celebrity-led field from which the repertoire is chosen.