Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 25. October 8, 1968
Records — They're backing Britain
They're backing Britain
This time last year I commented on record companies' promises of a renewal of interest in British composers. The revival is now in full swing and the major labels are furiously competing with each other. This is not suggesting that the noble establishments have gone overboard and brought forth a swag of recordings of contemporary works; profit being the motive, they have stuck to the more staid, commercial composers. Rawsthorne, Tippet, Maxwell-Davies and Co. are still not being over-extended. Vaughan Williams, Walton, Elgar and Britten form the nucleus of "in" British composers.
Of all the past year's releases of these composer's works the most interesting is the wealth of Vaughan Williams. Andre Previn is in the process of recording the complete symphonies for RCA, Let's hope they are released in New Zealand. English critic Robert Layton comments: "There is in Mr Previn's approach to modern English music an uncommon freshness, urgency and sympathy that makes one feel one is encountering the music for the very first time." HMV have contributed by signing up Sir Adrian Boult for an extensive series of V-W recordings. Already the Fourth and Sixth symphonies have been released in England.
It is unfortunate that none of the aforementioned have been pressed here yet; I have noticed that even the record shops do not have imported copies. There is a glimmer of hope with HMV (NZ) Ltd's release of V-W's "London" symphonv plaved bv Sir John Barbirolli and the Halle orchestra (ASDM 2360 Stereo). To my mind this the most likeable of the composer's work—it is not merely a descriptive piece of orchestral writing as the name suggests; "the music is intended to be self-expressive, and must stand or fall as 'absolute' music" states the sleeve note.
A magnificent performance from the Halle. 1968 has seen this comparatively insignificant group emerge as one of the best recording orchestras in the world. To top this the recording is one of the finest I have heard—fantastic clarity and a breathtaking spread between channels, all achieved without losing the warm string tone. Barbirolli and this orchestra have also recorded "Sinfonia Antarctica" and the Fifth.
If you are a lover of Leonard Bernstein's version of Mahler's Fourth symphony then you need read no further. However if you would like a warmer, more romantic treatment then try a cheap HMV Concert Classics release with Paul Kletzki condueting the Philharmonia Orchestra (SXLPM 30054 Stereo). This is not the best version I have heard but it is certainly the pick of those available —a sedate, lyrical approach to the composer's shortest (and coincidentally most popular) symphony. The sound (first recorded 1958) is a little austere but the cheaper price compensates.
A visiting musician once told me that many of the principal trumpeters in US orchestras intensely disliked Frenchman Maurice Andre. I was foolish enough to ask their motives and the reply was "He's such a damm good trumpeter …" Nathan Milstein's sensational technique must provoke similar comments from his fellow concert violinists. His recent recording (HMV ASDM 2365 Stereo) of the Dvorak and Clazoumov concertos in A minor contains typical Milstein virtuoso performances. At times he lacks a little warmth in the colourful Dvorak work but this is only a minor complaint on an otherwise impeccable disc. Recording is brilliant with an excellent balance between soloist and orchestra (New Philharmonia conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos).
Bizet's Carmen and L'Arlesienne suites with their bright, bold and brassy music, are ideally suited to show off both the achievements and failings of Decca Phase Four Stereo Sound. It is rather perverse but the better your stereo system is, the worse records from this special series sound. I was listening to this disc (PFSM 34127) through a friend's new Akai amplifier (pushed throuen two 8" National speakers and two 12" Philips Bombardiarns) and the sound was almost unbearable. A really sensitive emphasises all the technical gimmickry employed by the Decca engineers and producer—woofly bass, unrealistically brilliant treble and over-attention to woodwind and impani. The music itself is rather monotonous. Charles Munch and the New Philharmonia perform satisfactorily.