Having listened to and collected vinyl LPs since my mid teens in the fifties I find myself comforted and isolation relieved by revisiting recordings on reissued CDs. The latest to have arrived is Ferenc Fricsay, that great Hungarian conductor who died at an early age, and his performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Why did I go there after last week’s Building a Library recommendations. Well I think it was probably the first time I heard the work. I never owned it, but it was a record I borrowed from the Enfield Gramophone Library. I became great friends with the librarian, a pioneer in gramophone record libraries, and worked there during summer holidays later on.
What pleases we about this acquisition is its packaging. It’s a simple card cover with what looks like the original cover, not just a small reproduction which looks tacky (like Great Recordings of the Century from EMI and most other “Originals” from Universal). In fact so keen are they to keep the “feel” of the original they do not even add the fact that the disc also includes Petrushka! That is revealed by a stick on label, although it does appear in the listings on the back.
I much prefer card packaging to the so-called “jewel case”. How many of my collection have broken hinges, or the centre plastic retainers have disintegrated so the disc falls to the floor when you open the wretched thing. I welcome the habit of putting boxed collections in thin slip cases. It certainly reduced the space that the complete Stravinsky edition took up on Sony Classics!
I’m now waiting for a CD of Copland performing his Appalachian Spring and Suite from the Tender Land with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This recording was so natural and clear, a joy to listen to, at least on LP. CDs so often disappoint and fail to make the impact of the LP original. Karajan’s Sibelius Symphonies 4 and 5 on DG, and a wonderful boxed set of Vaclav Neumann with the Czech Philharmonic which included the Czech Suite and Slavonic Dances originally on Telefunken.
While I attended concerts given with Fricsay, Karajan and Copland conducting I always regret not hearing Guido Cantelli with the Philharmonia Orchestra. At this time I had no knowledge of the world of music, but the Philharmonia figured in many concerts I went to at the Royal Festival Hall. The first was under Karajan, and then I was to go to many given by Otto Klemperer when the annual Beethoven series became a habit. I didn’t, however, hear Eduard van Beinum when he stood in for Klemperer one season when the great man was indisposed. Back at the record library I had first heard Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony on Philips with van Beinum and the Concertgebouw. For some reason I owned the Karajan EMI performance with the Berlin Philharmonic first in mono and then I acquired a German EMI boxed set in stereo which I still have. Although there was much to admire, four slow movements is what you get. I heard Klemperer in the concert hall, and while this was a memorable experience, particular the accumulative effect in the final movement, returning to van Beinum takes you into a different world. Slow it ain’t, not that is where it’s not marked. The scherzo is a tour de force!
At this time Bruckner was still performed very little and I remember going to their first public performances in UK, at least for some time, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra played the 8th under Erich Leinsdorf followed by the unfinished 9th a year later. Adrian Boult attended one of these. I remember encountering him in the gent’s loo reminiscing about Westminster School!
I am considering putting my LP collection up for sale, but find the prospect of doing so daunting. Until I can find some one trustworthy I think they’ll stay on the shelf!