POULENC: Concert champêtre for Harpsichord and Orchestra. Concerto for two pianos and orchestra. Concerto in G minor for organ, strings and timpani.
Aimée van de Wiele, harpsichord; Francis Poulenc & Jacques Février, pianists; Maurice Duruflé, organ; Paris Conservatory Orch/Georges Prêtre, cond.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 62649 (M) (ADD) TT: 67:33
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SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C minor, Op. 35. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 102. Three Fantastic Dances, Op. 5. Five Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87
Dmitri Shostakovich, pianist; Ludovic Vaillant, trumpet; French National Radio Orch/André Cluytens, cond.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 62648 (M) (ADD) TT: 76:05
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MUSSORGSKY: Songs and Dances of Death. Hopak. Lullaby. Darling Savishna. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The rose and the nightingale, Op. 2 No. 2. The heavy clouds disperse, Op. 42 No. 3. More sonorous than the lark's singing, Op. 43 No. 1. Lullaby of the Sea Princess from Sadko. Marfa's Scene and Aria, and Lyubasha's aria from The Tsar's Bride.
Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano; London Philharmonic Orch/Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist-conductor
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 62654 (M) (ADD) TT: 77:16
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BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20. Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, Op. 33 a&b. HOLST: The Perfect Fool Ballet, Op. 39. Egdon Heath, Op. 47
London Symphony Orch/André Previn, cond.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 62616 (M) (ADD) TT: 69:48
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These are but four of the recent reissues on EMI's mid-priced Great Recordings of the Century label, worthy additions indeed to a generally distinguished series. CD notes are rather limited but basic facts are there, along with a complete up-to-date listing of all other recordings in the series.

What a pleasure it is to have Shostakovich's two piano concertos with the composer as soloist recorded in Paris in May 1958 about a week after Cluytens and the French National Radio Orchestra had recorded the composer's Symphony No. 11—and in stereo, issued in that format for the first time in 1996 on Testament (SBT 1099). It's difficult to imagine that recordings made the following week weren't done in stereo as well; perhaps the stereo masters were lost or damaged. The monophonic sound is well-balanced and there is no question of the historic significance of these recordings, with the additional piano works as a bonus.

Ever since its initial issue, these 1957 performances of Poulenc's concertos for harpsichord and two pianos have remained in the catalog and rightfully so. They are elegantly and sensitively played, beautifully recorded. Maurice Druflé worked with Poulenc when he was writing this powerful work and is an ideal soloist in this recording made in 1961 in Église Saint-Etienne du Mont, Paris. Wonderful sonics as well is heard in these early stereo recordings.

Galina Vishnevskaya (b. 1926) has had a distinguished career. When at her best, her voice was a magnificent instrument, but later she developed an alarming vibrato, largely controlled in performances on this CD which was recorded 1976-1979. No question whatever of her musicality and depth of interpretation in this all-Russian program in which she is accompanied by her husband, Mstislav Rostropovich at the piano, and by the London Philharmonic conducted by him in this first recording of Shostakovich's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death. Don't expect the subtleties of Rosa Ponselle in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Rose and the Nightingale—but the sounds Vishnevskaya produces are quite grand indeed. Complete texts are provided in three languages.

Andre Previn's Britten Sinfonia da Requiem was recorded in 1973 in Kingsway Hall and benefits sonically from the warmth of that space; the other music was recorded in 1973 and 1974 in Abbey Road Studio No. 1.All of these were praised at their initial release for their quality in both performance and sound—The Perfect Fool was even selected by EMI for issue on a DVD Audio Disk (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (October 2003)