happen to be delighted to see Kathleen Long’s early 1950s
Decca Fauré recordings once more available. The correspondence
on these performances “in another place” prompted me to dig
out her 78s. This involves not just the slew of Mozart recordings
she made for Decca, some of which have been collated by Dutton
on an all-Long disc, but also her first recordings.
began her career in the studios recording for Compton Mackenzie’s
National Gramophonic Society (N.G.S.). Whilst even then she
was pegged as a Mozart specialist she was also to record
Bach. As an aside someone should really get to grips with
the N.G.S. discs, the market for which may well prove small,
but the recordings of which - not always perfectly recorded
it’s true - did enshrine some outstanding traversals of often
was for some time probably Britain’s leading exponent of
the French repertoire. An allied assurance can be seen in
her recording of the Third Delius Sonata with Sammons (Dutton)
and in altogether less wistful form in Walter Leigh’s Concertino.
Her Fauré recordings were not many but they were well received;
I believe that this is the second of her recordings of the Thème
and Variations. As one might imagine, her technical competence
is high, though not infallible. She sounds especially harried
in passages in the Fourth Nocturne.
a direct exponent of the repertoire, clear-sighted, architecturally
sure-footed, tonally bright. She may be considered bracingly
extrovert where others prefer pastel. In this performance
of the Nocturne in E flat major she hammers away in the treble – maybe
the rather unhelpful original Decca set up exaggerates it – and
points bass rhythms with a certain ebullience. Turn to the
recordings of Germaine Thyssens-Valentin, made a few years
later in 1956, and we find a totally different sound world;
caressing, slower (always slower) and with subtler colouration.
That very open Decca sound is present throughout but especially
the Sixth Nocturne where Long can sound too urgent after
immersion in Thyssens-Valentin – though she does bring a
forceful romanticism to bear.
view was a consistent and entertaining one even if I find
her rhythmically muddled in the B minor Nocturne. With the
Barcarolles she tends to play the blunt outspoken guest to
Thyssens-Valentin’s more coy and rhythmically more teasing
host, the one rather rushing and the other wryly amused.
Try the G major for an explicit contrast of that kind and
the A minor Barcarolle for moments where the French player’s
hinterland of expression proves too great and expansive for
the Englishwoman’s. In the great Thème and Variations we
hear Long’s clipped and highly accented approach bringing
no-nonsense authority – though note that she gets through
the theme in 1.38 and Thyssens-Valentin in 2.15, an indicator
of their expressive responses throughout.
released on two ten-inch discs the Pristine Audio team has
worked hard on its restoration. I don’t have access to either
of the LPs so can’t make a direct comparison, but if there’s
a hint of stuffiness at the treble end I can say that the
results are still commendably clear and involving. Andrew
Rose and his team will earn kudos for this disc – check his
website for the restructured pricing of his discs.