This generously-timed boxed set brings together, for a very
reasonable price, some of Berlin Classics' old recordings of
favourite symphonies and a few works that are outside the charmed
circle. The low cost comes with a caveat, in that there is no
booklet - just five card sleeves in a glossy clamshell, with
basic information printed straight onto the card. Indeed, this
is part of Berlin's 'Basics' range: 'standards in excellent
performances at an unexpectedly low price'.
The quality of the featured symphonies is a given, as are the
star ratings of orchestra and conductor alike, the latter mainly
of a certain vintage - though Masur, Flor and Blomstedt are
still very much alive. All are in action with orchestras they
achieved a well-deserved reputation with, and most have or had
a special place in their hearts or minds for the Romantic works
The only odd inclusion is Mendelssohn's G minor Symphony for
strings - there is more than a suspicion that it was the first
thing Berlin Classics found that would fit onto the same disc
as Bruckner's massive Fourth Symphony. Elsewhere there is a
sense that some of these pairings have been decided on timing
alone, but it would be churlish to take that too much into account,
for these are reliably decent recordings that make a thrilling
introduction to the symphony as art form. 'Thrilling' is certainly
a word to describe Heinz Rögner's Bruckner, incidentally
- probably the fastest version ever recorded, certainly in the
Symphony's original 1874 form - a whole quarter of an hour quicker
than more reflective readings.
On the other hand, audio quality is not uniformly impressive.
The digitally re-mastered ADD recordings come mainly from the
1980s, with a couple from the Seventies and the Schumann and
Franck from the Sixties. The trouble with Eighties recordings
in general is that digital technology was never much to write
home about, with flatness and tinniness typical concomitants.
Such is often the case here: only the high-speed Bruckner, the
well-preserved Tchaikovsky and the excellent Saint-Saëns/Dvořák
disc are really good enough for even the most moderate of audiophiles.
For newcomers, though, there are worse places to start a collection.
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
Joachim Dalitz (organ) Berlin Symphony Orchestra/Claus Peter
Dresden Staatskapelle/Herbert Blomstedt (Schubert)
Dresden Staatskapelle/Kurt Sanderling (Franck)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Heinz Rögner (Wagner, Bruckner)
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur (Mendelssohn)
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Franz Konwitschny (Schumann)
Dresden Philharmonic/Kurt Masur (Tchaikovsky)
Berlin Staatskapelle/Otmar Suitner (Brahms, Dvořák)