The video selections are obviously ads for EMIs Classic Archive DVD series as well as valuable additions to the Legend packages. The Schwarzkopf audio disc presents sumptuous 1966 and 1969 stereo recordings of Strauss lieder, accompanied by the Radio Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the London Symphony, both conducted by George Szell. The companion video disc logically presents a 1961 film of the end of Act I of Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, with Schwarzkopf as the Marschallin, one of the sopranos greatest roles. Coming forward a bit in time, Kiri Te Kanawas audio disc offers highlights of the honey-voiced sopranos career with almost 77 minutes of arias by Mozart, Puccini, Ravel, Richard Strauss and others. The video disc is all Mozart: a complete performance of the Exsultate Jubilate, and two Te Kanawa signature arias: "Porgi Amor" and "Dove Sono," both from The Marriage of Figaro.
Leopold Stokowski was known both for transcribing the music of older composers and presenting music of our century. To reflect this, the CD is devoted to his famous arrangements of music by Bach, while the DVD contains a live performance of Debussys Prélude à laprès-midi dun faune from 1971 with the London Symphony Orchestra. Itzhak Perlmans two discs are devoted to two Bs. The audio CD contains his splendid Brahms Violin Concerto with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Chicago Symphony, and the DVD offers a virtuoso live performance of the first movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic.
The audio transfers throughout are at worst excellent, at best astounding. Though these discs are not identified as having gone through EMIs Abbey Road Technology (ART) mastering, most of them sound far superior to previous CD reissues of the same recordings. The Stokowski Toccata and Fugue in D Minor finally has the solid bass we all suspected was there, Schwarkopfs pianissimos glimmer as descended from heaven, and one can hear every nuance of Perlmans fiddling without any difficulty. Sound and picture on the DVD discs has been remarkably cleaned up and polished, making the viewing experience a delight.
The packaging suits the product. The series cover design is arresting and attractive, featuring a characteristic photograph of each specific artist. The back cover of each insert booklet offers yet another handsome photographic portrait and there are crisply reproduced artist and composer photographs on the inside pages. There are excellent biographies of each artist in the booklets, and never have I seen a series from EMI that was so thoroughly credited. All of the original recording dates and locations are given, as well as complete transfer information. Each listener might feel that "this or that" piece should have been chosen, but considering space limitations, I find the repertory for this series much better chosen than most EMI projects of this sort. Each disc really does give an accurate thumbnail portrait of a legend.
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