Any attempt to create a canon, that is, a list of the greatest and / or most important works within an art genre or genre, is problematic and, in most cases, is doomed to create controversy. Questions that always pop up are, for example: Why was the material moisture meter shows you the with, and not the material moisture meter shows you the ? Are there underlying, non-artistic motifs for the choice? Equally, the record companies are constantly making canonizations with their series of "The Greatest of the Century" conductor, pianist, singer and so on.
EMI recently released new releases in its series "Great Recordings of the Century" (GROC) and "Great Artists of the Century" (GAOC). Let's look at some of the highlights.
Loss for the music
Ginette Neveu is a violinist that not many people know today. That's because she died as a 30-year-old in a plane crash. However, she left behind a bunch of recordings, and of these, especially that of Sibelius' violin concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Walter Susskind has gained a kind of legendary status. It has arrived in the GROC series, and is there connected with her recording of Brahms' violin concerto with the same orchestra under Issay Dobrowen.
Both are authoritative interpretations. Neveu has a direct, intense and slightly introverted game with sparse use of vibrato, and there are serious interpretations that search for the underlying in the music. It is a pity that the sound of the orchestra is so bad in the Sibelius concert, but it is to come over with games like this. The release shows what a loss her death was for the music.
Beautify of the classics?
During his 35-year life, the Alban Berg quartet has become one of the main interpreters of the Viennese classical repertoire, with his highly acclaimed recordings by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, among others. In the GROC series, EMI released their live recordings from 1989 of Beethoven's late string quartets. It was the second time the Alban Berg quartet recorded these works, and these live recordings are considered the best.
Due to its technical precision and sound of discretion, the quartet has sometimes been accused of beautifying the classics. They do not here – in these recordings they have a rawer, more direct expression that is refreshing, and they are not concerned with surface polishing. There are emotional interpretations that give a spontaneous impression. Sometimes I miss a more angular, rhythmically marked play, but these are recordings that are highly recommended.
It may seem strange to include a musician who has just turned 40 in the series' greatest artists of the century. But EMI has done with Ian Bostridge, and with reason. The English tenor has had a comet career since he broke through in 1996 with a recording of Schubert's The beautiful miller. And it is Schubert's songs that have been his main repertoire since its inception. It's a perfect choice, because with his voice and singing style he incarnates the lonely young man in Schubert's lieder.
Important to Bostridge's choice to become a singer was the legendary German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's recording of Schubert's "Erlkönig". And in many ways Bostridge, with his combination of intellect and emotion, can be said to be Fischer-Dieskaus's heir. Of course, there is a Schubert program selected for this release, where he is accompanied by the excellent Julius Drake. This is music and interpretive art at the highest level.
The tornado from the steppes
I have long had an ambivalent relationship with the Ukrainian pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-89), the virtuoso who was often called the "Tornado from the steppes". I think his interpretations are often more idiosyncratic than idiomatic, that is, they do not show sufficient respect for the composer's intentions. My impression is primarily based on recent recordings.
For the GAOC series, however, EMI has fortunately released early recordings, made in the 1930s, when Horowitz was at his best. He is virtuoso and powerful, sometimes wild and erratic, sometimes nonchalant, but always with his own ability to make the music come alive. Particularly fascinating are his interpretations of Chopin's etudes – with his distinctive tone and brilliance he takes these small masterpieces to great heights. And then he justifies the epithet he has often been given – the magician of the piano.