1994 Records To Die For Page 4

Martin Colloms

BRITTEN: Symphonic Works
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea Interludes, Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge
Andrew Davis, BBC SO
Teldec 9031-73126-2 (CD only). Tony Faulkner, eng. DDD. TT: 67:77

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is a jewel that never fails to delight. Beneath a surface simplicity and economy lies masterly orchestration. The disc also includes Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, itself by no means overshadowed by the marvelous orchestral excerpts from Peter Grimes. The BBC Symphony plays superbly under Davis's taut command. The recording, done at St. Augustine's Church in Kilburn, London, is spacious and focused, with excellent low-level detail due to the combination of tube mikes, silver cable, 18-bit mastering, and a transfer to the CD master optimized with the Meridian noise-shaped bit converter. (XVI-1)

JACQUES LOUSSIER: The Best of Play Bach
Start K32Y 6030 (LP/CD). Geoff Young, eng. DDD. TT: 72:36

I love Bach, and I initially rejected Loussier's interpretations until I discovered that the simple trio arrangements---piano, double bass, and percussion---were helpful in listening tests. From this point I began to appreciate Loussier's mastery of his subject. As jazz goes, it remains very friendly and approachable---a joy to revisit. The two-LP version of this album never amounted to much due to poor pressings, but the CD has sounded better and better as digital replay has continued to improve. The acoustic is natural and spacious, without excessive use of electronic fixes or reverb.

Kevin Conklin

KING CRIMSON: The Great Deceiver: Live 1973-1974
Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton, Bill Bruford
Caroline KC DIS 1 (4 CDs only). Robert Fripp, Tony Arnold, David Singleton, mix; Robert Fripp, prod. AAD/ADD. TT: 4:55:26

Heavy metal elevated to art. King Crimson was the only popular rock band that successfully improvised. Fripp wisely restricts his survey to KC's "middle" period, with personnel stretching hardest and improvising best. His set demonstrates the essential reactionary nature of rock: 1973-74 Crimson played out to extinction the Western compositional tradition (half a century later than Schoenberg), as well as that of the solo improviser (a decade after Coltrane). Fine sound quality and presence from Fripp's remastered concert tapes. The best-sounding bootleg-beater ever. (XVI-6)

PARLIAMENT: Tear the Roof Off: 1974-1980
George Clinton, many other musicians
Casablanca 314 514 417-2 (2 CDs). Joseph M. Palmaccio, remastering; Harry Weinger, compilation; Bill Levenson, exec. prod. A?D. TT: 2:13:13

During the '70s, as European prog-rock inflated to Wagnerian proportions and fattened up on racial nostalgia about trolls and such, smart people found refuge in Funk---this blackest of Black music was the perfect tonic. The special ingredient George Clinton brought to Parliament was an ongoing concept bordering on myth. Whether "Dr. Funkenstein," "Space Aliens," or Clinton's spin on the Islamic Nation ("Comin' to reclaim the Pyramids''), the message is packaged with a laugh that can be shared by all. This excellently prepared box contains a timely and healthy dose of amoral fire-sign life-force. (XVII-1)

John Crabbe

BACH: Violin Concertos, BWV 1041-42; Oboe & Violin Concerto, BWV 1060; Double Violin Concerto, BWV 1043
Oscar Shumsky, John Tunnell, violins; Robin Miller, oboe; Shumsky, Scottish CO
Nimbus NI 5325 (CD only). DDD. TT: 62:34

Oscar Shumsky's reverently beautiful performances of JSB's violin concertos have become the most frequently played Bach in my collection since their transfer to CD in 1992. Both directing the strings-only orchestra and playing solo, Shumsky is excellently partnered by SCO's leader and its oboist in the two double concertos, while all four works are rendered in as near ideal a manner and spirit as one could hope for. Set in the pleasant acoustic of Edinburgh's Queen's Hall, and offering a crisply delineated but not over-wide image, Nimbus's recording sounds natural and perfectly complements the music.

MOZART: Symphonies 25, 29, 33
Jane Glover, London Mozart Players
ASV CD DCA 717 (CD only). Roy Emerson, prod.; Mark Vigars, Richard Hale, engs. DDD. TT: 61:02

Jane Glover does for Mozart what Shumsky does for Bach: offers such superbly poised performances that I keep putting this CD on for sheer delight. Articulated to a nicety, they are nevertheless sensitive to wide differences of mood; eg, the serious intensity of the "early G-minor" (No.25) balanced with the delicate buoyancy of No.33. Recorded in Croydon's Fairfield Hall, south of London, the orchestra spans the soundstage, the instrumental departments are convincingly balanced without resort to highlighting, and the bass has a pleasing fullness often missing from recordings of small classical ensembles.