This week, a budget-price deluge outlaws detail in the interests of comprehensiveness. So, if you've a fiver or two to spend, prepare to reach for your wallets. Top of my list is a 1988 recording of Schubert's Winterreise, in which the protagonist is mezzo Brigitte Fassbaender. The voice is resplendent and its manner of employment animated. Her pianist-collaborator Aribert Reimann is a composer himself, and don't you sense it.
Re-creative impulse also fuels a collection of Organ Masters Before Bach on Eloquence, in which Helmut Walcha unfolds ecstatic Chaconnes by Buxtehude and Pachelbel, a colourful Prelude and Fugue by Vincent Lübeck, and much more, 72 minutes' worth of majestic music full of unexpected flights of fancy.
Anyone seeking a top-drawer programme of Scarlatti keyboard sonatas played on the piano could hardly do better than Anne Queffélec, whose dextrous and (in the great B minor Sonata K27) poetic playing realises the singular characters of these fascinating pieces. As to Dvorak (below), shell out £15 on three Warner Apex discs and you'll enjoy top-flight performances of some entrancing but little-known chamber masterpieces. I except the perennial American String Quartet Op 96, which the Keller Quartet tackles with all the eagerness of youth. Their less familiar coupling is the "American" Quintet Op 97, similar both in spirit and content to the Quartet, as well as to the "New World" Symphony. But the must-have in this particular batch is a pairing of the Quartets Opp 34 and 51 played by the American String Quartet. The Adagio of Op 34 is one of the most ravishing movements in the Romantic quartet repertoire.
Like the best of his string quartets, Dvorak's A major Sextet conjures a world where folk-music roots, religious faith and homely values hold sway. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players enjoy a holiday from their parent orchestra, relishing every verdant turn of phrase in music that is as warmly textured as Brahms and as danceable as Dvorak's symphony scherzos. The coupling should be a repertory mainstay. Smetana's Piano Trio combines Brahm-sian grandeur with a lyrical intensity more akin to Schubert, and if you already own the work on disc, I'd still suggest that the violinist Joseph Silverstein, the cellist Jules Eskin and the pianist Gilbert Kalisch are worth hearing.
Schubert: 'Winterreise' – Fassbaender, Reimann (EMI Encore CDE5 74989 2)
Organ Masters before Bach – Walcha (Eloquence 469 764-2)
13 Scarlatti Sonatas – Queffélec (Apex 0927 44353 2)
Dvorak: 'American' Quartet and Quintet – Keller Quartet (Apex 0927 44355 2)
Dvorak: String Quartets Opp 34 & 51 – American String Quartet (Apex 7559 79671 2)
Dvorak: String Sextet/ Smetana: Piano Trio – Boston Symphony Chamber Players (Apex 7559 796792)Reuse content