Superbly played rumination on meeting of musical minds.
As well as being one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten was also a distinguished conductor, accompanist and chamber musician. Collected here for the first time, in this captivating 26 CD box, are the fruits of his most important labours in these fields. Britten’s singular talent was for getting inside the mind of his fellow composers, whether it be Mozart, Schubert or Elgar, and generating something entirely original. It’s not always what they might have wanted (he takes untold liberties with The Dream of Gerontius), but he seldom fails to excite, often with a heart-stopping moment of enormous originality.
Highlights include a revolutionary reading of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust – a masterpiece scarcely touched until this 1972 recording, his landmark Schubert and Schumann recitals accompanying Peter Pears and that radical Elgar, pushing the envelope farther than even Barbirolli was prepared to go.
If his Bach is less well recorded and a million miles from the period instrument school of thought, his Brandenburgs are still one of the best pre-1970 versions. Other classics include Mozart piano concertos with Clifford Curzon as soloist, his visionary Mozart and Schubert for two pianos where he’s joined by Sviatoslav Richter and Schubert’s Arpeggione with Rostropovich. All in all, a must have.