19 NOVEMBER 1954, Page 20


(RECORDING COMPANIES: B, Brunswick; C, Columbia; D, Decca; F, Felsted; H, HMV; L, London; OL, Oiscau-Lyre; P, Parlophone; S, Supraphon; T, Telefunken; V, Vox.)

Music before Beethoven -4I Issues of early vocal and operatic music are plentiful, but are generally less interest- ing than those of the instrumental music of

the period. The Ferrier/Glyndebourne Oleo of Gluck (D.LXT2893), like several other discs issued since her death, does not show her at her best. Boulanger bring! excerpts from Rameau, works by Monteverdi and French Renaissance music, on B.AXTL1053, 1051 and 1048 respectively. The first of these may be preferred, to the extracts from Rameau's Hippolyte et Arkie on OL.50034, though neither is very well sung. All these issues tend to monotony, and the same is true of the Sixteenth-CenturY Parisian Songs on OL. 50027, and the Old French Airs sung by Souzay on D.LW509I• An attractive exception is Music of the Middle Ages on V.PL8110. Religious music is more rewarding. Decca bring Byrd'S Masses for four and five-voices, beautifully sung by the Fleet Street Choir (LXT2919), and Vox some splendid Venetian Motets (PL.8030 and 8610), sung equally beautifully though with a very different tone, bright and hard, by an Italian choir. From a slightlY later period Lully's Miserere (OL.DL53003) is dull, but Vox issue some more Buxtehude Bolo and, choral cantatas, on PL.7620 and 7430 respectively, which although not all so well sung as the two Bach cantatas (Nos. 51 and 202) by Danco on D.LXT2926, yield nothing to them in beauty—sublimity even, if one dare use the word.

Bach and Handel are both fairly gener- ously recorded. Bach's Six Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin are superbly played on D.LXT2951-3 by Telmanyi, using a 'Bach' bow to secure smooth and simul- taneous chording, and eliminating the sense of strain that is the obstacle to many listeners' enjoyment of these works. Edmond Bayens gives a stylish performance of 'the C major Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello on T.LGM65023, and Jeanne Demessieux two' well-chosen groups of organ pieces oh D.LXT2915 and D.LW5095. Handel fares less well in instrumental music, with only two of the Concerti Grossi from Op.6, finely played by Boyd Neel on D.LX3124, and four dull Organ Concertos (Nos 13-16) on V.PL78021-2. The opera composer, however, gets a long overdue hearing on V.11,80121-2, an excellent German per- formance, in acceptable Italian, of Giulio Cesare, the two middle sides of which have many glorious numbers, and in Apollo e Dafne on OL.50038, less understandably chosen but well sung, also in Italian, by Ritchie and Boyce. Finally there is the Decca Messiah on LXT2921-4 (complete recording from the original manuscript), which arrived too late for review last Christ- mas but may be recommended unreservedly for this as in.-every respect a near-ideal version.