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Label : Archiv
Format : Flac (image + cue)
Cover : Yes

In 2013 a 55-CD collection from Archiv Produktion surveyed the influential label’s history from its first recordings in 1947 to date. The label follows up with a second “original jacket” big box, focused this time on analogue stereo recordings from 1959 through 1981. Perhaps the best place to start is with items new to CD.

Fans of the Loewenguth Quartet’s sensitive and reserved way with Haydn and Mozart will enjoy a disc of unfamiliar string quartets by early classical-period composers Pierre Vachon and Nicolas-Marie Dalayrac. Ralph Kirkpatrick’s only recording of the Bach Inventions (sound clip) revels in the clavichord’s subtle nuances and capacity for vibrato (a complete DG/Archiv Kirkpatrick box would be most welcome!). Marcel Couraud’s vigorous, full-bodied 1962 recordings of Rameau’s Pigmalion and excerpts from Les Indes Galantes are welcome alternatives to the rigid, self-aware performances that often transpire today in the name of authenticity.

Tenor Peter Schreier’s lovely 1978 disc of Weber songs accompanied by guitarist Konrad Ragossnig, Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata performed on a genuine arpeggione (a short-lived guitar/cello hybrid), and an early Jordi Savall release devoted to Italian canzoni also make their CD debuts. Although Helmut Walcha’s “farewell” anthology of pre-Bach German organ works appeared on CD in Japan, its first “international” release restores an important part of this great musician’s discography to the catalog. Walcha’s forthright, no-frills style and honest technique always struck me as the organ equivalent to Otto Klemperer’s conducting.

Among more familiar items, Pierre Fournier’s Bach Cello Suites plus Karl Richter’s Bach B minor Mass and Magnificat held reference status for years. It’s interesting to hear Heinrich Schütz’s first sacred work, the Psalms of David, with relatively large forces in Hans-Martin Schneidt’s 1971 recording in comparison with Cantus Cölln’s 1998 Harmonia Mundi traversal with only one singer to a part.

The 1973 Jürgen Jürgens Monteverdi L’Orfeo has not worn well over time in comparison with more colorful, instrumentally varied versions, including the groundbreaking first Harnoncourt traversal. But the 1967 Charles Mackerras Purcell Dido and Aeneas is dramatically alive in every moment, and features Tatiana Troyanos in the earlier and better of her two recorded versions: what elegant legato control in the famous “Lament”! A 1972 Balinese Gamelan Music LP got lots of attention at a time when this repertoire was less accessible to Western audiences than today. In fact, I remember seeing multiple remaindered LP copies at my local Sam Goody outlet for 99 cents, and all I can say is that I was stupid to pass up a bargain and a gorgeous disc!

The Melos Quartet’s cycle of Cherubini quartets is a great example of how boring, workmanlike music can sound like deathless masterpieces when performed to this ensemble’s impassioned and meticulous specifications. And we get the complete two-CD incarnation of David Munrow’s Music of the Gothic Era that was stupidly abridged for the earlier 2013 Archiv box and one of the DG 111 collections.

Individual collectors, of course, will discover their own revelations over the course of these 50 discs. Mine was Telemann’s Der getreue Music-Meister, a collection of varied vocal and chamber works that appeared over 25 issues of a subscription periodical. Although Harmonia Mundi brought out a more textually complete and stylistically “authentic” recording in 1993 that included the project’s non-Telemann contributions, the Archiv release benefits from superior singing all around. Thanks to project manager, annotator, and compiler David Butchart, this collection adds up to an impressively varied survey of artists, repertoire, and interpretive styles in an era when period performance practice thrived in an exciting state of flux.

Complete tracklist : Archiv Produktion – Analogue Stereo Recordings 1959-1981