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BBC Legends (Beecham, Rubinstein, Fournier etc)

This is a valuable exercise in resuscitation of historic live broadcast performances by admired and well loved musicians. Details are conveniently displayed and updated on Amazon.UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/202-9464893-5397467 and the selection is already vast. Several have already been reviewed on Musical Pointers at http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/beethoven_schubertetc_shorts.htm. and most recently Horenstein's Missa Solemnis, highly recommended.

Of a new batch, Beecham is irresistible in Sibelius 2 - a concert attended half a century ago (December 1954) and I am delighted to have my memory refreshed and confirmed.

Fournier is endearing with Colin Davis in the Dvorak cello concerto (1973); less so with Francescatti/Sargent in the Brahms double. Likewise, Rubinstein is at his warm best in the Schumann concerto with Rudolf Schwarz (1957), an almost forgotten BBCSO chief conductor when he died in 1994; I found the Tchaikovsky No 1 with Guilini disappointing. A bonus track is his discussion of tradition (he disparages it) and money (helping Stravinsky on his way) with Michael Oliver, which brings him right back to life.

The repertoire tends to be standard canonic, but there are surprises; Arrau playing Schönberg is coming next month!

The BBC is launching a new CD Late Junction label to "explore the music, artists and composers of the future". We'll wait and see if that bridges the gap left by the destruction of so much contemporary landmark broadcasting that is not preserve in the archives or is trendy and bitty as is its eponymous programme.

BBC Legend CDs are sold at mid-price, so have to compete with Naxos in the historic reissue market; the notes are usually well informed, but many purchasers are likely to be of the older generation and those with less than perfect youthful eyesight may be irritated by print which is excessively small and pale; is there a shortage of printers' ink?

© Peter Grahame Woolf