Friday, January 27, 2012

Awards 2011 - Reissue

Liszt: Complete piano music
Leslie Howard

It would be nice to think that it was a foregone conclusion that Leslie Howard's immense and, let's face it, slightly insane project to record all of Liszt's piano music would win this award, but of course it's the nature of the Nereffid's Guide Awards that each release is judged in isolation on its own merits rather than on the basis of whether it is more deserving than others. But we needn't have worried. Noting that "Howard's abilities as a writer and investigative musicologist were essential to the series", James Harrington in ARG says "If all Liszt performances were as meticulously prepared as Howard's, we would cease to have Liszt detractors". What, do we still have Liszt detractors? I pity the fools. If you can't afford the 99-disc box you can pick and choose tracks on Hyperion's web site, which prompts the somewhat disturbing reflection that the first album in the series was released in 1985, a good 5 years before Tim Berners-Lee mooted the idea of the World Wide Web.

"French Music"
various orchestras/Thomas Beecham

Lou Harrison: Music for orchestra, ensemble and gamelan
various artists; Gamelan Si Betty; Brooklyn Philharmonic/Dennis Russell Davies

"Complete EMI Recordings"
Alicia de Larrocha

"Complete 78-rpm Solo Recordings"
Percy Grainger

OK, that answers that question then: when I created this category I wasn't at all sure what I'd end up with - would it be dominated by labels like Newton and Australian Eloquence, or what? Clearly box sets are the ones that find favour. Part of this is because of the somewhat haphazard way in which what you might call "mainstream" rereleases - things like Hyperion's budget Helios label and the major labels' opera repackagings - are treated by the review sources. Impressively proportioned box sets are more likely to get reviewed. It's nice to see Percy Grainger making an appearance in his anniversary year (and Chandos's Grainger Edition wasn't far off the pace), and as someone who's only now dipping a toe in the "focus on the performer, not the music" side of collecting, I'm glad to acknowledge EMI's churning out of large chunks of its archives. The Lou Harrison release sticks out a bit from this crowd: it's a straight reissue of four albums originally on the MusicMasters label.

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