My latest order of CDs arrived in the mail this afternoon and I couldn't be happier. Normally, what I order isn't anything to scream too loudly about. For the most part I order recordings that complete collections of pieces I've grown fond of over the years or they are recordings from musical ensembles I've grown to love. This time things were a bit different.
Among them was were a group of pieces by a little-known contemporary of JS Bach - David Heinichen's Dresden Concerti. Ah, Heinichen.......Who? Actually I hadn't heard of him either. But I certainly wasn't disappointed. The recordings were by Musica Antiqua Cologne. I don't have many works from this ensemble but I know them to be at the forefront of Baroque and early Classical music so they were a definite plus to my growing collection. Plus, the composer's name was Heinichen afterall, so when I ordered them I thinking that any composer named after a brand of beer had to be good. I wasn't disappointed.
This wasn't the piece de resistance though. I also ordered a number of recordings featuring piano works performed on the Steinway piano - a name I know all too well from my university days. This was a 20-CD box set of Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov to name a few performed by such giants as Vladimir Horowitz,, Alfred Brendel (love his Beethoven!), Vladimir Ashkenazy and Claudio Arrau to name but a few. I can't wait to dig into this one. When I think Beethoven, Brendel comes to mind and Horowitz in my humble opinion is the best interpreter of Chopin, bar none. Normally, I'd be happy with this. I mean, I grew up with a piano in the house and went to university for a music degree while specializing in piano. But, for the musical afficianado in me it gets even better.
What really had me excited was a set of 10 CDs chalk full of some pretty historical recordings - gems I never imagined I'd get my hands on much less even get the opportunity to hear - a 10 CD-set "20th Century Maestros". Yes I think I've died and gone to heaven. The recordings feature conductors I grew up hearing about - Furtwangler (always chuckled quietly about his name in music classes), Toscanini, von Karajan, Fritz Reiner and George Szell to name but a few. The recording span 1926 to 1951 and feature the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Czech Phiharmonic and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw among others.
I've only begun to scratch the surface of these CDs. But it is easily the best money I've spent so far on recordings. (The complete works of JS Bach I picked up a couple years ago does give these a run for the money admittedly). Much of what I have in my library was recorded in the past 30 years so i wasn't sure what to expect. The recordings bely their age certainly. They sound as if you're listening to them with an ear pressed up against a long tube but still, they are worth having for their historic value. Giving them a quick listen to earlier in the evening, they really make me pause and reflect, especially when it come to some of the works from the 1940's. Afterall, here we have some of the greatest works from the Western tradition yet at the time of some of the recordings, a great war was waging. Human beings are such a force for ultimate good or ultimate evil at times.
Philosphizing aside though, with a 1940 recording of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, a 1941 Symphony #7 by Beethoven (my personal favorite of all nine by the way), a 1948 of Beethoven's 5th (Vienna Philharmonic!), a 1942 version of Mozart's Symphony #41 and a recording of Mussorgsky's "Pictures from an Exhibition" from 1930 among a few other gems........yeah, I think I've died and gone to heaven.