Michael Tippett: Divertiment on “Sellinger’s Round”, Little Music for String Orchestra (Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner), Sonata for Four Horns (Michael Thompson Horn Quartet), Concerto for Double String Orchestra (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai). EMI British Composers 5 86587 2 (2005), barcode 724358658729
Concerto recorded in November 1984 at Concert Hall, Poole Arts Center, Bournemouth
Divertimento and Little Suite Recorded 14, 15 & 18 February 1995 and Sonata for Four Horns on 12 & 14 May 1995 at Henry Wood Hall, Southwark, London,
Buyer, beware: a deceptive reissue by EMI
Originally posted on Amazon.com, 29 January 2014
Now, EMI has really NOT been helpful on this one, if not downright deceptive. In 1995, they published, in their British Composers series, a Tippett CD of Neville Marriner conducting his Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, CDC 5 55452 2, in the Divertimento on Sellinger’s Round, Little Music for string orchestra and Concerto for Double String Orchestra, joined by the Michael Thompson Horn Quartet in the Sonata for Four Horns (link will open new tab to my review). Most of the British Composers’ publications are reissues from EMI’s catalogue from the LP or early CD era, but these were brand new recordings, made in February and May (Sonata for Four Horns) 1995. Fine.
But then, in 2005, EMI reissues the recordings, in the same British Composers collection. It is EXACTLY the same cover art, “Coronation Year”, “the sixth Aldeburgh Festival”, “complete programme book six shillings” – in fact, in faint print, the reproduction of the program book from the 1953 Aldeburgh Festival which had commissioned and premiered, under Britten’s baton, a collective work, the Variations on an Elizabethan Theme / Sellinger’s Round, from Arthur Oldham, Tippett, Lennox Berkeley, Britten, Humphrey Searle & Walton. Subsequently Tippett used his own contribution, the second variation, “Lament”, in his own Divertimento on a Sellinger Round. The recording of the Aldeburgh premiere of those collective variations has been reissued by the ever-entreprising Australian Eloquence, 442 9521, barcode 0028944295214, as a filler to Britten’s recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
So, using that cover art on a CD boasting Tippett’s Divertimento is already a bit deceitful, since, although springing from the 1953 Variations, Tippett’s Divertimento is NOT the same as the 1953 Variations, no more than Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony is the same as his Eroica Variations for Piano, although both (the Symphony’s Finale) use the same theme. But that’s menial.
The aggravating circumstance is that, though the covers of the 1995 original issue and the 2005 reissue are nearly indistinguishable (the earlier one is faintly pinker) so as to make the confusion not just easy, but very probable, IT IS NOT EXACTLY THE SAME PROGRAM THAT IS REISSUED: for some mysterious reason, in 2005, Marriner’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra has been discarded, and replaced by Rudolf Barshai’s recording of the Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage, made with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in November 1984.
Now what his the rationale of that????? Barshai’s recording was the first ever Tippett to come out on CD, on EMI CDC 7 47330 2, where it was paired with… the Concerto for Double String orchestra (barcode 077774733021). Note that this was NOT the same recording of the Concerto as the one also on EMI’s catalog and often reissued on CD (first on a twofer from the Studio mid-price collection in 1991, CMS 7 63522 2, an indispensable building block in any Tippett collection), made in 1962 with the combined forces of Barshai’s Moscow Chamber Orchestra and Menuhin’s Bath Festival Orchestra. And while the 1962 version was uniquely vehement and passionate, the 1984 remake was uniquely slack and sluggish. Is that why EMI got rid of it in their 2005 reissue? The 1984 Barshai/Bournemouth CD with Ritual Dances and Concerto for Double String Orchestra was never reissued, but can still found very cheap on the marketplace.
So what’s the idea, EMI? If they were going to reissue Barshai two decades after its original release, why not ALL of it, with two rather than three complements from Marriner’s 1995 program? Why keep covers so identical that everybody is bound to get confused and fooled? I certainly was! Oh, sure, the little white square on the front cover is clear that its Ritual Dances and Barshai rather than Concerto for Double String Orchestra, but given the size and definition of the cover photos on Amazon’s entries, who’s going to scrutinize that to make sure what they’re buying? I didn’t, and I didn’t because I didn’t even suspect there might be a hitch…
Anyway, bottom line: unless, for some bizarre reason, you absolutely want that specific combination, better take advantage of the cheap prices on the marketplace and buy both the original Barshai/Bournemouth and the original Marriner. I did – but only after realizing I had been fooled. Benefit from my experience.
I’ll reserve my comments on the music and interpretations to the reviews I will soon post under the two other CDs. This one goes directly to the “for sale” box, without even a listen.