Legendary British Performers [DVD Video]

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EMI's Archive DVD of Legendary British Performers is likely to please most viewers with its enjoyable cross-section of performances by some of England's best-known artists. Many of the names on the program -- Jacqueline du Pré, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and John Barbirolli -- are household names to most modern classical aficionados. What's somewhat surprising is the selection of repertoire that EMI has selected for some of these better-known artists. No Elgar or Schumman for du Pré? Britten and Pears teamed together without actually playing any of Britten's works? Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra performing a relatively obscure Dvorák Scherzo? It would seem to make more sense to include the repertoire that made these legendary artists legendary in the first place. Some of the other artists may be less familiar to younger American audiences and are not necessarily thought of in conjunction with any particular piece of music. The performance of Dame Myra Hess, a pivotal figurehead in the survival of classical music in England during the war, is a rare treat to watch. Despite EMI's "warning" on the package, the sound quality throughout is generally very acceptable. While some narration and running background about the performances may be nice, the included essay is informative even, though reading an essay off the screen is not exceptionally comfortable on the eyes.