Charles Mackerras

Sir Charles Mackerras conducts Delius, Dvorák, Elgar, Suk & Vorísek

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For many, perhaps most, listeners, nearly everything about this set will be a surprise. The first surprise will be the conductor. Charles Mackerras is undoubtedly one of the greatest living conductors who, because he has not led one of the usual big European or American orchestras or conducted the same standard repertoire as other contemporary maestros, has never received anything like the recognition he deserves. But while there have been recordings of him leading superlative performances of Beethoven or Mahler symphonies, Mackerras is at his best -- at his most dedicated, his most incisive, and his most compelling -- in repertoire most maestros wouldn't touch with a 10-foot baton. That leads to the second surprise -- the music. On this set, Mackerras is conducting works that, for some reason, have fallen outside the standard repertoire. Who knows why? Josef Suk, who's represented by his Fantastic Scherzo, Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, and his Summer Tale, is easily in the same league as Strauss or Rachmaninov and, in Mackerras' persuasive performances, he sounds like their better. Frederick Delius, who's represented by his On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, his Brigg Fair, and A Song of the High Hills, may not be in the same league as Mahler or Sibelius, but in Mackerras' convincing performances, he sounds nearly as evocative. That leads to the third surprise -- the effect of a conductor's advocacy on a composer's reputation. As represented here only by the staggering Overture Zálivost (Jealousy), Mackerras' championship of Leos Janácek did more than anything else to establish that composer in the international repertoire. Those are three good reasons hear this set and the uniformly clean, warm Decca sound is one more.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 07:08
2 16:26
A Song of the High Hills, for wordless chorus & orchestra, RT ii/6
3 09:53
4 16:17
Enigma Variations, for orchestra, Op. 36
5 01:45
6 01:52
7 00:46
8 01:30
9 00:31
10 01:59
11 01:17
12 00:56
13 01:54
14 04:10
15 02:36
16 00:56
17 02:55
18 02:57
19 05:13
blue highlight denotes track pick