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Evening Adagios.

Various composers and artists. Decca 289 470 780-2 (2-disc set).

Compilations and more compilations. The classical music industry is currently living off its old catalogue, which in some cases is a bargain for the music collector who needs to have everything. The latest is Decca with its "Adagio" series: this one reviewed, "Evening Adagios," plus a slew of others called "Romantic Adagios," "Violin Adagios," "Vivaldi Adagios," "Movie Adagios," "Baroque Adagios," and on and on, all two-disc, mid-price sets culled from Decca's back stock of big-name players.

There's certainly a lot of beautiful music to be had here, and one can hardly quibble about the performances, with artists such as Frederick Fennell, Neville Marriner, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Dutoit, Arthur Grumiaux, Pepe Romero, Pascal Roge, Jeffrey Tate, Colin Davis, Radu Lupu, I Musici, Riccardo Chailly, Karl Munchinger, and Istvan Kertesz doing the music-making.

To name just a few of the 30 items represented on the discs, there are the usual suspects: Debussy's Claire de lune, Barber's Adagio for Strings, Mascagni's Intermezzo, Faure's Pavane, Saint-Saens' The Swan, Bach's Air on a G String, Elgar's Sospiri for Strings, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and so forth. Apparently, Decca's interpretation of "adagio" is meant in the broadest sense, any slow movement, as many of the items included in the set are actually Andantes, Nocturnes, Andantinos, Largos, and the like. But a rose by any other name, they're all lovely and make for pleasant, easy listening.

The sound is all cleaned up and prettified, homogenized some would say, despite the fact that some of the numbers date back to the fifties. In fact, the opening piece, Claire de lune, was originally recorded by Mercury in 1959. It doesn't have quite the open airiness of the Mercury remasters, but it does blend right in with the digital efforts from as late as 1999. The whole set features clear, smooth sound, and I should imagine that's all that matters in this kind of material.
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Publication:Sensible Sound
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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