The Greatest Harp Players of All Time: Top 100

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Jaqueline Du Pre had such a history with the Elgar concerto that it becomes increasingly hard for new performers to compare. In the end, you may as well stick with the definitive. Two giants of string music from the 20th Century are paired perfectly on this disc, and Sir John Barbirolli shows his formidable skill marshalling strings. This most famous classical guitar piece includes two gorgeous big-hitters. The open and cheerful first movement is delicately overcome by the dark, romantic second. One of the most notable operatic works of the 20th Century, Gershwin's classic is here given superb treatment by an all-star cast at Glyndebourne.

This could be the ultimate harp disc. Plenty of major harp concertos are covered by a range of superb performers - fingers at the ready…. Two giants of the keyboard are well and truly tamed with uniquely powerful interpretations from Murray Perahia pictured , all under the watchful baton of Sir Colin Davis. Well, Grieg doesn't get more lively than this.

These spirited dances are not only imbued with Grieg's homeland's dark beauty, but they're also played in rip-roaring style by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Glazunov was a crafty master of melody, and it takes a great orchestra to bring out the best of them. Fortunately, the Minnesota Orchestra are more than capable on this cracking disc. You really can't argue with Handel's Messiah, but there are so many recordings to choose from.

Luckily, we've done the hard work and concluded that you can't go far wrong with this LPO double-disc special from John Eliot Gardiner manages to coax out the sinewy intensity of the opening from one of Haydn's most free-form and experimental works. Involving and immersive stuff. Some of Haydn's best-loved symphonies performed with total ease and composure by a fantastic orchestra and Sir Colin at the height of his powers.

A treat from beginning to end. Well, openings don't come much bigger than Mars, the opening movement from Holst's best-loved masterpiece. Sir Adrian Boult doesn't pull any punches, and makes sure the intensity is there from the very first note.

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This impeccable cast recording brings out every ounce of frivolity in Kern's score to Showboat - much underrated these days. James Ehnes' inspired readings of these modern classics are to be cherished - three fantastic works played by a young violinist with energy and ideas to spare. This superb recording is full of verve and vigour, as well as some serious retro charm.

Along with the complete Chopin, this is basically an essential piano purchase. Bolet is an undisputed master of interpretation, and this exhaustive collection of Liszt works is a total treat.

Simon Rattle has made some unforgettable recordings of Mahler's Resurrection, but this one is the original and best. Another epic Mahler symphony, another epic performance. George Szell takes a firm hand with the fourth, and the results are a taut, rewarding experience. Mahler's fifth is among his more popular and approachable works, but it still takes phenomenal orchestra and conductor to make it as accessible as it sounds here.

Haitink pulls out all the stops for this choral barnstormer. Mahler has rarely sounded so big as he does on this epic recording.

One of history's greatest composers conducted by one of Britain's greatest composers - what's not to like? The trouble with Mozart recordings is that there are so many great ones to choose from. But when it came to Mozart's darkest opera, no-one handles it better than the Philharmonia and Giulini. This riotous performance of one of the most famous operas of all time all the hits are present and correct is exhilarating stuff.

Grab a translation, sit down and get lost in it. From the jittering overture to the huge climax, The Marriage of Figaro is a masterclass in comic opera. And who better to show us how it's done than the Philharmonia under Giulini? When it comes to the Horn Concertos, everyone tends to flock to the big-hitter, the Rondo from concerto no.

But Dennis Brain makes them all sound like hits - he's just that good. The great Dennis Brain presides over these horn works, with typically attentive and able assistance from Herbert von Karajan. This performance has a fine vintage, featuring the great Benjamin Britten holding the baton and the equally great Richter at the keys, delivering all the fun and frolics of one of Mozart's best piano concertos. The jubilation associated with the annual New Year's Day concert is well and truly captured here, with the traditional programme and Karajan's typically exuberant conducting.

The stormy Shakespearean relationship to end all relationships is duly thrashed by an effervescent Previn and the LSO - tenderness, stress and romance all the way. The bohemian idyll of Paris' Latin quarter is beautifully evoked by Puccini's score, but it's the cast that bring it to life on this scintillating recording.

It's not one of Puccini's better-known operas, but Gheorgiu and Alagna are magnetic as the two leads, and Pappano makes a sterling contribution from the podium. Maria Callas lights up La Scala with her radiant performance, but she is perfectly matched by the rest of the cast and, indeed, La Scala's Orchestra and Chorus. The great Stephen Hough presides over the Rach concertos with stylish flair, and the Paganini Rhapsody is every inch the romantic masterpiece under Litton's control.

This beast of a symphony is wrangled under control by Andre Previn, and the results are typically stunning. Nice shirt on the cover, too. Monster piano concertos, tamed by the fingers of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. What more could any discerning piano fan ask for? Who better than Herbert von Karajan to guide us through the orchestra works of Ravel, one of France's most lush and romantic composers? This innovative work features recorded birdsong a gimmick from the era when loudspeakers were something of a novelty , but it's the gorgeous, atmospheric orchestral work that lingers longer in the memory.

This exotic-sounding piece is given all the necessary heft and intrigue by the ever-listenable Gergiev. Few people have more recognisable overtures to their name than Rossini, and here they're given glittering renditions on this fun disc from Giulini and the Philharmonia. The Carnival of the Animals is always a joy to hear, but there's a great deal of maturity in this reading of the third symphony that makes it a real stand-out.

Clifford Curzon blends perfectly with the Weiner Oktett here, lending just the right amount of impish fun and nagging beauty to Schubert's Trout. Sir Thomas Beecham turns these early Schubert symphonies into real monuments, with perfect clarity and infinite details to explore. Swallisch's attention to detail here is the perfect compliment to Schumann's dense writing, and he manages to bring out the tiniest details with ease. The first symphony is among Shostakovich's most raw and confusing compositions, so Andre Kostelanetz makes it is brutally entertaining as possible.

Scintillating stuff. Here are some general suggestions to get you started. I will follow up with some specifics suggestions regarding strings, levers, etc. Probably the best thing you could do would be to attend one of the harp conferences like Somerset Harp Festival or Southeastern Harp Weekend or visit a harp center.

Find the one that speaks to you and go for it. It has ads from all the reputable harp makers. Check out their websites and find a couple that fit your budget and appeal to you. Give them a call or send an email if you have a question. Rent a harp if possible and get some lessons from a local harp teacher.

They usually have the experience to point you in the right direction. YOU will determine your success. If you really want to learn to play harp, you will learn to play harp regardless of the harp you start out playing. Pedal harps are the great big harps you see in the orchestra. Folk Harps, Celtic Harps, and Lever Harps all refer to non-pedal harps, and are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. These types of harps use sharping levers to change keys. Sharping levers are a much simpler system and much less heavy.

When it comes down to it, there are really two sizes of folk harps — floor harps and lap harps. A floor harp sits on the floor while you play it and a lap harp sits on, yep, you guessed it, your lap. Generally we recommend floor harps for the simple reason that balancing a harp on your lap while you try to learn how to work your fingers is an unnecessary complication.

But if you really want a lap harp—go for it. Floor harps come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what size harp you end up with I promise you that you will be able to find a stool or chair that will allow you to play your harp comfortably. If the harp seems too short, set it up on a small box or find a lower chair. If your harp seems too tall, find a higher chair or stool. So if you can only afford one volume of this series, which would it be? I refuse to say. Hear them all.

David Patrick-Stearns February Hoist with my own petard, I think. And, lo and behold, here is one. But permit me to join the chorus of acclaim for his elegance of phrasing, limpid tone quality captured in a demonstration-quality recording , tastefulness of nuance and ornamentation, and imaginative response to harmony and character.

Yet nothing is fetishised. Perfection — or something very close to it — is in the service of freedom. But how to apply that insight with discretion and variety, with humanity but without histrionics, is a rare gift. Blackshaw is one of the few who know how to make the music sing and dance without making a song and dance of it. Never have the 16 minutes of the first movement of the A major Sonata K passed more graciously, for me at least, and the acknowledgement of the Adagio marking for the fifth variation is exquisitely tasteful.

At the end of the C major Sonata K , how delectable is the tiny relaxation of pulse to allow the lowest register to speak. How subtly weighted are the fp accents in the slow movement of the F major, and how perfectly adapted to their harmonic environment. Even the wonderful Uchida sounds occasionally a fraction effortful by comparison.

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I can only hope for a set of the fantasies, rondos and miscellanea so that I can continue this paean. David Fanning January By common consent, Mitsuko Uchida is among the leading Mozart pianists of today, and her recorded series of the piano sonatas won critical acclaim as it appeared and finally Gramophone Awards in and Here are all the sonatas, plus the Fantasia in C minor, K, which is in some ways a companion piece to the sonata in the same key, K This is unfailingly clean, crisp and elegant playing, that avoids anything like a romanticised view of the early sonatas such as the delightfully fresh G major, K On the other hand, Uchida responds with the necessary passion to the forceful, not to say angst-ridden, A minor Sonata, K Indeed, her complete series is a remarkably fine achievement, comparable with her account of the piano concertos.

The recordings were produced in the Henry Wood Hall in London and offer excellent piano sound; thus an unqualified recommendation is in order for one of the most valuable volumes in Philips's Complete Mozart Edition. Don't be put off by critics who suggest that these sonatas are less interesting than some other Mozart compositions, for they're fine pieces written for an instrument that he himself played and loved. One factor strikes immediately: there is not a whiff of bygone reverential, even obsequious attitudes to Mozart that still cast faint shadows among some pianists.

But — how about this for a 19th-century throwback? Effects are clear in, for example, the Fantasia, K The fractional hiatus between left and right underpins the harmony in the first and third bars; and a similar hiatus in the D major section 2'25" lends added expression to its contrasting calmness. The staggered articulation is no mere anachronism. Point and purpose explained. It tightens harmonic tension and supports rather than accompanies treble lines. Be it high drama or lyrical contemplation, Pienaar scans phrases with a fluidity that releases the music from rhythmic inertia.

Ignore the odd insignificant pianistic smudge, because keyboard prowess is formidable. A much-mistreated piece emerges in a different light. Extend such thoughtful, profound probity to the whole set and you have interpretations where within the letter critically observed, a numinous potency breaks free.

Momentous Mozart. Absolutely no margin for error or insufficiency, nor indeed for anything at all approximate or generalised. The smallest units have been thought about, judged in relation to before-and-after and the long term, and then released into the air, beyond the confines of the instrument. And in the presto finale, where Brendel is choppy and rather slow, Goode is exciting as well as articulate and wonderfully adept at getting from one thing to another. He gives you the overview, too, often powerfully.

While admiring the flux of intensities, dynamics, shapes and colours he sets before you in the Rondo, I wondered three-quarters of the way through whether the totality was going to achieve enough weight. The shorter pieces, enterprisingly chosen, set off the great works admirably. Exceptional sound throughout — like the playing, quite out of the ordinary run. Stephen Plaistow June Period-instrument C minor Masses get better and better. Here that problem is largely avoided in a similarly grand acoustic: that, and the fact that the C minor Mass is a far more vocally orientated piece than the Requiem.

The edition used of this tantalisingly incomplete work is that by Franz Beyer, published in Beyer also contrived an Agnus Dei from the music of the Kyrie but that is not recorded here. As a package, the disc as a whole is certainly a winner; the Mass easily ranks alongside the period-instrument benchmarks. David Threasher December Purely on grounds of performance alone, this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years. John Butt brings to Mozart the microscopic care and musicological acumen that have made his Bach and Handel recordings so thought-provoking and satisfying.

For all the textual emendations this engenders, the actual difference as far as the general listener is concerned is likely to be minimal; while we Requiemophiles quiver with delight at each clarified marking, to all intents and purposes what is presented here is the Mozart Requiem as it has been known and loved for more than two centuries. The extremes of monumentality and meditativeness in the Requiem are represented perhaps by Bernstein and Herreweghe respectively; Butt steers a course equidistant between the two without compromising the work in its many moments of austerity or repose.

The choir is of only 16 voices, from which the four soloists step out as required. Blend and tuning are of an accuracy all too rarely heard, even in this golden age of British choral singing. The couplings are also carefully considered. The first is Misericordias Domini , an offertory composed in of which Mozart had a set of parts copied in While the Vienna concert is well documented, recent research has suggested that the Requiem or at least some of it was performed in a memorial to Mozart on December 10, — only five days after his death.

David Threasher May Instrumentalists often become conductors, and great ones; yet the number of singers who have successfully taken up the baton is remarkably small; but on the evidence of this recording of Mozart's Requiem, the distinguished German tenor Peter Schreier who was born in ranks high in that select company. The fact that he knows the score inside out and that he loves the music passionately, shines through the whole performance: I can think of few, if any, live or on records, that have struck me as being so totally committed to the spirit of this great work, or have made it sound like a finished masterpiece—despite the fact that Mozart did not live long enough to write the score out in full, and that it was completed by his pupil Sussmayr.

He is, as every singer should be, especially sensitive to the words, as well as to the music: one instance is his quite extraordinarily perceptive handling of the Recordare , in which the four soloists for once sing as if they really understand every word and inflection of the Latin text. The solo quartet is unusually fine and well balanced, and if I say that Margaret Price sings the prominent soprano part better than I can ever remember having heard it sung, this is in no way meant to disparage the equally beautiful singing of Trudeliese Schmidt, Francisco Araiza and Theo Adam.

There is no shortage of recordings to compare this new one with.

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But, for me, Schreier's performance is a revelation, and his recording is the one that I would take to my desert island if I had the choice. Robin Golding March It has been very lucky on disc, and besides this delightful set there have been several other memorable recordings.

The two sisters are gloriously sung — Schwarzkopf and Ludwig bring their immeasurable talents as Lieder singers to this sparkling score and overlay them with a rare comic touch. Add to that the stylish singing of Alfredo Kraus and Giuseppe Taddei and the central quartet is unimpeachable. The pacing of this endlessly intriguing work is measured with immaculate judgement.

When this, the latest, was produced it was universally hailed: as faithful a representation of the equivocal comedy as one could wish. Both Despina and Alfonso are played traditionally and with notable brio by Garmendia and Rivenq. The delightful Persson and Vondung make a wholly believable and vocally attractive Fiordiligi and Dorabella, and deliver their music in ideal Mozartian tone and style. Similarly Lehtipuu is a charming and wide-eyed Ferrando and Pisaroni a warm-voiced and personal Guglielmo.

They both woo with seductive charm. Alan Blyth June The recitative is sung with exemplary care over pacing so that it sounds as it should, like heightened and vivid conversation, often to electrifying effect. Ensembles, the Act 1 quartet particularly, are also treated conversationally, as if one were overhearing four people giving their opinions on a situation in the street.

As a whole, tempos not only seem right on their own account but also, all-importantly, carry conviction in relation to each other. Suave and appealing, delivered in a real baritone timbre, his Giovanni is as accomplished as any on disc. Alan Blyth August At last. Philip Hope-Wallace, reviewing the original release, thought that it was worth a year at a foreign university.

Well, I don't know if I'd go that far; but it is extremely difficult to choose between this and the Davis performance on Philips for non-stop momentum born of deep understanding of the musical expression of character and dramatic motivation. There is no doubt that the orchestral playing here is unsurpassed. From the depth and precision of the opening chords to the fugitive spirit of dance which no one else quite captures, the Philharmonia under Giulini become a second cast on their own.

So often the tiniest detail — the weight of a chord, the length of a silence, the linking curve of a phrase, the parting of the inner voices of the strings — stage-manages the drama more shrewdly than a good many theatre directors ever do. That having been said, I find Davis's pacing marginally more exciting.

Giulini does, one feels, occasionally hold back to allow a voice its moment of glory; and the Act 1 finale hasn't quite that thrilling inexorability as the dance hurtles from form to chaos.


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The presence of Dame Joan Sutherland does have its drawbacks as well as its glory. Her Donna Anna is never quite a ''furia disperata''; the comparative weakness of her lower register and her lack of real impulse in phrasing make her as a weak match for Schwarzkopf's Elvira as Te Kanawa's Elvira is for Arroyo's superb Anna for Davis. Only Haitink on EMI, it seems, with Vaness and Ewing, has a pair equally matched, at least in dramatic credibility: Glyndebourne's team casting is, of course, its great strength.

Schwarzkopf's Elvira, together with the orchestral playing, is the glory of this Don Giovanni. Listen to their relationship in ''In quali eccessi'': it could hardly be more potent, more intensely Mozartian. She understands the rhythmic and melodic psychology of her every second on stage. So does this Don Giovanni: though Waechter's thrusting physicality and diabolic laughter leave us just short of the sheer fascination of Wixell's hunter Davis or Allen's chilling seducer Haitink. The casting of the smaller parts doesn't make for such vibrant theatre as in either Davis or Haitink; but the care originally lavished on the production by Walter Legge is celebrated in remastering which cuts out glare and distortion, while losing none of the depth and perspective which belong uniquely to Giulini's reading.

Hilary Finch December By general consent, the performances of Don Giovanni in Sir Peter Hall's production at Glyndebourne in were considered profoundly satisfying, and therefore a special achievement in a work so hard to bring off both on stage and on the gramophone. Now that achievement is mostly confirmed in a recording that is definitely the peer of those that have gone before and possibly their superior in several respects. Giovanni is certainly the most recorded of Mozart's operas, so the work must be much in demand among collectors who, like Giovanni in his search for women, seem unsatisfied by the available choice.

They ought to find the new version solving many of their difficulties. In the first place, as with so many recommendable ones of operas these days, it has the best of both worlds: the experience of recent stage performances refined under studio circumstances — including one significant change of cast. Then it has in Haitink as cogent a conductor as any who have gone before. He is as much aware as Bohm of the importance of rhythmic impetus and natural flow, also of vital detail — such as the wind gurglings in ''Meta di vuoi''. Tempos, with the possible exception of a sluggish ''Vedrai carino'', are well judged, and the dramatic impact of Giovanni's damnation scene is quite as earth-moving as with Davis Philips or Bohm.

A special word of praise must be given for the handling of the recitative, which really has the feeling of a live performance and is accompanied with just the right amount of embellishment by Martin Isepp. Many appoggiaturas are now allowed by Glyndebourne. This is a cast dominated, as much as was its live Glyndebourne predecessor, by its protagonist. Thomas Allen conveys, by voice alone the saturnine quality of his Giovanni, even without the help of his leering, daemonic portrayal.

Yet the charm is there as well, both in a seductive Serenade excellent mandolin and a confident, easily declaimed Champagne so-called aria. Van Allan makes the character a likeable ruffian, and sings the part as well as any rival on record. I particularly like the way he distinguishes in recitative between asides and conversation by a clever use of mezza voce , a technique he also uses in ensembles. The partnership between him and Allen has become intuitive through the experience of the Glyndebourne run, and is much appreciated. Lionel Salter has pointed out in the past the difficulty in deciding the precise situation of the two donne.

On this occasion both are very positive ladies. Carol Vaness's Anna, so imposing in the theatre, is both bold and impassioned, hardly an inexperienced girl yet properly outraged by Giovanni's behaviour. Her singing is forceful and risk-taking, not so smooth and efficient as Margaret Price for Solti Decca , sometimes glaring at the top, but more responsive to emotional predicaments. Vaness is an important soprano whom we shall hear more of on record. Maria Ewing is the newcomer to the cast I referred to earlier, but you would hardly know it from her involving, often poignant singing, particularly in the recitative before ''Mi tradi'', itself sung with the runs made part of the worried expression.

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Her tone sometimes has a roughish edge to it, which rather impairs the Mask trio, and that may be because the role lies a little high for a voice poised between mezzo and soprano. You won't hear the full, creamy tone found in either of Te Kanawa's Elviras for Davis and Maazel , but I think the dimension of hurt pride and intense determination tells us a lot about Elvira that more placid, better-equipped singers, such as Zylis-Gara Bohm , can miss. Mellifluous is the word for his delivery of both arias, the voice lighter and smoother than Schreier's Bohm , sweeter too, but less positive, and not negligible in characterization Hall portrays him as rather elderly.

Elizabeth Gale's Zerlina, impetuous and confused on stage, conveys those attributes on record, but the voice itself hasn't the charm of Popp Solti. John Rawnsley is a Masetto very well worth Zerlina keeping, with more obvious presence than most. Kavrakos sounds a little too gentle for the Statute, ideal though for the opening scene's Commendatore. As in all Glyndebourne performances, the sum is often greater than the parts, and the cast works together as a team better than any save Walter Legge's assembly for Giulini HMV.

For that, for Haitink's interpretation, for the most lively delivery of the recitative since Giulini's version, and for at least four of the principals, I would make this my Giovanni choice, not to overlook a well-balanced, unobtrusive and therefore typically EMI recording. Bohm, whose version is about to be reissued by DG, may in some respects be more mature and magisterial than Haitink, but this theatre recording is hampered by stage noises, while Solti, in contrast, sounds studio-bound, and his version spreads over four records. No, I shall now keep Haitink close by Giulini at medium price for regular listening: both take you deep into this opera's world of dark tensions and make you aware of the subtleties of orchestral texture and the symphonic stature of the musical forms.

Alan Blyth July In the context of his production Kent rarely puts a foot wrong. But his assumption of Giovanni is completely convincing. His most important relationship, as Finley puts it in one of the two bonus features, is with Leporello, each character both irritated by and dependent on the other. Finley sings as well as he acts, apart from an oddly unhoneyed Serenade.

At the end, the besotted Elvira touches the corpse of Giovanni, who lies in the same position as the murdered Commendatore — a nice touch. The singing is fine and the OAE play like angels. Richard Lawrence August That is all amply confirmed in this finely balanced, intimate recording. In the Overture and some of the early numbers, Christie is inclined to clip his rhythms with accents almost brusque, but once the Pasha and Konstanze appear on the scene, he settles into an interpretation that evinces the elevated sensibility that informs his Rameau, Handel — and indeed Die Zauberflote — on disc, strong on detail but never at the expense of the whole picture.

But then he has by his side a Konstanze to stop all hearts. In the great Act 2 Quartet and the last-act duet, where Mozart peers into his musical future, she is just as moving and inspires Bostridge to equal heights of tender inflexion. At first you may, as I did, find Bostridge lightweight for Belmonte. Like her mistress in her role, Petibon gives us a Blonde to make us forget just about every other soprano in the part on disc. She plays with and smiles through her opening aria with a delightful freedom of technique and expression, nothing daunted by its tessitura, even adding decorations to the already-demanding vocal line the whole recording is literally adorned by small embellishments, naturally delivered.

She maintains this high standard throughout in a winning performance.

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Christie includes all the recently rediscovered music, as does Gardiner, but the choice of dialogue is markedly different, with Christie opting for a shorter script than Gardiner; Hogwood includes most of all. Its delivery is easy and idiomatic. As I have suggested, the recording is excellent. Christie is now my recommendation if you want a period-instrument recording, with Bohm still there as a benchmark on modern instruments. Alan Blyth March Unless and until further research proves otherwise, this version will remain the definitive recording of Mozart's early masterpiece for a long time to come.

That is not to say I shall make a bonfire of the sets listed above, each of which has special features to commend it, merely that Gardiner—who has written how much he owes to Mackerras and Harnoncourt in finding the right route to interpreting the work—has given us a reading that seems to accord as closely as can at present be discerned with both a performance of Mozart's time of which he gives ample evidence in his accompanying notes though nothing is conclusively proved and one that sounds thoroughly authentic in the best sense.

Those who attended any of the three live performances from which this set has been made will confirm that they were evenings of thrilling music-drama. On those occasions Gardiner experimented with mixtures of the various plausible arrangements of the existing music. Then at a further concert, he performed alone the fullest version possible of the opera's final scenes, a fascinating experience, though one that in context of a stage performance might tire both singers and audience alike.

Here we have the best of all worlds. In the main recording we have a composite version of the surviving music for Munich In practice Gardiner's choices seem the right ones. Thus we have the longer, more elaborate ''Fuor del mar'', the shorter of the sacrificial scenes, the briefer of the two brass versions of Neptune's pronouncement and the ballet music.

All were cut by Mozart before the premiere but make sense in the context of a recording. In the appendices on the end of CD2 are bits of recitative from Act 2, the longer of the sacrificial scenes, the longer of the brass versions of Neptune's pronouncement plus the setting with wind—marvellous , and the scene in Act 3 for Elettra that replaced her aria.

This complete recording minus only the simpler versions of ''Fuor del mar'' and the shortest version of Neptune's music offers the intending buyer three, very well-filled discs.