The London Philharmonic inaugurates its own CD label with a quartet of releases chosen to spotlight the four conductors who have played the most important roles in the orchestra's development over the past 30 years. Bernard Haitink and the late Klaus Tennstedt were successive principal conductors of the LPO in the 1970s and 80s; Kurt Masur is the current holder of that post and Vladimir Jurowski the orchestra's principal guest, who also works regularly with them in his role as musical director at Glyndebourne.
Masur's and Jurowski's discs of Russian music are the most recent recordings, laid down, like everything in this batch of discs from performances in the Royal Festival Hall, in 2003 and 2004. Masur's Shostakovich performances are beautifully crafted and technically well played. His approach works well in a lithe, lean account of the First Symphony but a little less effectively in the Fifth, where more drama and a more palpable sense of the savage irony in the music would have turned a fine performance into an outstanding one. Jurowski's Rachmaninov is exquisitely coloured, whether in the lugubrious greys and half-tones of the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead or the brighter colours of the transatlantic Symphonic Dances, where the conductor ensures that the suggestion of menace underpinning the music is never forgotten.
Klaus Tennstedt's legions of admirers will no doubt welcome his collection of bleeding chunks of Wagner taken from a concert in 1988. The rest of us might find it lacking in dramatic backbone and steely edge; this is Wagner with all traces of its operatic origins expunged.
The most exciting performance among these discs, however, is Heather Harper's account of Our Hunting Fathers, which is sandwiched between Haitink's typically eloquent and refined Elgar performances, and is easily the most vivid version of Britten's earliest masterpiece to appear on disc so far.
It's a promising beginning to the LPO's new venture, which aims to release up to a dozen discs a year. They come with full documentation, though something has gone awry with the timings printed on the Rachmaninov disc, and sleeve notes that assert Die Meistersinger was "Wagner's first and last attempt at comedy" don't inspire too much confidence either.