BENJAMIN BRITTEN The Performer 4785672

If ever there was justification for owning two recorded performances of the same masterpiece by the same master musician, it's with the two versions of Mozart's Symphony No 40 that grace this invaluable 27-disc set . . . previously unissued Mozart recordings include a humbling account of the "Masonic Funeral Music" . . . Among other Lieder highlights, aside from the celebrated Schubert and Schumann song-cycles, is a comparatively late version of "Nachtstück" . . . virtually set afloat by Pears. And has ever a tenor become Gerontius quite as wholeheartedly as Pears does on Britten's recording of "The Dream" -- a performance that . . . strips away every vestige of sentimentality and reveals Elgar's masterpiece in all its profound glory? . . . I would still urge even hard-line period-performance advocates to try his Bach. The "Brandenburg Concertos" manage inner vitality without pushing for uncomfortably (and, dare I say, unmusical) fast tempi, with superb playing from members of the ECO. The "St John Passion" (with Pears as a compelling Evangelist) was a Britten favourite and his reading is mindful of both scale and meaning . . . And of course there are the instrumental collaborations, most effectively with Sviatoslav Richter in piano duets by Schubert, the great F minor "Fantasie" all spirit and sinew, and while both players are capable of achieving power and delicacy, they perform the piece as a single, sweeping entity . . . [the longer "Grand Duo"] again enjoys the benefits of these players' formidable pooled insights, which are also applied to sonatas by Mozart.