The greatest recordings you have never heard

The greatest recordings you have never heard


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2014

It has taken about a decade of negotiation, but the Westminster catalogue is finally out – much of it for the first time on CD, which means a whole generation has been denied access to this music. None has ever been available before on download.

It includes the earliest recordings by the Amadeus, Barenboim, Bream, rare as square cucumbers…. Clara Haskil, Hermann Scherchen, oh, just click to read the review. It’s my Album of the Week on Sinfini. Aan unqualified five-star.



  • Mark Barrett says:

    (I thought I might reproduce my comment on Sinfini as I was so pleased to see new attention being devoted to this collection.) Very interesting indeed to see commitment to this fascinating and often unusual catalogue and I echo Norman’s comments. I had the privilege of being asked to research and produce the Millennium Classics CD series back in the 90s – in which we included a special Scherchen Edition. With limited resources, a substantial series was produced from the vaults at Universal, which were intriguing to research. We had a lot of support from MCA and, between their great technicians and the excellent former Sony team in Hamburg under Marcus Herzog, we were able to bring quite a few recordings to light for the first time on CD – with multi lingual notes in Spanish as well as English French and German, much to the pleasure of Latin American affiliates! Hermann Scherchen’s daughter was at the centre of the research on her father’s legacy – and into the mix, for the lower priced line, we were able to include a few American Decca recordings that required immense care to restore and remaster. There were also those mysterious and strabgely credited “Eric Johnson & His Orchestra” recordings, probably one of the Vienna orchestras under, possible, Kurt List who, I seem to recall, was a credited conductor on Westminster. Millennium was wonderful to work on and sold in very well but all too quickly, given the production values, became the victim of the then Universal regime, following the merger of MCA with DG/Phillips/Decca and so was relatively short lived. Smart retailers worked hard to keep collectors aware of the series over succeeding years but it’s hard to find references. There will be much to enjoy in this new line and I wish it success!

    • Stefan says:

      Hi Mark,

      I was one who managed to secure some of the Millennium Classics, imports in their strange two-cd frame/cd-rack package, including Monteux’s Beethoven 9, Knappertsbusch’s Bruckner and the Leinsdorff Mozart series. And also the Leroy Anderson recordings, which sadly disappeared from my collection. Are they available somewhere?

      Kurt List’s article on hi-fi recording is great reading!

      • Mark Barrett says:

        Hello Stefan, see my reply to you and Gene below! I can’t recall the 2CD set packaging? DId we use the slimline jewel boxes? As I remember, the higher price “Editions” had comprehensive booklets in English, French, German and Spanish so would have needed the standard double jewel box of the day.

  • Michael says:

    Only a mere 40 CDs are issued here down from a Korean edition back in 2013 which issued the complete Westmister legacy in 2 mighty boxes :

    Volume 1: 59 CDs Chamber Music plus Instrumental

    Volume 2: 65 CD Orchestral Music plus Concertos

  • Aaron Alter says:

    I have a collection of Westminster LPs of Mozart Symphonies with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Philharmonic Society of London that are fantastic.

  • ed says:

    I hope the collection also includes the magnificent Westminster recordings of Antonio Janigro. For those of us in the 60’s who had no money, buying Westminster at Sam Goody’s was always a great deal, and the Haskill and Scherchen LPs are still much valued and enjoyed- as well as the Badura-Skoda, etc., but for this student, the Janigro, they were the best.

  • If the grand high poobahs at Uni are smart (and with the exception of Liz Sobol, I have serious doubts), they would do well to look at every recording omitted from the present set (which represents a pretty solid sampling of the label — though several titles worthy of the “Best of…” category are conspicuous in their absence) and issue one or two follow-up boxes.

    • Mark Barrett says:

      HI Gene and Stefan, when I compiled and produced Millennium I personally explored the Universal vault and, with the help of the great person in charge there, found every tape so that we could master everything ‘fresh’. We bypassed even the earlier local few CD editions that MCA had released to make everything as state of the art as we could. The brief was, largely, for a low price line that could compete with DG/Philips/Sony/EMI but a survey of the quirky Westminster /American Decca tape collection made that something of a tall order since there was never really a range of core repertoire that would meet with the marketeers requirements in full! It required some creative compilations and careful design work. But we did it, somehow! And we were able to put out some nice “Rolls Royce” editions honouring some of the great artists in named collections, like the one for Scherchen. The series Norman has reviewed – no one seems to know the provenance though I suspect someone at the present day Universal can enlighten us. My good friend at th Universal Studios vault and I are still in touch and he has no idea how this new edition came to light!! We took a lot of pride in Millennium at the time – being able to get out a mass market line enable us to have the luxury to produce the special editions. As is so often the way – and Norman is certainly no stranger to that – market forces and corporate seismic shifts shortened the life of Millennium; c’est la vie! I went on to produce BBC Legends after that so was able to to some more archive delving for some years to come!

      • Bill Eames says:


        I am grateful for the Millenium Classics item I have (Mahler 2 Scherchen). I am also grateful for reissues Universal has done (Haitink Philips years, among countless others which I have bought). With Abbado’s death, I would think that releasing the his recordings never put on CD (to my knowledge) would be a fine memorial to him. A prime example is Brahms Symphony 1, Vienna Philharmonic (approx 1983). Thanks very much, Bill Eames

        • Bill Eames says:


          Error. Sorry the recording of Brahms Symphony 1, Abbado, Vienna Philharmonic, was 1973, not 1983. LP catalog no 2563229. Nice performance, would be great to have that on CD someday. Thanks. Bill