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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Best Sh Audio Tapes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2246  Monday, 11 November 2002

[1]     From:   Debra Murphy <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Nov 2002 13:34:34 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes

[2]     From:   Matt Henerson <
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        Date:   Saturday, 9 Nov 2002 00:37:50 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes

[3]     From:   Jim Slager <
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        Date:   Saturday, 9 Nov 2002 23:23:36 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Best Sh Audio Tapes

[4]     From:   Bill Gelber <
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        Date:   Sunday, 10 Nov 2002 15:04:27 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes

[5]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Monday, November 11, 2002
        Subj:   Re: Best Sh Audio Tapes


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Debra Murphy <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Nov 2002 13:34:34 -0800
Subject: 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?

My two favorite WS audiobooks both feature Gielgud--that voice!  The
first is the 1994 BBC Radio production of LEAR with Gielgud in the title
role and Branagh as Edgar.  Then there's Gielgud's recording of the
sonnets, which, alas, I think is OOP, but which one can sometimes find
at libraries.

Debra Murphy
http://www.bardolatry.com

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matt Henerson <
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Date:           Saturday, 9 Nov 2002 00:37:50 EST
Subject: 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?

Two related questions are relevant to this particular inquiry.  What's
the best that exists, and what's the best of what's easily obtainable.
There have been two major recordings of the entire canon (Argo/London on
LP and tape, and Arkangel on tape only), one major series that recorded
most of the plays (Caedemon), and any number of individual recordings
both of entire plays and abridgements.  Virtually all of these
recordings feature English actors.  There is an incomplete series of
Canadian tapes which has appeared recently in some American stores and
libraries--the examples of this which I have heard have been competent
but not noteworthy--and there are a few wonderful American oddities:
most notably a series of hour-long abridgements broadcast on radio which
feature Tallulah Bankhead's Viola, Edward G. Robinson's Petruchio, and
Humphrey Bogart's Hotspur.  Robert Vaughn also recorded excerpts from
"Hamlet," and Orson Welles' "Macbeth," "Merchant," "Twelfth Night" and
"Caesar" for radio have all been recently re-released on CD as has Paul
Robeson's 1940's "Othello."  There are also excerpted readings available
by both Maurice Evans (a transplanted Brit) and John Barrymore.

As to availability, much of the Caedemon catalogue has been re-released
on tape and some CD's, and the Arkangels are in virtually every
bookstore with a decent audio selection.  Bookstores like Borders and
Barnes and Noble will also carry some offerings from Naxos which include
Branagh's "Richard III" and Paul Scofield's most recent "King Lear" (He
also recorded it for Caedemon while or shortly after performing the role
in Peter Brook's famous production.)  It's also easy to find the three
recordings ("Hamlet," "Romeo," and Gielgud as "Lear") that Branagh did
for the BBC with his Renaissance Theatre Company.  Sadly, the
Argo/London series is now difficult to find in the United States,
although I often see individual LP sets at used record shops.  Anybody
interested in finding truly wonderful material is condemned to cherry
picking, since none of these series are particularly consistent.  Most
recordings begin life as straight-forward interpretations of the text,
and many are notable for individual performances rather than for
over-all brilliance.  Again, there are exceptions.  Zefferelli's "Much
Ado" is on LP with a dream cast (Albert Finney, Derek Jacobi, Robert
Stephens, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Frank Finlay, and in smaller roles
Lynn Redgrave, Michael York, and maybe Edward Petherbridge), and
virtually everybody speaks in broad Chico Marx-esque Italian accents
which make the whole production difficult to understand.

I've heard virtually everything by Caedemon and Argo/London, many
individual recordings, and several of the Arkangels.  These last are
newer, and feature actors like Brian Cox, Trevor Peacock, Simon
Russell-Beale, Cirian Hinds, Harriet Walter and Niamh Cusack.  I've
found much of what I've heard in this series over the top and difficult
to listen to for long.
My recommendations are as follws:

1. Caedemon "Coriolanus" w. Richard Burton and Jessica Tandy.  A
spectacular record of an electric performance which Burton gave at the
Old Vic in 1954.  Michael Hordern as Menenius doesn't hurt either.

2. Argo/London "King John" w. Michael Hordern.  These recordings can be
difficult to find, and when you have them, they do not always list the
casts.  There is a booklet that used to come with the LPs which lists
all of them, and since many of the smaller roles came out of the Marlowe
Societies of the 1950's, you'll find John Barton, Peter Hall, Trevor
Nunn, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, and Ian Holm in minor roles.  I
remember this "John" as a fast-paced., compelling reading of this
difficult play.  Hordern played the role at the Vic in 1954 with Burton
as the Bastard.

3. Caedemon "Henry V" with Ian Holm (Henry), John Gielgud (Chorus), Ian
McKellen (Dauphin), and Janet Suzman (Katherine.)  It's unusual to hear
this play in its entirety, and Holm is a fascinating Henry.

4. Argo/London "Much Ado" with Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft.  Enough said.

5. Argo/London "Hamlet" second series with Derek Jacobi, Timothy West,
Barbara Jefford and the Old Vic/Prospect company.  Argo completed the
cannon, and then released a several second recordings.  I can call to
mind "As You Like It" with Janet Suzman, "Julius Caesar" with Holm as
Cassius, "Othello" with Richard Johnson as the Moor and Holm as Iago,
"Twelfth Night" with Eileen Atkins and this magnificent "Hamlet" which
is, I believe, a direct recording of Toby Robertson's Prospect
production of the late 70's.  I wish I'd seen it.

6. Caedemon "As You Like It" with Vanessa Redgrave (Rosalind), Max
Adrian (Jaques), Stanley Holloway (Touchstone), and Keith Michell
(Orlando).  Redgrave and Adrian are as good as I've ever heard in these
parts, and the over all production is brisk and funny.

7. Caedemon's "Henry IV 1 and 2" with Anthony Quayle (Falstaff), Harry
Andrews (Henry IV), Richard Johnson (Hal), Michael Redgrave (Hotspur),
Edith Evans (Quickly), and Max Adrian (Shallow.)  There are several
alums of the 1951 Stratford Histories here, and the whole is
intelligent, entertaining, and moving.

There are also a number of noteworthy individual performances preserved
on record.  Gielgud recorded Leontes, Angelo (with Ralph Richardson as
the Duke), and Richard II for Caedemon, and full (although not uncut)
productions of Hamlet at least twice.  There is also a series of single
disc recordings most often found as Living Shakespeare that feature
hour-long condensations with some remarkable performances: Peter O'Toole
as Petruchio, Sean Connery as Hotspur, Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra, Maggie
Smith as both Rosalind and Viola, Sybil Thorndyke as Volumnia, Michael
Redgrave as Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard II, Donald Wolfit as Lear,
Ralph Richardson as Iago and many more.  Olivier released the complete
soundtrack (dialogue included) to his film of "Richard III" and there is
also a studio recording with the National Theatre cast of his
"Othello."  Both of these are of course less interesting since the
advent of video tape.

Anybody interested in more information of this kind is, of course,
welcome to contact me privately, but since this is a subject I've never
seen covered on the list, I thought an overview, however biased, might
be of interest.

Matt Henerson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Slager <
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Date:           Saturday, 9 Nov 2002 23:23:36 -0800
Subject:        Re: Best Sh Audio Tapes?

Arkangel.  They're great and always high quality.  Wonderful for
commuting or walking.  Or anytime else.

Regards,
Jim Slager

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gelber <
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Date:           Sunday, 10 Nov 2002 15:04:27 EST
Subject: 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2232 Best Sh Audio Tapes?

I thought the Caedmon recordings particularly good. They were released
on LPs but have since been re-issued on tape, I believe.  Often these
productions were cast with actors who had just played the respective
roles. Examples include Richard Burton as Coriolanus and Jeremy Brett as
Berowne in "Love's Labour's Lost" (I've never heard a better).

Sincerely,
Bill Gelber

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Monday, November 11, 2002
Subject:        Re: Best Sh Audio Tapes

I am a subscriber to www.audio.com 

 

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