America in the 1950s and 1960s hosted some of the world’s finest chamber groups. One has only to think of the Budapest, Stuyvesant, Yale, New Music, Fine Arts, Juilliard, Hollywood, Paganini and Guarneri String Quartets, not to mention such stellar aggregates as the Festival Quartet, the ‘Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts’ ensemble and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, most of these combinations (and more) signed to the RCA-Sony stable. Many have made it to CD (though the wonderful Festival Quartet still awaits a dedicated boxed set), the Boston players most recently in a 10-disc collection (Boston Symphony Chamber Players: The Complete RCA Album Collection, Sony Classical 19439946802, c£45.00), the featured repertoire ranging from Mozart for winds or strings with or without piano, Beethoven’s winsome Serenade for flute, violin and viola, Piano Trios, Quartets and Quintets by Brahms and Schubert (with masterful pianists Richard Goode and Claude Frank), Spohr’s Nonet and a varied array of twentieth century pieces by Webern, Copland, Villa-Lobos, Colgrass, Poulenc, Martinu, Dahl, Milhaud, Piston, Carter, Fine, Haieff, Hindemith, Villa-Lobos, Coker and Barber. As to the players themselves, you could hardly hope for better; all are top-of-the-league … violinist Joseph Silverstein, flautist Doriot Anthony Dwyer, bassoonist Sherman Walt, violist Burton Fine, cellist Jules Eskin, oboist Ralph Gomberg and so forth, class acts all of them who made the Boston Symphony what it was in the mid-1960s. And I can’t resist mentioning the bonus disc which finds the endlessly entertaining raconteur Peter Ustinov in musically illustrated conversation with Silverstein and Boston SO Maestro Erich Leinsdorf. Track 11 of the last CD also includes Ustinov talking about aspects of music that interest us all, posing as a mythical European avant-garde composer who has found ‘the 13th note’ and written a piece based on the resulting principle. He even ‘performs’ it, mimicking all the instruments in the process. A hugely enriching set this, and an ideal Christmas gift, smoothly transferred from excellent analogue originals.