Pinned post, review in progress: please keep checking in for updates…

So, the sound is mono. It matters not, for, as Ein Heldenleben demonstrates (recorded December 1952), the reproduction is full and vivid, tangible and dynamic – typically so – and Antal Dorati (Minneapolis music director 1949-60) leads a thrilling performance, exhaled as a totality in one breath, bursting with detail, with a superb contribution from concertmaster Rafael Druian (1923-2002; he came to Minneapolis from the Dallas SO, also Dorati territory, then went to Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra, and finally to the New York Philharmonic and Boulez for the first few years of the Frenchman’s tenure). From Richard Strauss to Maurice Ravel, a complete Daphnis et Chloé (12/54, with a nicely distanced choir), not always the most-refined account (trumpets can be over-assertive) if certainly telling a story, attractively expressive and cohesive, suggestive of dance – true to Ravel’s ‘choreographic symphony’ – Dorati presenting one big, linked-inevitably, compelling picture.

Dorati’s reputation as an orchestra-builder is handsomely documented throughout, the Minneapolis Symphony (today the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä music director until recently) in consistently top form, heard characterfully in Britten’s Young Person’s Guide (11/54), Dorati quite broad with Purcell’s Theme and orchestra-sections’ introductions if more attuned to the Variations then assigned to individual instruments by “Mister Britten” (from Deems Taylor’s admirably straightforward narration, and YPG is also included without it, coupled with Ginastera’s Variaciones concertantes). Likewise recorded in 1955, Taylor contributes succinct primers to the ‘Suite’ from The Nutcracker (12/53), prefacing each of the eight composer-chosen movements, all stylishly performed and taken from Dorati’s complete recording, the first of his three versions. The integration of voice and orchestra in YPG is technically well-achieved, the illusion being that Taylor was also at the orchestra session; and, if wished, he can be programmed out of the Tchaikovsky to leave an enticing account of the ‘Suite’ itself.

Borodin’s Second Symphony is a great favourite of mine, flexibly delivered by Dorati with Imperialist grandeur, emotional fire, agility and shapely phrasing; remarkably vivid sound for February 1951 and the – typical – use of a single Neumann microphone (I wouldn’t put Dorati above Smetáček,, but I am pleased to know it), as it also is for the 1919 ‘Suite’ from Stravinsky’s 1910 Firebird, captured during the same two days of sessions – both remastered (as are some other tapes here) by Thomas Fine, the son of these recordings’ producer and engineer, Wilma Cozart & C. Robert Fine) – the music leaping off the page and not just ‘Infernal Dance’, although there are a few textural tweaks that are more Dorati than the composer. From there to The Rite of Spring (12/53),, all over in half-an-hour plus a minute; plenty of excitement and percussive vividness if too propulsive at times, although no charges can be made of this being a showpiece rendition, and the severe technical challenges that the Paris-premiere performers had faced forty years earlier, Monteux conducting, are simply non-existent in Minneapolis.

Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, incorporating Fanfare for the Common Man, was written for Boston and Koussevitzky, premiered October 1946, with Dorati making the first recording, 2/53, since when a concert performance from 12/47 with Szell and the New York Philharmonic has appeared. Dorati’s pioneering version remains exactly that, sympathetic, powerful and arresting, played with virtuosity, heart and soul. Contemporaneously, Koussevitzky also commissioned Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. Dorati’s 12/53 version – following Reiner/Pittsburgh and Karajan/London (Philharmonia Orchestra) – is impressively alert, appreciative, individual and impassioned.

To be continued, including… the three Tchaikovsky ballets (eight LPs have become six CDs; looking forward to those). Dorati made twenty-four mono issues for Mercury (with two in Chicago), embracing, to come (for this survey), Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Debussy, Gershwin, Respighi, Schubert. Those twenty-four are presented by Eloquence as they were first-released on LP and with the always-welcome original artwork, as well as excellent annotation: essays, photos, recording dates. Repertoire and other information for what is a great set, including many ‘debuts’ on CD, can be found here,

June 11: Robert Russell Bennett’s masterly Porgy and Bess – A Symphonic Picture (after the Gershwins’ opera), recorded Feb 1953, is brought off with much style, affection and energy; fizzing and fruity playing for music that Dorati would return to when recording for Decca in Detroit a couple of decades later. These Minneapolis sessions also embraced Morton Gould’s Spirituals for Orchestra, to my mind somewhat overblown in places, too clever elsewhere, if very well performed; CD 4 contains a vibrant Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade (4/52), Druian’s violin enticingly spinning the girl’s stories, his colleagues colouring them with eloquent solos and vivid tuttis, Dorati ensuring this is a page-turner performance without indulgence or exaggeration (orchestral discipline serving the music); and, on CD 3, as a Russian complement, from April 54, a Tchaikovsky Five that – although yielding, and with a nicely sotto voce horn solo in the second movement – knows where it is going and gets there with certainty.

Eloquence 484 4064 (31 CDs) is released on June 16. Dorati’s stereo recordings in Minneapolis for Mercury are due soon,, including celebrated remakes and music then new to their discography.

Mozart: Sonata in E-minor for Piano & Violin, K304; George Szell & Rafael Druian. CBS; released 1968. Two movements.