Recorded between 1952 and 1964 this generous compilation of mostly Mercury and Mendelssohn releases opens with a nifty yet not rushed account of the ‘Italian’ Symphony from Minneapolis, all the more enjoyable for the rhythmic precision that Antal Dorati (1906-82) obtains, although he is not insensitive to other aspects of the music, witness the shapely phrasing of the third movement. To Vienna and the Symphoniker for a Philips taping of selections from music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream – a magical and joyous Overture; a perky, lightly articulated Scherzo; a poetic ‘Notturno’ (horn-player up to the exposed demands); and a majestic ‘Wedding March’, an ideal prelude for undertaking solemn vows.
The rest features the LSO, including Henryk Szeryng’s sweet-toned and poised playing of the E-minor Violin Concerto, warmly and smartly accompanied, deft and detailed. Also present are bracing outings for The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) and the ‘Scottish’ Symphony (with some surprising tempos in the latter, although the gaps are too long between movements, which should be attacca) – if with no shortage of scene-painting.
Finally, Schumann’s only appearance here, his Fourth Symphony (in its 1851 revision), a superb performance – lucid, propelled, and flexible to ebb, flow and romanticism (beautiful violin solo in the second movement, the recently late Erich Gruenberg, maybe, he was LSO leader in 1963, replacing the BBCSO-bound Hugh Maguire). With repeats in place (Mendelssohn is not so lucky in this regard) and attaccas well-managed this is a cohesive interpretation for which Dorati clearly (and literally) has no difficulties with Schumann’s orchestration.
The booklet includes a full note from Antony Hodgson; reproductions of LP covers; dates, venues and control-room personnel; “special thanks” to Peter Bromley (a true ‘record man’) if with no credit given to the remastering engineer – whoever it is* has done a splendid job of fidelity to the originals, fresh, open and natural-sounding. Eloquence 484 0506 (2 CDs).
*Chris Bernauer (as advised)