Photograph of Mehta taken in late-January this year during rehearsals with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

At the end of May last year Decca issued a thirty-eight CD set devoted to Mehta’s complete Los Angeles Philharmonic recordings (and he has of course also been prolific in the studio with the Philharmonics of Berlin, Israel, New York, and Vienna).

Mehta was LA music director from 1962 to 1978, their Decca catalogue starting in April 1967 with a belting Tchaikovsky 4, this work recorded again when they set-down the composer’s six numbered Symphonies (Manfred bypassed, sadly).

Other Symphonies here include Beethoven (No.7), Bruckner (4 & 8:, Dvořák (8 & New World), Ives (1 & 2 – a shame about the cut in the Finale of No.1, and there’s a suspicion that the very opening of the piece is clipped), Mahler (3, 5 & 10’s Adagio), Nielsen (Inextinguishable) and Saint-Saëns (No.3, the one that is avec orgue).

Among the Richard Strauss items are a standout Don Quixote ( with Kurt Reher as the cello-characterised Don and viola-player Jan Hlinka impersonating Sancho Panza (both musicians were LAPO first-chairs at the time), and a glorious Heldenleben (David Frisina, violin), Alpine Symphony, Domestic Symphony and Zarathustra – all sumptuous in vintage Decca sound.

Showpieces include Boléro (as well as other Ravel), Pictures at an Exhibition (further Ravel, his orchestration of it, with Vladimir Ashkenazy essaying Mussorgsky’s original piano version:, The Planets, a Liszt triptych (, Scheherazade (Sydney Harth, violin), several well-known Overtures – by Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini, Johann Strauss II, Suppé, Verdi (also the latter’s Four Sacred Pieces) – and principal players featured as soloists in concertante works by Haydn, Vivaldi, Weber and Wieniawski ( … and not forgetting John Williams’s music for Star Wars and Close Encounters, and a truly excellent account of Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Twentieth-century adventurism includes music by William Kraft (born 1923, LA Phil percussionist and timpanist for many years from 1955, and Mehta’s assistant conductor for a spell), Schoenberg (as a teenager I got to know the First Chamber Symphony and the Opus 31 Variations from this Library-borrowed LP: and Varèse (including Arcana) … and, this also takes me back, my first recording of The Rite of Spring, SXL 6444, still thrilling in its impact – There is also a zesty and vivid Petrushka (1947 score says the LP’s label:, although the current annotation claims it’s the 1911 original).

Guest artists include Alicia de Larrocha (the ‘Emperor’ Concerto), Marilyn Horne (Mahler’s Wayfarer and Rückert cycles), and Gregory Peck (narrating Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, coupled with Kraft pieces – Other ‘classic’ Americana includes wonderful accounts of Appalachian Spring, An American in Paris, and the Overture to Candide: virtuoso playing guaranteed, with stupendous brass and percussion in Fanfare for the Common Man.

Each disc is presented with the LPs’ original artwork, always welcome, and the booklet includes essays and record-collectors’ information. Decca 485 0374 (38 CDs).*/CD/Zubin-Mehta-and-The-LA-Philharmonic-Orchestra-Complete-Decca-Recordings/6FWE0XLB000

Recent Mehta concerts…