These are reissues of Capitol's vintage "Full Dimensional Sound" series, an answer to Mercury's "Living Presence" and RCA's "Living Stereo" lines. Erich Leinsdorf made these recordings in 1957-1960, and his glory days (for me, anyway) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and RCA Victor were still to come. Nevertheless, these performances are acceptable, and the "New World" is truly outstanding. The contrast between the well-groomed Philharmonia and the excitable, slightly disheveled Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra is immediately apparent on the second disc as one moves from Brahms to Dvořák. So is the contrast between the interpretations. The Brahms, apart from some excessive fluctuations in tempos, gets a standard middle-European performance. However, in the Dvořák, Leinsdorf and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra rediscover the symphony's long-gone power to thrill and charm. There's an informality to this recording that comes as a relief after the many weighty, Brucknerian interpretations (so un-American!) that have sucked the life out of this music.
The conductor's practical experience in the opera house serves the Wagner and Richard Strauss excerpts well. Note that Leinsdorf has arranged a curious synthesis of the two selections from Die Walküre, and that the Frau ohne Schatten arrangement is credited as his own. What compromises the Wagner recordings is the orchestra, particularly the strings, who turn the infamous scales that accompany the final restatement of the Tannhäuser "Pilgrims' Chorus" into an unpleasantly wiry trial. I didn't miss the Venusburg music this time around. As for the sound, it's quite fine, particularly in the selections recorded in the United States, which are more brash and "studio-y" - more "Living Presence" than "Living Stereo," for you audiophiles out there.
Copyright © 1996, Raymond Tuttle