This is another of those delightful Mercury box set reissues featuring a number of standard repertoire works married with the modern and avant garde. Antál Doráti was definitely a trailblazer in various fields of classical music but here the focus is on late romantic and 20th century works.
The first disc includes what can be termed as model performances of Stravinsky's 'Firebird' Suite, 'Le Sacred u Printemps' and Four Etudes. I was bowled over by the brilliant LSO's playing, particularly in 'Le Sacre' which fairly bubbles over with energy and vitality. The same goes for 'Pétrouchka' which although rather laid back, is still quite impressive.
The second disc is dedicated solely to Prokofieff. The Fifth Symphony is given a masterful interpretation, almost challenging Karajan for top spot and is also recorded in what can only be termed as astonishing sound. Both the 'Scythian' and 'Love For Three Oranges' are also beautifully done although the emphasis is slightly on the cosmetic side here.
I was enthused by Doráti's reading of Gershwin's 'American in Paris' although Bernstein is hard to surpass here. Copland's 'Rodeo' and the works by Schuller and Bloch also come alive in a most interesting way.
Richard Strauss is not a composer you would normally associate with Doráti but he brings great verve and passion to 'Don Juan' and 'Till Eulenspiegel' whilst his version of the ethereal 'Tod und Verklärung' is truly transcendental. I also enjoyed his arrangement from 'Der Rosenkavalier' which is quite memorable for its ravishing potpourri of themes.
The final disc includes popular works by Albéniz, De Falla and Smetana with two excerpts from Mussorgsky's 'Khovanschina' and is an ideal way to bring this mammoth set to a close. Nothing further needs to be said, except for the fact that Doráti brings colour and passion to the works in question with the Minneapolis Orchestra on top form. A short biographical note by Robert Layton adds allure to the proceedings and fans of colourful interpretations and hi-fi orchestral sound cannot fail to hesitate in purchasing this set.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech