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Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Having recorded the concertos and complete piano solo works, Zoltán Kocsis continues to be the torch-bearer for Bartók’s music. And with his native orchestra everything sounds thoroughly idiomatic (whereas, for instance, fellow-Hungarian Solti’s Bartók had a personalised gloss) and full of gusto. The Hungaroton production offers clear separation and a wide soundstage, though this is accompanied by slight stridency in the Divertimento finale. The hapless drunkard in the fourth of the transcribed Hungarian Sketches should make listeners smile.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This retrospective – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Young Person’s Guide in two versions; Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Falstaff and Symphony 2; and Walton’s Symphony 1 – is almost entirely sourced from 1956 Westminster/Nixa stereo tapes. The one exception, an alternative YPG without narration, is taken from LP; the mono has Boult narrating. There’s a huge difference between the Walton here and Somm’s transfer from an inferior Pye LP reissue [HFN May ’10] – you’d hardly dream it was the same performance. Sound from the Walthamstow Hall is extraordinarily vivid and the Elgar Falstaff and Second Symphony are musically superb.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This offers a very different kind of listening experience from the classic Mercury Firebird with LSO/Dorati. There both sound and performance are upfront, confrontational (albeit exciting); Nelsons goes in for subtlety with soft playing that’s almost inaudible – the subject-matter is unmistakable with the ‘fluttery’ textures he achieves. The sound has an altogether more natural concert hall perspective too. Evidently performed with a very large chorus, the Symphony makes a complete contrast: taking us away from Stravinsky’s colourful Diaghilev period to a 1930 Koussevitzky commission with Latin texts and austere orchestration.