Well and warmly performed, but....
David A. Hollingsworth | Washington, DC USA | 01/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Allow me to start off Szell's and Davis' accounts with Janacek's Sinfonietta and Tarus Bulba-Rhapsody for Orchestra after Gogol, respectively. If I am to compare Szell's and Davis' renditions of these works with Sir Charles Mackerras marvellous performances with the Vienna Philharmonic under London Decca (which I will by the way) then it is Mackerras who clearly has the upper hand. The Vienna Philharmonic sounds remarkably fresh and idiomatic, with Mackerras having truly the provocative phrasings throughout. The winds are simply majestic and compelling with the strings full-bodied and never under-nourished. Thus, Mackerras and his team clearly has the edge over Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic under Chandos (albeit slight, for the Czech team is still world class, with its conductor who's hardly less than visionary). For my money though, I would try Jose Serebrier's take of the works with the Brno Philharmonic (Reference label). There's something in that album with its added picturesque feel I find absolutely gripping.
However the renditions of both George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra and Andrew Davis with the Toronto Symphony are not without merits. Szell brings out the vividness and imagination in performing Sinfonietta well to the fore, although refinement and polish tend to be hit and miss in places, especially at the beginning bars of the work. The brass is especially rustic in places and the strings sound exposed, noticeably in contrast with the Viennese forces under Mackerras. Davis' performance of Tarus Bulba with the Toronto Symphony sounds more convincing and alert throughout, although refinement especially of the brass remains somewhat to be desired as well.
To my greater delight comes Ormandy's account of Kodaly's Dances of Marosszek and Dances of Galanta (originally in a Columbia LP album that also, incidentally, included his emotionally penetrating yet enjoyable Concerto for Orchestra). Ormandy was a composition pupil of Kodaly before the conductor decided to, well, embark on a conducting career. But the recordings here have a real sense of Ormandy's familiarity of Kodaly's sense of color & orchestral virtuosity. It's just a crying shame that this giant of a maestro chose to stop there and recorded no more of the great Hungarian's music. Nevertheless, the performances here are consistently well-played throughout, especially in the allegro vivace movement of the Dances of Galanta (the most stunning account ever in my opinion). The recording sound is more than respectable and appreciative and this CD overall is enjoyable, despite a few reservations on Szell's and Davis' performances of the Janacek.
Nonetheless, recommended, and warmly so."
Marcus K. Maroney | 10/20/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you're expecting a typically high-voltage, sharply played account at tempos on the fast side, don't buy this album. The Sinfonietta is a disappointment - Szell's tempos are sluggish, the playing is adequate at best and excitement is never stirred up quite as well as in other recordings (Mackerras/VPO, Bakala). The other items are similarly served in more colorful performances. The disc isn't bad by any means, just adequate.