Magazine article Gramophone

Returning to Mercury: Antal Dorati Is the Most Prolific Conductor Featured in a Second Box of Delights

Magazine article Gramophone

Returning to Mercury: Antal Dorati Is the Most Prolific Conductor Featured in a Second Box of Delights

Article excerpt

An overriding reaction to the first of the Mercury Living Presence box-sets (5/12) was the need for a second. Happily, Vol 2 gathers together, in one chunky cube, a further 55 highly collectable CDs. There's one attractive new arrival (actually a 'bonus' CD)--John Corigliano's Piano Concerto and Strauss's Parergon to the Sinfonia domestica (Hilde Somer, under Victor Alessandro) and a debut Mercury-label CD of a white-hot Rite of Spring that first made it to commercial silver disc in the context of Decca's collection of 38 Rites that I reviewed in May. Antal Dorati conducts the Minneapolis Symphony in 1953, pushing on the gas with marginally more eagerness than he did six years later in stereo. Other Dorati perennials include two versions of Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin, a hot-blooded, darkly insinuating and superbly played account of the Suite (in mono, with the Chicago SO, 1954) and, in stereo, a rather more strait-laced 1964 rendition of the complete ballet with the BBC SO. There's an all-Bartok CD that includes a superb Dance Suite (Philharmonia Hungarica, 1958) and a good Concerto for Orchestra (LSO, 1962) and a coupling of the ballet The Wooden Prince with Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta--the latter not bad, though not a patch on Reiner (RCA) or Mravinsky (Praga).

Dvorak's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies with the LSO show Dorati to have been as capable of conjuring storms (No 7, 1963) as implied sunshine (No 8, 1959). Rafael Kubelik's early-1950s Chicago New World and Prague Symphony recordings are worth hearing, although Kubelik went on to make more compelling versions of both in Europe. And there are three Beethoven symphonies with the LSO under Dorati, Nos 5, 6 and 7, the Fifth being among the finest available in what might roughly be called the post-Toscanini tradition.

Dorati's Tchaikovsky has in the past rather divided opinion, some responding more than others to its leanness and tendency to sidestep overt emotion. The Fourth and Sixth symphonies (both from Dorati's 1960s LSO cycle, which has already been released complete) are played with a combination of energy and interpretative dignity, the Fourth being in my view the finer performance. Romeo and Juliet is electrifying, as is, in its very different way, the complete Swan Lake ballet, a mono Minneapolis recording from 1954, hard-driven and with explosive timps that will give your subwoofers a bit of a shock, but the work of a man in love with the spirit of the dance. …

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