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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Flute Concerto (1925) [18.38]
Clarinet Concerto (1928) [23.17]
Helios Overture (1903) [10.03]
Pan and Syrinx (1918) [8.14]
Rhapsodic Overture (1927) [10.02]
Maskarade: Overture and Prelude to Act II (1905) [9.07]
Julius Baker (flute)
Stanley Drucker (clarinet)
New York PO/Leonard Bernstein (concertos)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy (Helios, Pan, Rhapsodic Overture, Maskarade)
rec 1950s and 1960s, no precise recording data given, ADD

SONY ESSENTIAL CLASSICS SBK87749 [79.01]



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These recordings last appeared in harness as part of the Sony Classical set including the Bernstein and Ormandy symphonies and the concertos (minus the Violin Concerto). That four disc set was CD45989. That set was deleted and replaced by a Sony Essential Classics collection of all six symphonies. This was warmly reviewed here last summer (2002). Ormandy surprised me with his ebullience and humanity in the First and Sixth symphonies. The playing of the Fabulous Philadelphians also helped. However his overtures and shorter pieces are unremarkable. In Helios he seems almost dismissive lacking the real bloom this sunrise of a piece needs and gets in the hands of Blomstedt (his first recording with the DRSO in 1975). He is not helped by a vicious string sound which is severely stressed (listen at 3.42). Much the same can be said of the other short pieces though Pan and Syrinx has its moments (uncannily like Delius’s A Walk to the Paradise Garden). The Maskarade pair is better with the rippling energetic approach and concentration evident in Ormandy’s version of the First Symphony fully on display.

If we move away from Philadelphia and depart for New York we come to the main reason why any collector would be advised to get this generously timed disc. The Flute Concerto has Julius Baker as the rebellious and endearing character actor tweaking the colossal frame of the orchestra and almost getting a drubbing from the ripely muscled brass section. This was just Bernstein’s sort of material and the same can be said of the more subtle Clarinet Concerto. Drucker and Bernstein spit sarcasm and vitriol. There is a taut humour from the expostulation to the final fruity snarling slides of the trombone.

Recommendable for the rambunctiously read concertos. The smaller pieces are not quite the bonus you might have hoped for.

Rob Barnett



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