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.