This set as been a constant presence
in the catalogue since the early 1990s.
It has no direct competition as a modern(ish)
three CD box also including Prometheus.
However if you can live without the
Poem of Fire then you can get
a Double Decca of Ashkenazy with the
Berlin Deutsche Symphony Orchestra (460
299-2) or Inbal and the Frankfurt RSO
on a Philips Duo (454 271-2).
It is a long while
since I heard the Inbal and I confess
that I have not recently heard the Ashkenazy.
However this Muti box is very strong
indeed and at less than Naxos price
its virtues are irresistible.
I still recommend the
Svetlanov set on Melodiya and its various
licensees but the raw and vibrant sound
on that set will be too much for some
tastes. On the other hand Muti can be
confidently commended if you must have
authentic insight and sentiment as well
as voluptuously rounded sound.
Muti and EMI make a
good case for the oft-slighted Mahlerian-scale
First Symphony - in six movements mark
you! As a touchstone try playing
the last two movements. The Allegro
has an incongruous fusion of despair,
doomed hope and endurance in an emphasis-accented
undulating theme which Muti crowns superbly
in the last two minutes. He is very
close to Svetlanov in this. At 5:04
the swoon of the strings rings convincingly
with a reputation established by Stokowski
and Ormandy. The finale's exalted hymn
to art is wonderfully carried by the
choir and the soloists; Michael Myers
The five movement Second
Symphony is gloomily introspective but
Muti again gives it vitality and propulsion.
There are some Rachmaninov-like moments
in the allegro and wistfulness
in the andante. Much of the doom
carries over from Tchaikovsky’s Manfred
and Francesca and ploughs inexorably
forward into the earlier symphonies
of Miaskovsky. The Maestoso has
a straining grandeur which takes a little
from Glazunov - say in the finale of
the Eighth Symphony.
The Poem of Ecstasy's
ebb and flow must be discerned and responded
to if anything is to be made of the
piece. Muti does this in spades. He
terraces dynamics with considerable
spirituality and sensuality. I still
like the Järvi and Chicago version
(Chandos) which is recorded with all-out
colour however it lacks the pliancy
Muti brings to the table. Listen to
his barking and undulant waves of sound
at 06.30 and to Kaderabek's imperious
trumpet. The coarse rasp of the Philly's
trombone 'gang' at 7.15 is one of the
The Third Symphony
is in a more conventional three movements:
Luttes, Voluptés and
Jeu Divin. The same interpretative
qualities apply as to the first two
numbered symphonies. Jeu Divin
moves along at a smartish clip. Muti
makes a good case for the work although
its thematic material is rather slender.
Outstanding work again from the Philadelphia
the most recent recording. Alexeev (well
known for his Medtner and Shostakovich)
lays into the solo part with defiance.
The rhapsodic flux and hieratic character
recalls for me the Temple movement
of Bax's Symphonic Variations,
Griffes' Pleasure Dome and Loeffler's
Those with tolerant
ears and minds will want to try the
individually available Golovanov mono
discs on Bohème which sound as
well as they ever have but which are
still primitive audio.
After this all you
will be without is the Piano Concerto
which you must on no account miss. You
can pick this up in a version in which
Viktoria Postnikova is the soloist (Chandos).
In addition to the
audio tracks Brilliant have also licensed
from EMI Bernard Jacobson’s supportive
have issued a splendid set with sumptuous
sound and a propulsive pulse. Pity though
about the old-style double-width case;
it would have been better presented
in a slim-line wallet. This is however
a superficial gripe; a good yet far
from predictable choice if you would
like to add the orchestral Scriabin
to your collection.