Here is a further double gap-jawed bite into Universal's
vast back catalogues at Philips, DG and Decca. The generosity of the
selection is clear enough from the timings of the CDs.
After a super speedy Sheba Arrival a sentimentalised Largo paves the way for Levine's smashing Jupiter (which I really loved). Very exciting. Then after all that pumping rush a chill-out - Plasson leads us contentedly through Honegger's summer pastorale with birdsong and soughing trees. This lulls us before Fiedler drops us into the febrile Hollywood glare of the Khachaturyan. One begins to notice a pattern here. It is there in the Sheba, the Holst and the rushing hustle of dramatic music. We drop back exhausted ready for the gently lapping and rocking adagio by the same composer. Gergiev and his Kirov orchestra are under-powered and pace the great climactic trumpet calls in too relaxed a way by comparison with the composer on an all-Khachaturyan BMG Melodiya twofer.
The famous Litolff Scherzo glitters and flickers along with punch and a dancing step. Ortiz is notably well coordinated with Atzmon and the RPO. True to formula the Mascagni Intermezzo provides caramel stickiness leading to Leo Vinland taking us through the mournful Last Sleep of the Virgin (Massenet) - rather boring I am afraid. Karajan has no such difficulty with Mussorgsky's Kovantschina Intermezzo nor for that matter with the delectably rolling and rocking Offenbach Barcarolle that follows it. The Dance of the Hours (yes, the very one appropriated by Stubby Kaye) is succeeded by a four-square Kappellmeisterisch Marche Militaire from Kna and the VPO. Chailly's are the last two tracks on CD1. The Shostakovich Gadfly Romance is done rather tremulously by Erez Ofer and the Tahiti Trot prettily plays out the disc.
The second disc has a good Vltava from Karajan and Comedians' Dance as a light interlude. Fiedler rustle-bustles rudely through Stars and Stripes Forever and then, who else but Karajan, gloops his way disappointingly through the great adagio from Sleeping Beauty. His Sugar Plum Fairy doesn't quite work either. He is much better in the Dance of the Flowers and returns for four tracks of orchestral Verdi but only after Barenboim and the ECO have regaled us with a slightly affected version of Greensleeves. Karajan's sentimental way with the Verdi orchestral bonne-bouches does not help matters. The last four tracks are unhackneyed. The Waldteufel Skaters are propelled sluggishly along by Neeme Järvi. Wirén's March from the Serenade suffers in much the same way. Where is the crackle in this music?
Two discs of which the first is a right little cracker. The second just doesn't quite cut it.