This set as been a pretty constant presence in the
catalogue. It has no direct competition as a three CD set also including
Prometheus. If you can live without the Poem of Fire than
you can get a Double Decca of Ashkenazy with the Berlin Deutsche SO
(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 heard the Ashkenazy set. However this Muti box is very
strong. It is at bargain price now having dropped from its mid-price
People are now well aware of my recidivist procilivities
and so will not be surprised to hear me recommend the Svetlanov set
on any Melodiya licensed label if you can find it. However Muti can
confidently be commended if you must have authentic sentiment and voluptuously
rounded sound and insights.
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 a strongly oxymoronic
fusion of doom and endurance in its emphasis-accented undulating theme
which Muti crowns superbly in the last two minutes of the movement.
He is very close to Svetlanov in this. The finale's exalted hymn to
art is wonderfully carried by the choir and the soloists and Michael
Myers is outstanding.
The five movement Second Symphony is gloomily introspective
but Muti again propels it along. There are some Rachmaninov-like moments
in the allegro and wistfulness in the andante. Much of
the doom carries over from the Manfred/Francesca tribute
from Tchaikovsky and ploughs inexorably forward in 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 and terraces dynamics with evident insight into spirituality
and sensuality. I still like the Järvi Chicago version which is
recorded with all-out colour but it does not have the pliant ebb and
flow of the Muti. Listen to Muti's barking and undulant waves of sound
at 06.30 and to Kaderabak's imperious trumpet. The coarse rasp of the
Philly's trombone 'gang' at 7.15 is one of the glories of the set.
The Third Symphony is in a more conventional three
movements: Luttes, Voluptes and Jeu Divin. The
same interpretative qualities apply as to the first two numbered symphonies.
The Jeu movement moves a long 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 brass choir.
Prometheus is the most recent recording in the
set. Alexeev (well known for his Medtner and Shostakovich) lays into
the solo part with defiance and petulance. The rhapsodic flux and hieratic
character of the piece recalls for me the Temple movement of
Bax's Symphonic Variations, Griffes' Pleasure Dome and
Loeffler's Pagan Poem.
Those with tolerant ears and minds will want to try
the individually available Golovanov mono discs 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.
This is a splendid set with sumptuous sound and a propulsive
pulse. A safe yet far from predictable choice if you would like to add
Scriabin to your collection.