Ormandy's 1960s version of the Fifth Symphony complete
with outrageously (and I mean gloriously) over-the-top portamenti
in the first movement has not been dealt a kind hand by time. As far
as I can tell from this disc the problem is down to tape deterioration.
This is only evident in the first movement where any sort of massed
intensity causes spalling distortion. Not even Mason Jones' solo horn
song in the second movement nor yet the lithe waltz of the third can
quite redeem this problem. If you want to hear a world-beating off-the-beaten-track
recording then go straight to Vanguard's inspirational LSO Fifth with
Monteux. Alternatively the Mravinsky version set down by Deutsche Grammophon
while the Leningrad Phil were on a rare tour in the UK in 1960 will
suit if you crave the adrenalin-soaked temperament.
The Symphony is coupled with a durable and springy
Serenade for Strings taken at breakneck speed in the first movement.
With music-making of this pitch is it any wonder that Ormandy was happy
to pass a take that has someone's cough at 2.35 (track 5). It hardly
matters. The lengthy Elegia is played with surging feeling. The
luxury article that is the Philadelphia delivers plush strong sound
but also resounding attack.