One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

alternatively AmazonUK AmazonUS


Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 (Scottish) (1841-2) [44:16]
Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 (Italian)^ (1833) [29:13]
Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 107 (Reformation)+ (1830-2) [32:06]
The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave), Op. 26* (1830/2) [9:32]
Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27* (1828) [11:27]
Athalie, Op. 74: Overture* (1845) [9:20]
Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde, Op. 89: Overture* (1829) [7:48]
Ruy Blas, Op. 95: Overture* (1839) [7:28]
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti, *Moshe Atzmon
rec. October 1975, +January 1979, Kingsway Hall, London; *August 1974 and ^July and September 1976, Abbey Road, London
EMI CLASSICS GEMINI 3817882 [76:27 + 74:52]
Experience Classicsonline

Veteran collectors, especially in the U.S., may be interested in this convenient "Gemini" twofer, including as it does an overture collection that never saw Stateside distribution, along with Riccardo Muti's Scottish Symphony, which might as well not have. 

Let me explain that last remark. The Scottish was originally one of a clutch of EMI recordings introducing Muti as a symphonic conductor -- he had, of course, previously recorded Verdi operas for the label. All three recordings - the others were Dvořák's New World and Tchaikovsky's First Symphony, Winter Dreams - reproduced with a peculiarly murky, grainy aural image - the reviewer for the late lamented High Fidelity described it as "furry". I had hoped that the CD would restore some of the missing sonic luster. 

At first, the digital processing appears to help. The slow introduction sounds smooth and bright enough; and while the exposition, beginning with strings alone, turns dull - sounding much as it did on the LP - each entrance of the wind instruments adds plenty of overtones. But as the movement winds on, the dullness comes to prevail no matter who's playing, and by the start of the Scherzo, we hear not only the strings but the clarinet as if from behind a scrim. If you crank up the volume, the result is harsher but no clearer. The intrusion of a low-range electronic buzz from 2:09 to 2:13 of the Scherzo suggests that technical problems may have dogged these sessions; at any rate, the sonic anomalies were clearly not exclusive to the U.S. Angel pressings - as we Americans had hoped, or feared - but a problem inherent in the original master-tapes. 

Still, we hear enough to realize that the performance is mostly nothing special. The first-movement introduction is straightforward enough, though the basses swell at the climax in an ungainly manner. Muti plays the second theme-group as if it were primarily about the rhythm rather than about the interplay of melodic fragments; it "dances," but it doesn't "sing." On the exposition repeat, the principal clarinetist does find the time to shape and color the theme, quite nicely at that -- and it's good to know they really did play the music twice. The Adagio slogs along, beat by ponderous beat: either Muti had no sense of its long line, or it was stitched together from too many short bits of tape. And patches of shoddy playing expose the conductor's "Defender of the Score" reputation as so much sham posturing. Rapid accompanying figures in the Scherzo and Finale are messy; the horns lag unconscionably behind the bass triplets at 4:42 of the Adagio -- this is not "good ensemble" as I've understood it. 

The companion symphonies are good but not great. The New Philharmonia players have no trouble keeping up with Muti's brisk, buoyant pace in the first movement of the Italian, but they've no time to make the passagework graceful, and in the development -- where the passagework pretty much takes over -- momentum inevitably flags, picking up again only when the theme returns. The closing Saltarello, however, is truly Presto, lithe and athletic. The Reformation offers the occasional freshly considered moment, as with the eerie, restrained reprise at 9:20 of the first movement, and the scherzo's easy, unforced swing. Otherwise, the predominantly moderate tempi and heavyhanded manner leave a workaday impression, exacerbated by dark, bass-heavy equalization. The reproduction in both works, while better than in the Scottish, is "canned" and unalluring. 

Like Muti's Scottish, the overtures served as EMI's calling-card for a young conductor - Moshe Atzmon in this case, who, like Muti, had already recorded for the company (Rachmaninov concerto accompaniments for Agustin Anievas, for those with long memories). Once past the obligatory Hebrides - no more or less than the players could have managed on their own: approximately executed, with a wooden, unshapely second theme - Atzmon shows a nice feeling for mood. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage begins spaciously, with the chattering winds livening things up; Ruy Blas, one of my own favorites, goes with hearty exuberance. In its sturdy construction and appealing themes, Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde recalls the Schumann concert overtures, minus the Angst, while the little-played Athalie persuasively projects that curious mixture of stately squareness and operatic drama that marks the composer's oratorios. An audible splice just before the fast section of Ruy Blas, and a few random balances, suggest mild technical insecurities on Atzmon's part; otherwise the orchestra sounds good. 

Even at "twofer" pricing, I can't see getting the present set just for four overtures. The principal competition - DG's budget disc under Gabriel Chmura - is similarly unremarkable. As for the symphonies, collecting them is not so easy: conductors who give us a fine Italian (Szell/Sony, Colin Davis/Philips) don't always proceed to the Reformation, while some of those who excel at the latter (Gardiner/DG, von Dohnányi/Decca) are less distinctive in the A major. Munch did both well enough, with the Boston Symphony (RCA), but the fifty-year-old (!) stereo has noticeably dimmed. His febrile, exciting Scottish (RCA), however, recorded some years later, still comes up vividly; so does Peter Maag's sensitive account (Decca). For a coupling of the other two symphonies, I'd try for the early Maazel/Berlin (DG).

Stephen Francis Vasta 

see also Review by Patrick Waller



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.