Do you remember 'The Classic Sound'? Well, that has gone to be replaced by
the Legends, another skilful marketing ploy by Decca in resurrecting their
trusted and well tried mastertapes of such recordings as the Bernstein "Das
Lied' or the Brahms/Curzon/Szell concerto. Thankfully there has also been
room for some resurrections in this first batch of releases and none is more
welcome than this astonishingly vivid 'Romantic Russia'.
The LP was quite legendary in its day and after hearing the CD for many times,
I can safely say that the CD has recaptured all the warmth and bloom that
made that particular recording so special. Solti's brazen unbuttoning in
the 'Russlan and Ludmilla' serves for an ideal curtain raiser whilst
the soft and mystical tones of the 'Khovanschina' Prelude find the
LSO strings in admirable form. Rimsky Korsakov's arrangement of 'Night
on the Bare Mountain' is also thrillingly evocative with great rush from
the opening brass fanfares and a wonderfully trenchant central section.
Culshaw's expert production comes to the fore in the 'Prince Igor'
items, I can hardly imagine a better version of the Overture whilst the
Polovtsian Dances are almost orgiastic in their vivid intensity and sheer
sense of abandon. The delightful bonus to the LP items is a complete recording
of the rarely heard 1955 PCO Little Russian. Solti's reading is quick and
bitingly cut, in many places it reminded me of Maazel and the VPO in 1964.
The strong personality of this Hungarian firebrand was already in evidence
here with some daredevil risks especially in the Allegro moderato and the
rushing Finale marked Allegro vivo, it is really 'vivo' here.
Decca's presentation is ideal with some nice session photographs, original
facsimile LP reproductions (although why the Little Russian cover is in black
and white defeats me) and a CD that looks like one o those famous open reel
tapes. If there were one CD that I would snap up from this collection it
would have to be this one.