This remastered analog collection from London features two works that Solti recorded decades later in digital sound in Chicago, the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra and the Dance Suite. Both CDs contain a third work, the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celestra from Chicago and the Miraculous Mandarin Suite from London. Since these are all acclaimed recordings and Solti's Bartok was one of his strongest composers, I thought a side-by-side listen would be helpful.
Sound: Decca set out to produce sonic spectaculars in both cases, and in both cases succeeded. The earlier analog sound from London is miked closer and is free of digital edginess. The new remastering of the Chicago recordings has successfully removed the sting form the original CD issue, and though the CSO sits farther back, the sound has great visceral impact. Let's give a slight edge to Chicago.
Execution: You might assume, especially after reading the reviews at Amazon, that the CSO plays so spectacularly that there is no comparison with the London Sym. But Solti was both a powerhouse and a technician. I can't hear that much difference, except that the LSO's wonderful precision of attack isn't quite the super-precision of the CSO, especially in the violins. On the other hand, the LSO soloists play with more personalaity. Call it a draw.
Interprettion: Solti's Bartok was always fast, fierce, precise, and a tad clinical. Not for him the looser phrasing and warmer tone of Ivan Fischer. Having set his interpretation in place, Solti didn't change his timing or phrasing except by indignificant degrees. These two Concertos for Orchestra have an identical approach. However, the Dance Suite form London is hair-raisingly exciting, which isn't true of the Chicago version. And the Miraculous Mandarin Suite from London is even more thrillingly brutal; Solti gives this music the shock treatment, to great effect. By comparison, his MFSP&C from chicago is decidely lackluster.
In the end, it's the couplings that sell me on the London collection. For sheer excitment, Solti's earlier Dance Suite and Miraculous Mandarin qualify as two of his best recordings. As for the main attraction, both versions of the Concerto for Orchestra come out essentially equal.