Solti was always at his best in "orchestral showpieces," such as those contained in this Russian anthology from the early LP era (Tchaikovsky in mono from the Fifties and the other items in stereo from the Sixties). The latter are particularly effective, thanks to thrillingly virtuosic playing from the LSO. I confess that I usually find the Mussorgsky-Rimsky version of "Night on Bald Mountain" to be a crashing bore, but not here. Solti had me spellbound the whole way through. The Glinka *Russlan and Ludmilla* Overture and the Borodin potboilers from "Prince Igor" never sounded more involving than here. The Glinka is scintillating throughout, and the "Polovtsian Dances" fairly sizzle with excitement, though Beecham brought a special elegance to this piece that Solti cannot match. Yet there is sufficient refinement in Solti's approach to keep it from descending into vulgarity. The recordings for these LSO sessions are predictably spectacular: thrilling amplitude, pinpoint clarity, powerful bass register, rich string sonorities, characterful woodwinds, and judgment-day brass.
The Tchaikovsky "Little Russian" symphony is another matter. It is good to have Solti's one and only rendition of this piece; he does predictably well by it (though Beecham, once again, is more atmospheric). He is particularly successful in the repetitive finale, where he keeps things moving inexorably toward that climactic gong stroke and the helter-skelter denoument which follows. I wish I could say that the playing of the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra was worthy of the conductor's fizzing interpretation, but, sadly, their individual and collective efforts pale in comparison with the LSO discmates. Solti generates enough excitement throughout the work to justify an occasional listen (and the conductor's admirers will surely want to hear his interpretation), but otherwise this must be counted as a less than fully satisfactory "Little Russian." The very early stereo recording from Decca (1956) doesn't flatter the orchestra, either, but tends to expose its deficiencies mercilessly.
Whatever the deficiencies in the Tchaikovsky, I enjoyed this reissue thoroughly. I hadn't previously encountered any of these recordings, and they held me in thrall from beginning to end. Recommended to Solti fans, surely, but also to lovers of "romantic Russian" repertoire.