on 13 August 2011
When you consider that these recordings were made in the early 1960's the sound that is produced is incredible. Add to that a fine conductor and orchestra, a magnificent pair of performances and the the Decca team under John Culshaw, then the winning combination here is unsurprising.
Solti was at times accused of being hard driven and loud but not so here. With the exception of some brass solos, these are cherished recordings and can be bought with full confidence.
on 29 June 2006
Solti's account of Resurrection Symphony is no dounbt one of the most powerfully moving, along side Klemperer's two recordings. As a great Wagnerian, Solti certainly knows how to achieve most profound dramatic impact in each climax right through to the very end without vulgar exaggeration. Pulsating Rhythmic energy, very emotional singing quality of the strings, and glorious brass, all hallmarks of his artistry are here. Both singers gives deeply heart felt performance, no less passionate than the conductor. The finale is very powerful with each voice of chorus articulated even in quietest moment, giving rich texture and warmth (in most of other recordings you hear mainly upper part feeblly humming), the climax is magnificent and noble without being bombasting. Sumptuously recorded. Coupled with equally very satisfying 1st.
on 24 November 2009
Solti's 1966 recording of Resurrection with LSO is no less powerful and profound than his famous CSO version recorded later. Actually most of explosions throughout the symphony are much fiercer than his later version. This is not the sort of cosmetically refined and artificially calculated Mahler of our time, but Solti's Mahler is as rough and violent as the Alpine nature itself. Only weakness comes at the very end of the climax where tension level drops a little. But I still give 5 stars for this as there are much more inferior recordings of recent years with 5 stars (Rattle, Chailly, Boulez etc ). No doubt one of the great recordings of this symphony along side Walter, Klemperer, Kubelik, Stokowski, Haitink, Levi.
For some reason, denigrating Solti's Mahler as brash and unfeeling has become increasingly prevalent of late, so I decided to test my own responses by returning first to his classic LSO recordings from the 60's.
The first thing to observe is how well the sound stands up: it is simply terrific, Decca producers John Culshaw and David Hervey exploiting the warm and spacious acoustic of the now sadly demolished Kingsway Hall to maximum effect, especially when the distant brass summons the dead in the "Resurrection Symphony" or in recreating the magical, fairy-tale opening of the First. The LSO has a few unsteady moments in the brass and is occasionally a little rough-edged in ensemble but that plays well in Mahler, especially in his more hectic passages.
I t might be true that when he recorded the symphonies a second time in Chicago Solti was sometimes harsher and gave the brass too much reign but there are excellent versions amongst them, especially his First, Fifth. Seventh and of course the Big Bang Eighth (which some hate but I like). However, many prefer to return to these earlier more nuanced and splendidly recorded LSO versions and I can see why. Solti is especially careful in his swift gradation of dynamics in the opening movement of the Second and the tenderer moments are given space to breathe. The Andante of the "Resurrection" is as gentle and bucolic as you could wish, just as he gets the gentle irony of the Klezmer music in the First, yet also he lets fly when necessary; Helen Watts sings the "Urlicht" in grave, stately style and with beautiful German diction, the Scherzo is giddy and dizzy, then Solti builds the finale with unerring pace to create a perfect balance between visions of the Apocalypse and glimpses of seraphic calm. Watts and Harper make a lovely duo - one of the best anywhere - and the choral climax is magnificent.
The First is as relaxed, genial and bucolic as it should be, with no hard driving but plenty of energy. Solti holds back until the finale, which is highly charged without being rushed. I hear nothing crude or over-stated, just a sustained sensitivity and dedication to creating the requisite Mahlerian sound world.
A great coupling.
on 8 March 2016
Solti's LSO Mahler First emerges into the morning light, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready for the day, and stays like that all the way through the symphony. Tempos are brisk, textures are clear, the recording is bright. It does not take itself too seriously. Personally I love it. The second is also, for the most part, taken briskly and with no nonsense. There are moments, for instance at the "last trump" before the choir enters, where the recording is magical. In neither symphony do I feel Solti's tendency to drive too hard is in evidence, but neither, especially in the "Resurrection", does Solti achieve the kind of cathartic transcendence that you experience - for e.g. - in Tennstedt's awesome LPO Live reading. The recordings are of their age, balances are superb and the sound is clean and pleasing - there is no harshness, but neither, especially in the Second Symphony, is there enough depth or body to really convey the music's power. In their way these are treasureable, and both performances are better than Solti's Chicago recordings. Five stars for the performances - one star deducted for the recording quality.