Firstly, the Serenade is magnificent in every way. The sheer intensity of the vocal performances and beauty of the orchestral playing really do mean that this is a performance to return to. Those moments where all 16 soloists blaze at the same time really do make me wish that I had been there at the sessions. Such a fine performance may have been matched elsewhere (Matthew Best's version on Hyperion is just as good), but this would merit a place in anyone's collection just for the Serenade alone.
The Tallis Fantasia also suprised me. I loved this version find plenty of warmth in the playing, though I must admit that Norrington does seem to be reigning in the emotional impact from time to time. I assume that he was trying to avoid sentimentality - and this he most certainly does - but I think that the piece can handle even more expressive flexibility. You only have to hear Barbirolli, or even Andrew Davis to see what I mean.
The London Symphony is perfectly serviceable as a performance, but I wouldn't go any further than that. The sense of wonder distilled by Handley, Previn, Boult and Slatkin seems oddly missing, though there is much affection in the playing. Exciting moments abound, mainly thanks to the vivid engineering, but ultimately I have to say that time is better spent listening to those versions mentioned above.
I COULD suggest that you buy this for the Serenade to music, but the excellent version by Best is included on a disc that really defies criticism (what a magnificent version of the Christmas Carol Fantastia, and an even better on of the Five Mystical Songs!). So why get half of a great deal when you can have a whole one!
If you love having multiple versions of a work then you will find plenty to enjoy, but please don't make this your sole library choice.
A Stunning performance of No 2, very atmospheric first movement with the right propulsion, the differing sections merge seamlessly. Top Decca sound. This is my favourite A London Symphony. The two 'fillers' are also stunning.