This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This set may be the best in the Great Conductors series. Mitropoulos is shown at his considerable best, charging the music with nervous tension while controling long musical spans.
Here's a set that shows Dimitri Mitropoulos at his considerable best in music that plays to his strengths. He charges it with a nervous tension that can be overwhelming, but he also controls long musical spans and makes easeful transitions. He's reminiscent of Furtwängler, a conductor he admired and whose awkward conducting technique he shared (Mitropoulos was the only conductor I ever saw who conducted with his elbows, along with other body parts).
His 1959 live Cologne performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony was
long cherished by Mahlerians who endured wretched sound on obscure pirate labels. It's now in a very well transferred 6-disc box of Mitropoulos' Mahler on Music and Arts as well as on this set from EMI, whose transfers are on par with those of Music and Arts. Both have full-bodied, detailed sound that makes previous releases obsolete. Although Mahler really needs modern stereo for full effect (the hammer-blows here don't exactly make the floor rock), this performance's quality helps compensate for that lack.
Another great Mitropoulos Sixth, from 1955 with the New York Philharmonic, is in the orchestra's expensive, essential box of all the symphonies under various conductors. Both that one and this from Cologne four years later are searing performances, and the Cologne strings and winds even match the virtuoso New Yorkers, whose magnificent horn and brass sections may tip the balance. In 1955 Mitropoulos placed the Andante as the second movement and the Scherzo third. In Cologne those movements are reversed, anticipating a practice sanctioned by the later Critical Edition. Both have the forward drive, energy, and committed playing to keep you on the edge of your seat. And they're even more impressive when we realize that the Sixth was a rarity at the time, having been premiered in America by Mitropoulos in 1947, 41 years after its completion.
Disc 2 opens with five orchestral movements from Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette, in which Mitropoulos generates a tremendous amount of heat while respecting the composer's classicism. It opens with a tumultuous outburst before soaring strings introduce the lyric quality we find in Mitropoulos' generously phrased "Roméo Alone" section. The ball scene and other action-packed passages are memorable, but what's most unique here is the conductor's molding of the lyric sections, especially the Love Scene, joining tension and poetry. The Philharmonic's marvelous strings, cutting brass, and wind solos are full of feeling and grace.
The turbulent La Mer is far removed from the typical color-drenched seascape we often hear, perhaps too far to be a preferred version but nevertheless a fascinating reading full of spontaneity and drama. Finally, in Mitropoulos' hands Salome's notorious dance is far from the showpiece-filler it usually is when torn from its operatic context. This one's supercharged in the Mitropoulos manner, less a sensuous strip-tease than a descent to the depths of depravity. All three works were Columbia LPs recorded between 1950 and 1956 in good, clear monophonic sound.
This set may be the best yet in the Great Conductors series. The good news is that the transfers are superior to most of the others. Unreservedly recommended.
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 6 in A minor "Tragic" by Gustav Mahler
Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1904/1906; Austria
La mer by Claude Debussy
New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1903-1905; France
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