Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K525
Orchestral Suite in D, BWV1068 – Air
Concerto grosso “fatto per la notte di natale” in G minor, Op.6/8 (Christmas Concerto)
Octet in E flat, Op.20 – III: Scherzo
The Strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra
Recorded March & April 1959 in the Broadwood Hotel, Philadelphia
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2013
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL
Duration: 44 minutes
Here’s a treat if you’re not convinced by ‘authentic leanings’ in musical performance. The massed strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra in a large acoustic, Eugene Ormandy conducting a Romantic account of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which although dynamic (and quite quiet at times) can also shout at you with edgy fortissimos – the opening, without a trace of introductory ambience, crashes in with a jolt. If Ormandy, one of the great conductors, let it be known, is very mean with repeats, there is also phrasal generosity aplenty; and if the slow movement is rather too sedate, however polished the playing, the finale is very animated and nimbly articulated. It represents a bygone era for how such music was habitually interpreted.
The Bach, termed as “Air on the G String” in Sony’s presentation, is slow, stately and massive – it’s as if every string-player in Philadelphia was on call that day – and the Corelli is heavy of phrase and huge of sound. Rather fun, though, if possibly too much for any arch-authenticist who wants only vibrato-less playing from a handful of musicians. Given with rich expression and intense sound, with some superb solos (from violinists David Madison and Veda Reynolds, and cellist Lorne Munroe), ‘Christmas Concerto’ is in fact rather wonderful; heavy-duty in some respects, but the ‘Pastorale’ finale is very moving.
To end, a less-than-quicksilver account of the scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Octet, here more like eight-plus-80, but the ensemble is spot-on and easefully virtuosic, and if the marking of Allegro leggierissimo rather escapes the conductor, ‘Allegretto elephantine’ is nearer to what Ormandy produces here, he had a reputation for not playing music any faster than it needed to go. For that maestro, many thanks! Just for the record (as it were), I very much enjoyed this reissue. The original CBS LP (MS 6081) was issued in the States on 10 August 1959 and is here presented as was (hence the playing time) and with the first cover and liner notes. The recorded sound has been faithfully re-mastered.