Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 8
It’s good to see this material reappearing for avid collectors, even if not all of it is the best. Leinsdorf’s Mahler First is a generally brisk, direct, unfussy performance that would have been more notable several decades ago than it is today, Such is the way of the record world. There’s nothing wrong with it–merely that so many others have conducted the opening with more atmosphere, found more color in the funeral march, and tackled the finale with a greater sense of fury and, ultimately, exaltation. Still, I enjoyed hearing it again after so many years, if only to remember that the Mahler discography in 1972 had more options and variety in it than we may recall.
The Wagner and Strauss items, on the other hand, are splendidly done. Leinsdorf was an old hand in the opera house, after all, and he understood how to go for the gusto in excerpts such as these. The Tannhäuser Venusberg ballet isn’t such a fixture on disc that fine versions are a dime a dozen. This one is exciting and vital, full of passion and energy. The suite from Der Rosenkavalier similarly moves smartly, its elegance and exuberance effectively projected by both Leinsdorf and the Decca engineers. Even if this release is something of a mixed bag, I can well imagine many listeners enjoying it thoroughly as a healthy helping of unabashed ear-candy.
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