HAYDN: Symphony No. 68 in B-flat. Symphony No. 93 in D. Symphony No. 94 in G "Surprise." Symphony No. 95 in C minor. Symphony No. 96 in D "Miracle." Symphony No. 97 in C. Symphony No. 98 in B-flat. Symphony No. 99 in E- flat. Symphony No. 100 in G "Military." Symphony No. 101 in D "Clock." Symphony No. 102 in B-flat. Symphony No. 103 in E-flat "Drum, Roll." Symphony No. 104 in D "London."
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 63061 (5 CDs) (B) TT: 75:14 / 68:46 / 56:16 / 67:17 / 58:16
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HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32. STRAUSS: Don Juan, Op. 20.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DECCA ORIGINALS 475 8225 (M) TT: 67:28
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BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. l. Piano Concerto No. 2. Two Portraits, Op. 5
Maurizio Pollini, pianist/Chicago Symphony Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond. (Bartók); Shlomo Mintz, violinist; London Symphony Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6353 (M) TT: 63:33
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan."
Chicago Symphony Orch/Sir Georg Solti, cond.
DECCA ORIGINALS 475 8230 (M) TT: 56:09
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BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E flat "Romantic."
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
DECCA ORIGINALS 475 8403 (M) TT: 68:10
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Major quality reissues at low prices continue! This group is highlighted by the superb Warner Classics budget-priced 5-CD set of thirteen Haydn symphonies recorded 1987-1992 by the Royal Concertgebouw directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. These dynamic performances display the conductor's rapport with the mighty Dutch orchestra, and his Haydn displays none of his stodgy approach to Schubert, evidenced in his recordings of seven symphonies with the same orchestra (compare his plodding approach with Van Beinum's with the same orchestra). However, all is jolly here, and the engineers have done extraordinarily well in capturing the rich sounds of the Concertgebouw. If you don't have these performances, this is a very inexpensive way to acquire them.

Karajan's Planets and Don Juan were major releases at the time (the former recorded in Vienna's Sofiensaal in 1961, Don Juan in 1960), produced by John Culshaw with engineers Gordon Parry and James Brown. Sonically these are examples of Culshaw at his most imaginative, a rich, detailed sound picture that impresses. I prefer this Planets to either of the conductor's later Berlin recordings. This was not Karajan's first Don Juan; the work was one of his earliest recordings, in 1943 with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw; he would record it again years later in Berlin. Solti's Mahler Symphony No. 1 was recorded in Chicago's Orchestra Hall in October 1983, part of the conductor's Decca/London CSO Mahler cycle (he previously had recorded this symphony with the LSO). Producer James Mallinson and engineer James Lock have dealt effectively with the problematic acoustics of the venue. It seems odd this reissue doesn't include the 4 Knaben Wunderhorn excerpts sung by Yvonne Minton that are on the previous issue of this Mahler First, which is still in the catalog and at budget price. A gem in the Decca Originals series is Karl Böhm's 1973 recording of Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, considered by many to be among the finest ever made of the work, sounding better than ever in this new remastering. Also definitive are Bartók's first two piano concertos recorded in 1977 by Maurizio Pollini with Claudio Abbado and the Chicago Symphony—it doesn't get better than this, and DGG's recording crew captured richer orchestral sound than Decca's six years later. Inclusion of Shlomo Mintz's Two Portraits is another plus.

All of these are highly recommended!

R.E.B. (July 2007)