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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Solti and the Chicago Symphony at the Top of Their GameSept. 17 2008
J Scott Morrison
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This DVD taken from two live concerts that took place in 1978 are marvelous. Both the sound and sight are excellent even though made thirty years ago, and the Chicago Symphony sounds fabulous. The disc contains three symphonies -- Beethoven's First and Schubert's Sixth and Eighth (the 'Unfinished'). The Beethoven was filmed at a London Proms concert and is notable for the crisp, energized reading Solti leads. One doesn't necessarily associate Solti with music from the Classical Period, but he certainly has the right approach to this most Haydnesque of Beethoven's symphonies. The audience in Royal Albert Hall -- which, by the way, looks to be much younger than the typical classical concert crowd -- is quite boisterous in greeting Solti when he comes onstage and deleriously thrilled at the end of the symphony. I think this performance may be the equal of my previous favorite recording of the work, the one with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Arturo Toscanini: Ludwig Van Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1,2,3,4 NBC Symphony Orchestra Vol. 1: 2 CD Set. The camera work, directed by the redoubtable Humphrey Burton, is sophisticated, unobtrusive and, to my mind, always right on, not to speak of crystal clear. The sound, which I listened to in PCM Stereo, is a model for its time.
The two Schubert symphonies were recorded in the CSO's home hall, Orchestra Hall, and much the same could be said for both the video and sound, although there is perhaps more sonic warmth in the Chicago performances. Like in the Beethoven First the writing in the Schubert Sixth, the so-called 'Little Symphony in C' (to distinguish it from the Ninth, the 'Great Symphony in C') seems to especially feature the winds of the orchestra and it must be said that at this time in the CSO's history it had possibly the best wind principals anywhere: Donald Peck, flute; Larry Combs, clarinet; Willard Elliott, bassoon, and Ray Still, oboe. They shine. Hearing them any number of times back then in Orchestra Hall provided me with some of my most treasured concert-going memories.
But just as marvelous are the strings whose playing ranges from whispering pianissimi to deep, lush, Stokowskian sweep. One notices that the marvelous Victor Aitay and Samuel Magad alternate in the concertmaster's chair. A young, black-bearded Dale Clevenger is the principal horn. John Bruce Yeh is in the assistant principal clarinet seat, having joined the orchestra only the year before. And of course the indestructible Adolph 'Bud' Herseth is the principal trumpet. What an orchestra this was! And what a set of performances this is.
There is also a brief bonus: eight minutes of Solti talking (in English) about the two Schubert symphonies.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Schubert/Beethoven lite - Brit style?Feb. 18 2009
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This video was very instructive in ways that I didn't expect. First of all, the performance of the 8th (Unfinished) symphony is a pretty mainstream reading - enjoyable. As the previous reviewer noted - high-level playing throughout - and a great-sounding recording! The Schubert 6th is really a woodwind feature, and the balance really allows the listener to hear them nicely. But... the tempo is somewhat fast in places, and they can't do much but play it very straight. I started figuring out what was going on when I heard the Beethoven - Solti seemed to be really into the fast and light British trend. It is enjoyable - the Chicago strings play the heck out of it, really pulling off a light sound at high speed, and I see why this style is popular. But c'mon, it's BEETHOVEN (I know, it's "early Beethoven") but how about a little weight? I was surprised to hear Chicago play in this style with Solti (it seems like a radical departure from the Reiner era.) Sorry, but I prefer Karajan for Beethoven and Schubert's 6th Schubert: Symphonies 5, 6, 8 & 9; Rosamunde Overture Still, it's a recommended disc, and if you like your Schubert dainty, Great Recordings Of The Century - Schubert: Symphonies nos. 3, 5, & 6 / Beecham, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, you'll love it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Solti at his bestJuly 24 2011
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I have been watching a lot of DVDs lately and this is the best one so far. While I am not a serious fan of Solti, he was on top of his game for these two concerts. The Beethoven 1st is taut but also lyrical when needed and the playing is clean and light. The Schubert 6th is the best performance on the DVD. I have never heard it played better. The finale, my favorite part of the symphony, is almost perfect in both interpretation and execution. Best of all, the musicians seem to be having a really good time. The "Unfinished" is both powerful and lyrical. Unlike many conductors, Solti maintains a really good tempo throughout, never letting the music sound prosaic. An outstanding DVD.