Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64 (1888) [41:45]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia (1906-08) orch. Enrique Fernández Arbós [26:13]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
La Vida Breve; Interlude and Dance (1913) [6:42]
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti
rec. April 1952 (Tchaikovsky) and April 1957 (Albéniz and de Falla)

Antal Doráti’s Minneapolis recordings were notable for their vitality, grandeur and technical excellence. The three under review demonstrate the point triumphantly, even when they may seem stylistically somewhat at odds with the music.
The main event is Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony which was recorded over three days in April 1952 for Mercury. Doráti takes a decisive series of tempo decisions pretty much throughout, and this is a fleet and tensile reading. Pristine’s XR work on this mono recording has given depth to the sound spectrum, and the ambient stereo brings the advantage of warmth. I’ve not had the opportunity to listen to the original LP, so can’t comment on the nature of the work in any useful detail, but can say that it sounds attractive. I do wonder, however, to what extent the brass and, say, the lower string pizzicati have been boosted. Those whose experience of the symphony ranges in its earlier recordings from Alexander Kitschin, Rodzinski, Stokowski, Mengelberg, Koussevitzky, Lambert, Stock and Beecham may find Doráti unyielding and over-metrical but I happen to find him driving and exciting and cumulatively powerful.

He also recorded Enrique Fernández Arbós’s orchestration of Albéniz’s Iberia a few years later, this time in stereo. Fortunately there’s a benchmark, which is the orchestrator himself in his 1928 recording of El corpus en Sevilla, Triana and El Puerto, made with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra [Dutton CDBP 9782]. The grandiose, magnificently ebullient and assertive Minneapolis performances of the complete set only very seldom sounds remotely Spanish. In fact for some of the time it cleaves close to Tchaikovsky - more like a ballet waltz in Evocación, and in its grandiloquence and bravura sounding strangely like a symphonic finale in El Corpus en Sevilla. When Doráti slows down he can make his points well, but he hustles Triana too much. As an example of orchestral panache and discipline, as well as rhythmic tenacity, this can’t be faulted. As an example of fidelity to idiom, it leaves a great deal to be desired. The Interlude and Dance from Falla’s La Vida Breve was made at the same time and makes for a pleasing envoi.
If the reckoning here is the Tchaikovsky, and it’s likely to be, then this vital and energising account makes a most exciting impact.
Jonathan Woolf  

This vital and energising account of Tchaikovsky 5 makes a most exciting impact.