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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola in E flat major, K364 [30:52]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan, Op. 20 [17:35]
Hugh Maguire (violin); Simon Streatfeild (viola)
London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti
rec. live, 11 October 1960 (Strauss), 12 October 1960 (Mozart), Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, UK

The Antal Doráti Society is to be commended for its enterprising spirit in making available some of the conductor’s early mono recordings from the 78 and LP era. Many of these valuable treasures have never made it onto CD. In addition to this, the Society has also issued a series of releases under the title ‘Antal Doráti live'. These comprise live concert performances, many including works that Doráti never took into the studio.

What we have here are two performances, recorded on consecutive days, from the 1960 Swansea Festival. Both are first time CD releases and are credited as unpublished BBC broadcast recordings. The Mozart Sinfonia Concertante is of particular interest, as Doráti never recorded it commercially. Strauss’ Don Juan, on the other hand, featured prominently in the maestro’s discography with two studio recordings: Minneapolis Symphony for Mercury in 1958 and a digital recording for Decca with the Detroit Symphony in 1982.

In the Mozart work, Hugh Maguire takes to the floor as solo violinist. Maguire was the leader of the LSO at the time, a post he held from 1956 to 1961. Many will remember him as first violin in the Allegri Quartet. Taking the viola part is Simon Streatfeild, principal viola of the orchestra from 1956 until 1965. The performance of this glorious work is one of grace, elegance and poise, with both acquitting themselves admirably. The dialogue between the soloists emphasises the contrast between the higher-pitched violin and the lower-pitched viola. Having worked together frequently as orchestral colleagues they are well-matched players neither dominating the game. The Andante is heartfelt and sensitively phrased. The finale has a joie de vivre and sunny disposition. Doráti brings freshness and spontaneity to the orchestral part, inspiring his players to deliver a well-crafted performance. There is a certain amount of audience noise but it’s not too intrusive. Applause has been retained.

Strauss’ Don Juan must be one of the most recorded works in the orchestral repertoire but Doráti manages to bring to the score a fresh perspective. The performance has a probing quality and reaches heights of extreme romantic intensity. The voluptuous string sound achieved truly makes this a breathtaking reading. The oboe solo, eight minutes in, is ravishingly played. Unfortunately, I have never heard Doráti’s studio recordings of this work to compare. Once again, applause is preserved.

Aficionados of the legacy of this distinguished conductor will want these recordings, as they showcase his inspirational charisma in the live situation.

Stephen Greenbank



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