Nineteenth Century Orchestral Works
After Claus Peter Flor's outstanding RCA records of Mendelssohn overtures ((CD) RD87905, 1/89) and the incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream ((CD) RD87764, 10/88), this collection is a disappointment. The Berlin Symphony Orchestra are, on the evidence here, a good well-drilled ensemble of moderate size (to judge by the cover picture), but the violins have not the body and rich homogenity of their colleagues in the Philharmonic, and this affects the big tune they have in Smetana's ''Vltava''. Moreover, the river flows without a great deal of impetus and nearly becomes becalmed when the water sprites dance in the moonlight. The performance finally springs to life at the St John's rapids but taken overall is too easygoing to be memorable.
Liszt's Les preludes is another extremely mellow performance, enjoyable in its central pastoral section, but Flor shirks the melodrama elsewhere. The opening of Finlandia is slow and spacious and nearly gets bogged down in its rich sonority. Fortunately, Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla has a good deal more energy, though I prefer both the Reiner (RCA) and the Solti (Decca) performances (the latter is at bargain price). The music-making, however, springs to life for an extrovert, exciting account of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. There are no canon but the Berlin Schauspielhaus has plenty of bass resonance which makes the brass scoring sound satisfyingly weighty, and ensures that the bass drum tells at the end, alongside the carillon.'