COMPOSERS: Bartok,Beethoven,Brahms,Mendelssohn,Mozart,Schubert,Tchaikovsky,Vivaldi etc
ALBUM TITLE: The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 70th Anniversary
WORKS: Works by Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi etc
PERFORMER: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Kletzki, Solti, Mehta, Bernstein, Barenboim etc
CATALOGUE NO: Feb-14
What a pity that only 50-odd years of the Israel Philharmonic’s 70-year history is on parade here. Toscanini’s inaugural appearance, ‘for humanity’ as he said, with what was then the Palestine Orchestra on 26 December 1936 has apparently been left undocumented, along with much else from the first two decades. It would have been good to kick off with something of Paul Kletzki’s 1954 Mahler, perhaps the kletzmerband sounds of the First Symphony’s slow movement (national specialities on display here include Bloch’s Schelomo, dominated by the burnished sound of János Starker’s cello, as well as Ben-Haim’s Israeli Capriccio). Instead Kletzki conjures misty atmosphere in Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture. Josef Krips’ Mozart Jupiter follows, articulate but rather cautious. The best playing on display from the early years comes in Massenet’s Le Cid ballet music under Jean Martinon. So deliciously inflected is the Aragonaise that one cries out for more than just these four perfect encores.
Inevitably, Zubin Mehta looms large. Perhaps the quota of his recordings is not unreasonable given 37 years and nearly 2,000 concerts as the orchestra’s Music Director. Many have not made it to CD until now, probably because Decca had more distinguished thoroughbreds in its stables. Newcomers include a surprisingly good Dvo?ák Seventh Symphony, not quite thrusting enough at first but with impassioned string playing throughout, and an uneven Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, spoilt by a lumpy Introduction and Finale.
The involvement is most evident in a Mahler Fourth Symphony from the early days of Decca’s digital revolution, the occasional lapse in ensemble forgivable given the general winsomeness of approach. Even so, more Bernstein would have been welcome, though there are a few blazing specimens from his DG discography including the swagger of Hindemith’s Weber Metamorphoses and a justifiably self-indulgent account of his Chichester Psalms. Sympathetic soloists are extensively showcased: pianists range from the 89-year old Arthur Rubinstein in Brahms’s First Concerto to more refined displays from Radu Lupu and Daniel Barenboim, and the great violinists combine in a shameless blockbuster Four Seasons, one each from Stern, Zukerman, Mintz and Perlman. Showmanship, in fact, is never in short supply, and the orchestra can certainly switch on the passion. But it’s only rarely, for example in Kubelík’s Beethoven Fourth Symphony, that we hear more between the lines. Hebrew and English texts have had their edges shaved in my booklet. David Nice