Antal Doráti / Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: 1812 Festival Overture; Capriccio Italien; Beethoven: Wellington's Victory

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How can analog recordings from the mid- to late '50s and early '60s stand up to scrutiny in the digital age, or favorably compare with state-of-the-art multichannel hybrid SACDs and DSD technology? If they happen to be vintage Mercury Living Presence half-inch three-track recordings, made with three Telefunken microphones and digitally remastered for stereo playback on CD, then they can stand up quite brilliantly, as evidenced by this fiery reissue. Naturally, an album of popular showstoppers such as Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's 1812 -- Festival Overture, Op. 49; his Capriccio Italien, Op. 45; and Ludwig van Beethoven's Wellington's Victory, Op. 91, needs to sound stupendous, and audiophiles will demand to hear every detail and effect with vivid clarity and fidelity. Fortunately, this CD provides such strikingly realistic performances that listeners will be hard-pressed to find contemporary digital recordings to surpass them for credible presence and power. Antal Dorati conducts the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra with the University of Minnesota Brass Band in the 1812, and the London Symphony Orchestra in Wellington's Victory, and the playing in all the works is energetic and colorful, with barely a flaw worth mentioning. Add to this the explosive blasts of a bronze 1775 French cannon recorded at West Point and the sonorous bells of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, and this recording of the 1812 stands out as one of the most shattering versions ever put to disc. Wellington's Victory also sounds remarkable for its carefully timed cannonade and musket volleys, all corresponding to Beethoven's indications in the score. This classic recording is highly recommended.

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