István Kertész

Bohemian Rhapsody

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István Kertész, the Hungarian conductor who drowned off the coast of Israel in 1973, made too few recordings in his short career, among them a warm-hearted set of Brahms' symphonies as good as the best ever made and a singing set of Dvorák's symphonies better than any other. Fortunately, most of these have been steadily reissued over the years, and thus Kertész's reputation as an exciting and insightful conductor has not much diminished since his death. Oddly, this 1962 recording, called Bohemian Rhapsody and featuring popular works by Smetana and Dvorák, had remained un-reissued until 2006. Although it was his first recording with the Israel Philharmonic and one of his first recordings for Decca, Kertész's Bohemian Rhapsody nevertheless proves to be one of his finest discs. Part of the reason is the conducting -- Kertész was both supremely skillful and utterly natural, and his performances here seem both thoroughly studied and completely spontaneous. The other part of the reason is the playing -- the Israel Philharmonic, while not then one of the world's great orchestras, had performed for the first time under Kertész the month this recording was made and seems determined to play with the precision, passion, and power that is always the trademark of a world-class orchestra. The result is a spirited set of performances of incredible energy and unstoppable enthusiasm that show the composers, the works, and the performers at their most attractive. Filled out with Kertész and the London Symphony Orchestra's 1970 recording of Dvorák's Symphonic Variations, this disc should be heard by anyone who loves nineteenth century Bohemian music. Decca's stereo sound is rich, lush, deep, and detailed.

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