London Philharmonic Orchestra

London Philharmonic Orchestra: 75th Anniversary, Vol. 2

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The second of three volumes dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the founding of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, this four-disc set mostly features English music led by mostly non-English conductors. One disc has John Pritchard, the lone English conductor, directing Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings and Violin Concerto with tenor Ian Partridge, hornist Nicolas Busch, and violinist Rodney Friend. Another has Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink leading Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for strings and Enigma Variations, as well as Britten's Our Hunting Fathers with soprano Heather Harper. A third has Haitink leading the London premiere of John McCabe's The Chagall Windows and the world premiere of Malcolm Arnold's Philharmonic Concerto written for the London Philharmonic plus the Hungarian-born Georg Solti leading the world premiere of McCabe's Concerto for Orchestra. And only one disc features non-English repertoire: Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, both directed by Solti. Thanks to the hard work of playing together for a generation, the London Philharmonic is in terrific shape, playing with polish, passion, and even a fair amount of bravura brilliance. Though all the performances here are excellent, some are truly outstanding. Friend's virtuoso execution of Britten's Concerto, Haitink's deeply felt account of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, and Solti's incandescent premiere of McCabe's Concerto are particularly memorable. This may not be the first volume in this series for an international audience to try -- the third with its roster of non-English repertoire and non-English may hold more appeal -- for English listeners and fans of English music, this volume will be the place to start. Though taken from live performances, the stereo sound here is clear, cool, and direct, but with some audience noise.

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