Claudio Abbado has taken Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony around the block three times: first for Decca in 1967 with the London Symphony, next in 1984 for Deutsche Grammophon, and lastly in 1996 for Sony. Each recording exceeds the previous one on technical grounds, and considering that the tight, sharp, and attractive 1967 reading -- the performance featured here -- set the bar so high, that's saying something. But, what Abbado gained over the years in maturity he also lost in impetuosity, and that balance will likely decide the appeal of this recording to Abbado's fans. Though the weight and depth of the later recordings is very persuasive, the sheer energy of this earliest account is unrelenting and irresistible.
It may also be useful to know that both the 1967 and 1984 recordings pair the "Italian" Symphony with Mendelssohn's "Scotch" Symphony, while the 1996 recording instead features the incidental music from A Midsummer Night's Dream, including choral movements and spoken parts featuring actor Kenneth Branagh. Also, Decca's stereo sound on this 1967 recording is amazingly warm and better than DG's too-cool early digital sound (1984) and Sony's too-present later digital sound.