Fans of historic recordings and conductor Georg Solti alike will appreciate this release of Mendelssohn's Scottish and Italian symphonies. These performances deliver quintessential Solti interpretations -- driven, energetic tempi in fast movements and expansive, serene playing in slow movements. Both symphonies were recorded prior to the popularization of stereophonic sound, which accounts for most of the issues that could be taken with sound quality.
The Third Symphony, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, sometimes gives the impression that the orchestra isn't quite willing to put forth the brazenness that Solti is seeking. This is most noticeable in the agitato section of the first movement, where it appears the brass section drags far behind the rest of the orchestra. Still, this performance shows a clear lineage to the ideals that Solti achieved in his much later 1985 recording with the Chicago Symphony.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra puts forth an astoundingly vigorous and virtuosic performance of the Fourth Symphony. The first-movement wind ostinati are rhythmically meticulous, providing an unwavering background to the vibrant string passages. For listeners who believe the fourth-movement Saltarello should be performed on the brink of recklessness, this recording will not disappoint. Despite the ambitious tempo, every note is clearly articulated. Plenty of string buzzing and ferule clicks are present, too, making for an extremely exciting conclusion to this disc.