Ferenc Fricsay / Nicanor Zabaleta

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 39 & 40; Debussy: Dances sacrée et profane

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The only reason to try this disc featuring Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay is the 1957 recording of Debussy's Dances sacrée et profane because that recording with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and harpist Nicanor Zabaleta is not currently available in better sound. The two longer works, Mozart's No. 39 and No. 40 symphonies, both with the Vienna Symphony, are available in a vastly superior sounding Deutsche Grammophon release that includes the composer's No. 29 and No. 41 symphonies. The performances here are uniformly excellent examples of Fricsay's work: direct, elegant, stylish, and dramatic, with plenty of poetry in the symphonies and lots of color in the dances. The Vienna Symphony plays the symphonies very well, if without much character, while Zabaleta plays the dances extremely well, with as much character as they can bear without breaking. The sound is mediocre, thick, heavy, and gray. In short, this disc is likely to interest Fricsay completists only.

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