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Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer: Overture
Richard Strauss: Don Juan, opus 20
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, opus 67

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sr. Georg Solti (Conductor)
Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, London (1963 ([Der fliegende Holländer], 1967 [Don Juan] & 1985 [Symphony No. 5]) – 96’31
ICA Classics #ICAD 5024 – Booklet in English with French and German translations

If ever there was a conductor to have stirred the pot to controversial proportions, Sir Georg Solti would be a probable candidate. In any particular profession, complacency sets in and anything counter to the status quo could be interpreted as threatening and looked upon with deep cynicism. But Sir Georg Solti “raised the bar”, expecting one hundred and ten percent from his musicians, fervent in his belief of honoring composers by respecting their punctilious dynamics, interpolated with razor thin precision and meticulous ornamentation.

ICA Classics returns to the archives of mid 20th century performances and creates a wonderful anthology entitled, The Art of Conducting. The first DVD release of its kind, one of these collectives features the Hungarian native performing three Germanic pieces from three separate broadcasts that’s selectively compelling and appropriate.

Ushering in the Solti verve is his vibrant rendition of Wagner’s overture from the opera, Der fliegende Holländer. The tumultuous overtones are splendid and mesmerizing. Move to 1985 and we see the venerated maestro leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s most familiar Symphony No. 5. The magnanimous editing hones in on instruments found within the limelight within particular bars. Solti’s leadership creates some of the best interpretative qualities within the Classical music circuit.

Wedged between Wagner and Beethoven is, perhaps, the most fascinating selection in an electrifying portrayal of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan featuring Covent Garden’s Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in this 1967 release. This apportionment will resonate with anyone who’s rehearsed under the wings of demanding articulation. ICA Classics conveniently microscopes the Bavarian’s lush and capricious score by zeroing in on practices leading up to the final performance, interpolated with explications by Solti vis-à-vis the doughty John Culshaw. For any aspiring Classical music enthusiast Don Juan is deftly informative for this Strauss orchestral composition details justly and fittingly the essence of Sir Georg Solti. It’s as though one’s reliving the moment. Superb.

Due to attenuated technical sophistication, understandably the first two tracks sound a bit “tinny”, but Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 abounds in deepened richness and with video color; David Patmore’s forward is fascinating and educational. Well written, the compendium reveals the qualities and decorum of the revered Sir Georg Solti. A “not-to-be-missed” recording.

Christie Grimstad




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