Kertesz/VPO: Mozart Symphonies Nos. 33 & 39 - Decca SXL 6056 (ED3), lovely copy
Jacket NM / Vinyl EX / UK pressing
This beautiful LP – a superb collector's copy – from Decca (SXL 6056, English pressing, black/silver NB label – ED3, stereo, original inner sleeve included, glossy laminated jacket) features Istvan Kertesz and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's beautifully pointed accounts of Mozart's Symphonies No. 33 in B-flat Major K. 319 and No. 39 in E-flat Major K. 543, both recorded in the warm acoustics of the Sofiensaal during 11-13 September 1962 (producer: Christopher Raeburn / engineer: James Brown).
As was made abundantly clear in his path-finding account (also for Decca) of La Clemenza di Tito K.621, Kertesz was a brilliant Mozartian, capturing the pathos, drama, and sheer joy of the great composer's music. These wonderful readings with the VPO on truly buoyant form have never sounded finer than here and can be recommended wholeheartedly.
Of the Decca Eloquence (Australia) CD re-issue of these performances, the superb critic John Philips wrote for MusicWeb-International:
"I have heard it said that it is much easier to criticise a disc than praise it. With this disc I have the more difficult task. A happily smiling photograph of the conductor looks out on the world from the cover of this disc. If I had to sum up these performances in a word, the word would be – happy.
"The Vienna Philharmonic also has the reputation of being very unforgiving with conductors it doesn't like. The aural evidence is that Kertesz and the VPO had a very easy time working together. I am reminded of the orchestra's own insistence on finishing the last variation of Brahms' Haydn Variations without a conductor after Kertesz's death out of respect for the conductor. He was drowned in the eastern Mediterranean, taking a weekend break in Israel during the sessions for the Brahms cycle with the VPO.
"These are modern performances through and through – no over-rapid tempi, no raucous sounding instruments - although this is somewhat less of a problem than it was when these discs were originally produced. Tempi are distinctly middle of the road, with no out of place surprises, and the quality of the orchestral playing is incredibly fine, with blending being almost perfect.
"To a lot of us music lovers this will mean pure unalloyed pleasure and so it is throughout. We have in this disc further proof of the enlightened attitude towards classical re-issues being carried out 'down-under'. I believe that these performances have been unavailable on CD for some time in the UK and USA ... if ever.
"What I would dearly love to see now is a re-issue of the extended ballet suite from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, recorded by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (as it was then), conducted by Anatole Fistoulari. I have given up writing to Decca in the UK with this suggestion, and maybe the message will get through to the powers that be in Australia that this absolutely first class recording, like many others is lying in the archive, waiting for someone with a bit of musical understanding to make some of us very happy.
"The current disc, issued alongside a couple of others of further Mozart symphonies should awaken collectors to both the excellence of the young Kertesz in this repertoire, and to the quality of the playing and response of the mighty Vienna Philharmonic.
"Throughout all these three symphonies, there are constant reminders of imaginative playing with a flick of the rhythm here and there showing very clearly that these are not just run-throughs, but well thought out performances in their own right.
"The only problem that I can see is their distance from the UK market; many collectors still balk at ordering their 'fix' beyond the UK even in today's internet environment. With these incredibly low prices and excellent delivery arrangements there is no reason for not trying these discs. The only problem I have found with obtaining these is HM Customs who seem to be lying in wait to slap import duty on unsuspecting packages. Allied to this, the Post Office, bless them, then apply a handling fee which is as much as or more than the duty. These draconian activities can be brought under control by ordering in batches of no more than four discs. These should pass through unheeded. With the vast extent of repertoire being offered at suitably silly prices, there really is no excuse.
"Very highly recommended, and a feather in the hat of Australian Eloquence."
Incidentally, there are insightful and eloquent liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket by producer Erik Smith, printed in English only. The lovely cover photo is uncredited.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is near-MINT. There is minor bumping/wear at corners, but really that is all. There are no bends, seamsplits or owners' markings and the whole remains solid, bright, glossy, and highly attractive – overall, this rates as a truly fine collector's copy.
The condition of the LP itself is EXCELLENT++. Although the surfaces are not CD silent, in general the playback is superb. Only those buyers requiring a flawless or NM copy need hesitate. Overall, this rates as an excellent collector's copy.