Essential, classic Ormandy
At first, I was thoroughly disappointed with this box set. How could SONY give us just 4 symphonies and the Cello Concerto and nothing else? Where's the ubiquitous, much desired Festive Overture? Where are the Ballet Suites that came as couplings with the individual CD releases in the Essential Classics series? Well, much to my surprise, I discovered that those couplings were all conducted by Kostelanetz, not Ormandy. Apparently Ormandy didn't record more Shostakovich than this for CBS/Columbia. And I can't find that he EVER recorded Festive Overture!
Once these quibbles have been dismissed, what remains is an impressive 3-disc set. Ormandy's First Symphony remains unsurpassed. And the Cello Concerto, with Rostropovich, was its World Premier Recording (1960). Both are legendary, and sound exceptionally good for their vintage. Symphonies 5 & 10 are classic Ormandy, and are thus self-recommending. The 4th was recorded just 2 years after its premier in Moscow and brings with it immense authenticity and authority.
Still, SONY surely could have done better by including Ormandy's RCA recordings of the later symphonies, along with his RCA remake of the 5th - since SONY possess both the CBS and RCA catalogs and often commingles them in other compilations. But alas, SONY doesn't always give us everything we want!
Nor does SONY find the need to provide fresh remasterings any more. The 24-bit logo has vanished from all of these new box sets and they appear to be exact reissues of previous releases. Still, it is invaluable to have them available again, conveniently assembled in these handsome box sets. And at the price, I suppose we shouldn't complain. Too much.
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