Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra
Reference Recording – K. 550: Szell (Sony)
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
This recording documents the inaugural concert at Budapest's new National Concert Hall, and a lovely pair of performances it turns out to be. Zoltán Kocsis' Mozart strongly recalls that of his late countryman Sándor Végh, in that every phrase has life, shape, and rhythmic precision–but the music also breathes and never for a moment sounds mechanical or routine. The little G minor symphony is lovely, but the big one (No. 40) is a knockout: swift, immaculately phrased, and full of pathos. It's a performance that combines the bold contrasts and drama of the period-instrument gang with the warmth and polish of the modern school. The finale in particular, with all of its repeats intact, makes an indelible impression thanks to strongly terraced dynamics and playing of tremendous conviction from the orchestra's strings. Mozart's special brand of “Sturm und Drang” really leaps out of the speakers. The engineering is quite good, if a touch dry, and the audience is well-behaved. Kocsis really is a splendid conductor, and we can only hope that this disc signals the prospect of more to come.
(ClaassicsToday.com, March 7, 2006)