Friday, April 24, 2020

Erich Leinsdorf & Mozart

No. 337 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


A few years back – and indeed as part of Project 366 – we considered a trio of symphonies I dubbed “Mozart’s European Vacation”. A the time of the original post, we still had access to some download services like Japan’s Public Domain Classic, and I pointed to two conductors – Christopher Hogwood (on MP3Lemon) and Erich Leinsdorf (on the Japanese site) to give listeners points of comparison. Since then, I re-issued the same trio of symphonies with some YouTube content featuring, among others, Karl Böhm and Otto Klemperer.

Today, we return to that trio of symphonies – with no. 34 as a bonus – with Leinsdorf at the helm. We have become accustomed to original instruments especially for Mozart’s early works and we forget how marvellous the conductors of a previous generation could be.

Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993) may not be a name many consider a big Mozart conductor today, but he made the first complete cycle of Mozart Symphonies in London for Westminster records (a New York based company) in 1955-56. These early symphonies were recorded in stereo in 1956, and are among the first widely available recordings of these works. While conductors like Bruno Walter, Thomas Beecham and Böhm had already released recordings of the later Mozart Symphonies (34-41, and especially 38-41) by 1955, they focused on the LATER symphonies, while Leinsdorf proved that Mozart's earlier symphonies are worth hearing.

Leinsdorf and the "Philharmonic Symphony of London", actually the Royal Philharmonic under a different name for Westminster records, play with great precision. Tonal refinement and glowing sound in the manner of Walter or Böhm is not an issue with Leinsdorf; he follows more Toscanini as his model, and precision and Classical lean-ness are the order of the day. Leinsdorf's Mozart resembles Toscanini or Szell more than it does Walter, Böhm, Furtwangler, Beecham, or Klemperer.

I plan to return in a few months with another tranche of symphonies from Mr. Leinsdorf’s cycle.

I think you will love this music too

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