This 53-CD set is more than the sum of its parts. While not all the performances and recordings are top-notch, the overall quality is very high and as a historical overview of a label known for its sonic as well as musical merits, it's full of treasures. The Mercury sound at its best is vivid and still sounds remarkable and many of these recordings - such as the marches, show tunes and orchestral showpieces conducted by Frederic Fennell - demonstrate this amply. But it's not all lollipops by any means.
Despite no doubt dedicated performances, this recording of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, Sonatina, and Toccata are distinctly disappointing. Part of the responsibility for this is pianist Alberto Portugheis, who plays with plenty of panache but not enough power and nowhere near enough precision. Part of the responsibility is conductor Loris Tjeknavorian, who leads the London Symphony Orchestra in a tepid accompaniment to the Piano Concerto with especially grave ensemble and intonation problems in the slow movement. Part of the responsibility is AVS, which gives Portugheis, Tjeknavorian, and the LSO distant and dismal recorded sound. But most of the responsibility is the incontrovertible fact that William Kapell recorded the Khachaturian Piano Concerto at the height of his powers and, after that awesome achievement, any merely dedicated performance cannot help but sound distinctly disappointing.
The London symphonies, sometimes called the Salomon symphonies after the man who introduced London to Joseph Haydn, were composed by Joseph Haydn between 1791 and 1795. They can be categorized into two groups: Symphonies Nos. 93–98, which were composed during Haydn's first visit to London, and Symphonies Nos. 99–104, composed in Vienna and London for Haydn's second visit.
Every London Symphony, apart from one (No. 95), has a slow introduction to the first movement.