Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
This 6CD set contains 100 tracks from the catalogues of EMI Records, EMI Classics and Virgin Classics of recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra under some of the world’s greatest conductors and with a number of famous soloists.
This album is either the latest example of a classical label prostituting itself in search of a larger audience, or a legitimate attempt at crossover within an orchestral pops vein, given added appeal through the presence of the Roger Dean cover graphics and the near-suppression of the Telarc identification. The "classics" done up in 60-piece orchestral majesty include "Born to Run," "Tears of a Clown," "Superstition," "Hey Joe," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "God Only Knows," and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (which hardly belongs here, as the product of Scottish songwriter Ewan MacColl)…
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.