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Famous Historic Conductors From Germany, Volume 1. Walter Damrosch (1862-1950), Leopold Reichwein (1878-1945) and Herbert Sandberg (1902-1966)
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)

Air and Dance of the Slaves from Iphigènie en Tauride arranged Gevaert
Tambourin-Gavotte-Chaconne from Iphigènie en Tauride arranged Gevaert
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Henri VIII – Ballet Divertissement
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Perpetuum mobile
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Pavane Op.50
National Symphony Orchestra, New York/Walter Damrosch
Recorded New York, 1929

Friedrich von FLOTOW (1878-1945)

Martha – overture
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

Die schöne Galathée – overture
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Leopold Reichwein
Recorded Vienna, 1938

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Holberg Suite Op.40
RIAS Symphony Orchestra/Herbert Sandberg
Recorded 1955

VMS 116 [76.06]

The title is optimistic but the recordings are little known. Damrosch is by several furlongs the best known of this trio of Silesian-born musicians and his prestigious American career included numerous important local premieres (Parsifal, Brahms’ Third and Fourth and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the world premieres of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and An American in Paris). Given that eminence his discography is disappointingly slim, with only Brahms’ Second Symphony and some Ravel and Pierné to his name, apart from the pieces collated here. It’s good to have these 1929 New York sides but the repertoire will not really advance Damrosch’s claims on the record collector. True the Gluck dances are attractive, big and buoyant, but also sensitive with fine wind playing. And the Saint-Saëns is full of saucy wit, not quite reflected in this slightly-too-heavy performance. There’s a slightly higher ration of surface noise as well, from the Miller of Dee quotations, through the gypsy dances and the cod Scottish snaps of the Gigue and Finale. Elsewhere there’s a touch of the municipal orchestra repertoire about the Moszkowski; the Fauré isn’t quite refined enough.

Leopold Reichwein is pretty much a forgotten name now but he succeeded Bruno Walter at the Vienna Court Opera in 1913, giving the local premiere of Parsifal to considerable acclaim. Between 1926 and 1938 he conducted in Bochum in Germany but returned to Vienna in 1938. The brief notes don’t mention it but he committed suicide in 1945 after allegations of collaboration with the Nazis. The two overtures here are part of a series made in Vienna in 1938 though he is probably best known to collectors from the live recordings preserved at the Vienna State Opera and issued by Koch over the past decade or so. The Vienna horns have an idiosyncratic approach to intonation in the Flotow – very uncomfortable – but Reichwein drives his way through the Rossinian Suppé attractively enough. We end with Herbert Sandberg who, like Reichwein, was born in Breslau though a generation later. He was Blech’s assistant in Berlin and Walter’s at the Charlottenburg Opera but soon after moved to Sweden where he spent the rest of his career. Not inappropriately then we have some Scandinavian music – I’m not sure he left any other examples of his musicianship on disc other than this 1955 DG. He tends to be rather strait-laced and robust in the Prelude but saves up the expression for the Air. Not a performance to please admirers of, say, Scherchen, but an aural souvenir of another little known conductor otherwise lost to us.

The copies used are in pretty good shape, a few ticks and scratches apart on the Suppé. I have a strong feeling that greater depth and brightness could be extracted from some of the 78s – the 1938 discs sound a bit murky to me. Still, though a miscellaneous collection of no great depth, it does reasonable justice to a trio of conductors unjustly forgotten.

Jonathan Woolf


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