Part of an impressive download catalogue, this Brahms Double
serves primarily as a reminder of the stature of the conductor
Hermann Scherchen. Scherchen’s LPs were at one time claiming
premium prices on the second-hand LP market. Although that
is less the case now, it is good to explore the recorded
work of a conductor many may only have heard of by reputation.
Pristine Audio’s website makes this incredibly easy.
The recording quality, thanks to Pristine Audio, is generally
excellent. The orchestra lacks some depth on my CD, admittedly
- something one can’t say about Janigro’s mellow cello. Neither
is the woodwind always in tune. But it is the spirit of the
performance that is catching, and credit for that should
go to Scherchen. Interestingly there seems more body to the
orchestra if one listens direct from the site - I found it
an altogether more comfortable experience - and I tried the
CD on two different players to double-check my impressions.
There is a wonderful glow to the Adagio, which is replete
with a concentration that leads to some truly rapt moments.
Fournier’s violin is sweet and expressive, but more importantly
there is real communication between the soloists.
The finale creeps in, but with no hunt of rhythmic laziness.
This is a spirited reading that will surely give much pleasure.
But it is certainly not a first recommendation.
The Double Concerto has never attained the popularity of
Brahms’ other concertos, but there is still much competition.
Comparison with my benchmark recording did rather put Scherchen
and his soloists in the shade. Jascha Heifetz and Gregor
Piatigorsky were the soloists in 1961 for RCA - with the
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Wallenstein:
RCA Victor Living Stereo 09026 63531 2. The difference is
palpable. Wallenstein’s orchestra positively blazes. Janigro
is no match whatsoever for Piatigorsky - how proud he sounds
in the finale - and Heifetz is, well, Heifetz. If it is true
that the RCA orchestra can very occasionally sound a trifle
workaday, there is remains no comparison with the Vienna
State Opera Orchestra.
Nevertheless, the download
price of the Scherchen is minimal (an MP3 of this is 5.25
Euros). The Heifetz/Piatigorsky is definitely worth the few
extra pounds, it is true, but the curious should not hesitate
to sample Scherchen.
By the way, my photocopied sheet with the recording details
claimed this release to be PACD042, while the disc gave PACD034
(the website indicates the former - Ed.).