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Jonathan Woolf
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Anton BRUCKNER (1824–1896)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor (Haas Edition) (1884-87, rev. 1889-90) [78:43]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104 (1895) [42:17]
Enrico Mainardi (cello)
Sinfonieorchester des Hessischen Rundfunks (Bruckner), Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Dvorak)/Eugen Jochum
rec. 30 May 1949 (Bruckner) and 27 October 1950 (Dvořák)
TAHRA TAH638-39 [57:11 + 64:05]

I was amazed to read that, according to Tahra’s researches, Eugen Jochum never conducted a single Dvořák symphony. One appreciates that musicians feel indifferent to certain areas of the repertoire but this was surely a wretched state of affairs. And yet he was asked to record the Violin Concerto, of all things, with Kulenkampff in 1941, a recording inferior to the contemporaneous Příhoda/Berlin State/van Kempen. Given these feelings of repertoire indifference it was all the more intriguing to see what Jochum would make of the Cello Concerto in this 1950 broadcast.
His soloist was Enrico Mainardi, a deeply serious artist who had already recorded the Concerto in Dresden with van Kempen and was to record it again soon in Berlin with Fritz Lehmann. Of the three conductors regrettably Jochum is the least impressive and the most unsympathetic to the idiom. This is a slow, fitful performance, blustering and Brucknerian in places and sentimentalised in the slow movement. Jochum opens slowly and Mainardi enters rather sullenly. He uses a great deal of rubato and his tone is not always likeable; his fast vibrato also limits sensitivity of colours. Mainardi’s intonation and playing wander badly off course approaching the first movement’s climax. In theory one admires the depth and serious lyric intensity of the cellist’s playing in the slow movement – but in practice it’s too much and too undifferentiated and far too slow. The finale is rough and ready. Mainardi is ponderous here and Jochum isn’t able or willing to subdue raucous orchestral playing. Additionally it should be noted that the recording can barely contain the tuttis and becomes blowsy and overloads quite frequently.
All things considered, and interest in Jochum’s Dvořák sated, it’s probably best that posterity has been saved further examples of his way with the composer.
Bruckner of course is another matter. The conjunction of the two composers is in fact almost a polar opposite in terms of repertoire interests and competencies. He left behind two famous LP cycles of the complete symphonies, the first in the 1960s shared between the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic (who play the Eighth) and the second recorded in Dresden in the late 1970s. Specifically the Eighth recordings were made in 1964 and 1976. There are also performances from Hamburg in 1949 – shortly before this Tahra Frankfurt one - and a late Amsterdam performance in 1984. He remained loyal to the Haas edition until some point in the 1950s when he migrated to the Nowak. By the later 1950s certainly he had entirely renounced the earlier editor’s work in favour of Haas’s successor, and this of course had implications in respect of Nowak’s cuts. But back in 1950 we find a similar level of romanticised expression as in those later commercial cycles. His opening movement is brisk but not quite as brisk as it was later to become; he remained however a very forward moving conductor of this particular movement and those who revere, say, Wand may perhaps find Jochum a touch perfunctory here. Much however is impressive even if the fuller tragic implications of the work emerge more powerfully in other hands.
An interesting reclamation then albeit Jochum has little penchant for Bohemia. And the Bruckner might seem superfluous to requirements given the existence of the other LP sets but this is, in fact, not quite the case. It offers a view of the younger Jochum, powerfully energised and romantically affiliated.
Jonathan Woolf  



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