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Gottfried STÖLZEL - Concerto grosso in D major
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Schuricht
Recorded live at the 1961 Salzburg Festival
ORFEO D’OR C 538 001 B [57.30]

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It’s hard to believe that this is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing the opening work, a rather uninspired Concerto Grosso by Gottfried Stölzel (1649-1749) played in an ultra-Germanic ponderous fashion, scrappy in parts rather than ‘vital and energetic’ according to a contemporary (1961) press report, the concertino soloists only just managing to keep it going and on the rails. I was reminded of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and their breathtaking account of the contemporaneous Brandenburg Concertos I reviewed for this website just last week, where the trumpet playing in No. 2 was by way of contrast to the (admittedly live recording here) spot perfect. Sometimes it is not always wise to unearth supposedly ‘legendary’ performances, and it’s a pity that the next item on the programme (Clifford Curzon playing Mozart’s last piano concerto, No. 27 in Bb K.595) was not issued instead. However, having disposed of the first ten minutes of this CD, one of a dozen which Orfeo D’Or have issued of performances from the post-war Salzburg Festivals 1951-1972, it’s the Eroica which really matters and with which Carl Schuricht deserves better appraisal.

He was 81 at the time (he lived a further six years) but still full of sparkle, as this traditional (no first movement repeat unfortunately) interpretation of Beethoven’s masterpiece reveals. His is a name which was too often overshadowed by greater contemporaries, Furtwängler, Kleiber, Krauss, and Knappertsbusch but with them all dead he enjoyed an Indian summer and developed a late but warm relationship with the VPO from 1956 until his death in 1967, with memorable performances of Bruckner symphonies in particular. The playing here is rather unremarkable and understated, the warm-toned strings and athletic horns in the trio better than some scrawny woodwind playing from the oboes. It is all tidily organised if nothing else, but of the reissues listed there are far more mouth-watering prospects on offer than this.

Christopher Fifield


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