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Karel Ancerl and the Concertgebouw Orchestra
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Concerto Op 61 (1806)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini (1934)
Hermann Krebbers, violin
Daniel Wayenberg, piano
Recorded January 1970, Amsterdam


The performances on this Tahra single CD were recorded a week apart by NPS Radio in January 1970, three years before Ancerl’s premature death at the age of sixty-five. Tahra 124-125 has many more Ancerl-Concertgebouw performances but this one concentrates on Ancerl the accompanist, partnering the Concertgebouw’s long standing leader, Hermann Krebbers, in the Beethoven Concerto and Daniel Wayenberg in the Rachmaninov Paganini Variations.

Surviving Ancerl-Beethoven material is patchy. He did accompany Josef Palenicek in the Fourth Piano Concerto and his symphonies One and Five have survived but little else. Krebbers, who was later to record the Concerto with Haitink in 1973, joins with Ancerl in a big-boned, weighty performance. The opening movement gets off to a sonorous start with the Concertgebouw’s famed basses hewing their material as if from coal. The sturdy, slow introduction – with the inner part writing’s scampering figures more than ever audible at the slow tempo – leads on to Krebber’s tightly focused playing. His vibrato is tight and despite his occasional metrical dalliances his is, if one has to distinguish characteristics in this way, an essentially feminine disquisition of the first movement’s solo line. He vests the music with frequently lyrical meaning – and his slowings down mean that there is a degree of sagging, which to my ears sounds ponderous. I admired the rich blanket Ancerl provides for Krebbers at these moments and the soloist’s exemplary quick portamenti and rhythmic daring. In principle I also admire the anti-motoric and intensifyingly vibrant playing, especially in Krebbers’ lower two strings. But I was never entirely able to reconcile this rather fracturing impress with the skeleton of the music – and at over twenty-five minutes they are really very slow, an impression not gained by clock watching alone. Krebbers’ attractively flute-like tone in the upper strings is frequently delightful but again as he launches into a very slow cadenza I wondered about the structural fidelity the movement demands. In the slow movement they manage to convey an impression of deliberate tempo but in fact manage to sustain it well; there is also some cultivated playing from the orchestral principals and, no less, from the soloist himself. Those deep burnished basses return for a finale that manages to be brisk and characterful, forward moving and yet full of divisional clarity. I enjoyed these two movements rather more than the first though it’s always challenging to hear musicians plough their own furrow, not least in this of all works.

After which the Rachmaninov comes, if not as an anti-climax at least as a sane and trouble free performance - comparatively speaking. Born in Paris in 1929 of Dutch parentage Wayenberg studied there with Marguerite Long. He is a sensitive and intelligent musician with a technique to match and this is a sane and extreme-free performance. Ancerl’s Rachmaninov is thin on the ground and this is therefore a welcome survival; added to which he was always a watchful and characterful accompanist and if one wants an example of lucidity and restraint then this is an example of them both.

Tahra’s determination to explore the radio archives to exhume and promote Ancerl’s work is bearing rich fruit. The recordings themselves sound well and I enjoyed the occasional idiosyncrasies of this well-filled disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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