Gerhard Taschner Ė A Genius. This is the line that
greets one on opening Tahraís booklet note that has a most useful Taschner
discography. Itís a bold claim to make of a composer let alone an instrumentalist
Ė how many instrumentalists are geniuses and what does the word mean
in the context? Letís forget the hyperbole and consider the aural evidence.
Taschner plays the Kreutzer with Gieseking (his other pianistic partners
include a raft of magnificent players Ė Edith Farnadi, Martin Krause,
Hubert Giesen and his wife Gerda Nette) and the Concerto with Solti
(who once recorded it with Mischa Elman and if you can follow Mischa
Elman in Beethoven you can follow anyone anywhere).
My problem with the Kreutzer performance is one of
conception and execution. The variations second movement is very indulged
and the Presto finale a headlong rush. It makes no architectural sense
to me at all and allied to my feelings of ambivalence about Taschnerís
soloistic potential Iím afraid I found this a less than impressive traversal
though Iím sure others will find its alternate languor and power affecting.
Iíve never found Taschner a tonalist of refinement and whilst his steeliness
might be thought pertinent for the concertante muscularity of the passagework
of the first movement Ė and whilst much is well done Ė I find him overall
decent but not at all outstanding. The sickly vibrato application in
which he indulges at expressive moments is to my ears a sign of insufficient
tonal and emotive resources and the one dimensionality of his playing
problematical. The italicisation in the second movement is surely as
much Giesekingís responsibility as Taschnerís; they make a meal of everything
in the very worst German style. Giesekingís moments of stasis (which
he doubtless equated with profundity) are as lamentable as Taschnerís
inability properly to integrate expressive violinistic devices without
them sounding artificial and applied from without. The finale, by contrast
with the static preceding movement, is a meaningless dash.
The Concerto would provide pleasure in concert but
Iím not sure how much life it has on disc. Thereís a weighty orchestral
introduction from Solti, quick and well conceived slides from Taschner,
his tone once more sounding rather too hard and resilient. I found he
also lacked the kind of phrasal sensitivity that distinguishes a good
player from a great one. Perhaps as a result Soltiís conducting sounds
all too often strangely soft grained though he is sympathetic to Taschner
in the Larghetto, well played but again hardly outstanding, even though
the conductor can be heavy handed in the finale.
I canít share very much in the acclamation that greets
Taschnerís discs but thatís beside the point. Far too many radio recordings
have been lost, mislaid, damaged or destroyed and all too much evidence
of performances lost for one not to be grateful that they now make an
appearance in such well-presented form and in such excellent sound.