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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



Gerda and Gerhard Taschner
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004 – Chaconne (1720)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Sonata Op. 1 No. 13
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Romanza Andaluza Op. 22/1 (1878-82)
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Sonata No. 12
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No. 20 in D K466 (1785)
Gerda Taschner talks about Gerhard Taschner [interview 1.55]
Gerd Taschner (violin) with
Cor de Groot (piano) in the Handel and
Gerda Taschner (piano) in Sarasate and Paganini
Gerda Taschner (piano)
Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hermann Abendroth
Recorded 1941-43 (Gerd Taschner’s commercial 78s) and 1955 (Mozart Piano Concerto)
TAHRA 342 [73.11]

The last few years has seen an explosion of interest in Gerhard Taschner. A biography, re-issues of his Odeon 78s of the early 1940s and a number of broadcast performances including major concerti and work with august collaborators, such as Gieseking, has furthered our knowledge of his musicianship. His career was truncated and he died regrettably young at fifty-four, though his active concert-giving career had trailed off significantly before his death in 1976.

He made his first recordings for Odeon as a young man of nineteen in war-torn Berlin. Of the eighteen discs that he made ten are presented in this husband and wife disc devoted pretty equally to Gerhard and his wife Gerda, herself a talented pianist. Two of the Odeons include the only sides recorded by Gerhard and Gerda as a duo. His Chaconne, a massive and etiolated performance, is the work of a serious-minded young man whose devotion to Bach is not matched as yet by a sense of architectural responsibility. I’ve previously reviewed a slightly later, 1943 radio broadcast of Taschner’s Chaconne and I thought that was slow, but this November 1941 performance stretches to a brain curdling fifteen and a half minutes. His articulation is abrupt, his view romanticised to breaking point, vibrato intensified in contrastive moments to present an entirely spurious almost Schumannesque schizophrenia. Italicisation of phrasing is extreme, the tone not especially beautiful – steely and undernourished – the conception static, lurching from bar to bar, entirely introspective with hints of an idée fixe about certain structural moments, a kind of proto-Franckian one. Well, I am sympathetic to the concentration and to the powerfully self-absorbed seriousness that Taschner so enormously conveys and to his relative youth and other maybe external circumstances – but this can’t, except in a psycho-biographical sense, be taken as a coherent statement.

The Handel, a recording made two years later, is thankfully slightly better. He has a nice even trill but a fluttery vibrato that is not under perfect control. Cor de Groot (what was he doing in Berlin in 1943?) makes his sonorous presence felt as an accompanist but Taschner is more grandiloquent than Affettuoso in the first movement and again very slow with more italicised phrasing, too prayerful at the end of the movement; the final cadence really does take an age. The second movement Allegro really isn’t sprung – as a young orchestral leader he hadn’t yet learnt the trick of conveying internal rhythm. His preparation for the ritardando is very laboured and the final sudden gush of vibrato intensification leadenly predictable. There are some good things in the Larghetto, if sentimental ones and the lack of dynamic variance in the finale with its clipped articulation somewhat wearying. This is a Sonata that, spurious or not, fared well on 78s. Thinking of Szigeti, Menges, Telmanyi and Goldberg amongst others makes it clear that Taschner was simply not in or approaching that league.

There’s some rather worn sound on the disc of the 1942 Sarasate. It’s a suave, rather over-nuanced performance and not especially likeable. The Paganini, from the same session, again with his wife at the piano is not so bad – as Klemperer might have put it. The pizzicati are good, and there’s rather more animation than was his then youthful wont but equally there’s no real spark. The disc is rounded out with a substantial and very big boned and weighty performance of the Piano Concerto in D given in Leipzig by Gerda Taschner with the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Hermann Abendroth, one of only two performances they gave together (the first time in the 1930s was of the Chopin second concerto). Serious and spacious, with orchestration of almost Brahmsian weight, this is a frequently grim and rather granitic traversal. She plays the Reinecke cadenzas however with real verve and in the Romance second movement fuses poetic introspection and dramatic extroversion with good results – taking care over her articulation.

No-one can fault Tahra’s dedication to the Taschners – and the disc begins with a little two-minute spoke reminiscence by Gerda, still living in Berlin at the time of writing (2003) I believe. This disc catches Gerhard at the very outset of his career and one should not expect too much.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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