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Centenaire Eugen Jochum (1902-1987). Volume 1.
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tannhäuser Overture (1845)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Symphony No. 1 Op. 68 (1855-76)
Symphony No. 3 Op. 90 (1883)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No. 7 Op. 92 (1812)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra except Brahms Symphony No 3 (Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra)
Eugen Jochum
Recorded 1938-39
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Symphony No. 40 K550 (1788)
Symphony No. 41 Jupiter K551 (1788)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No. 5 Op. 67 (1807)
Max REGER (1873-1916)

Serenade op. 95 (1905)
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)

Sonata Op. 5 Ė No. 12 La Follia arranged for orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Mozart Symphony No. 41, Beethoven Symphony No. 5) Concertgebouw Orchestra (Reger, Mozart Symphony No. 40), Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Corelli)
Eugen Jochum
Recorded 1941-45
TAHRA 466/69 [4 CDs 267.21]
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Tahra have long been devoted to the art of Eugen Jochum - witness their CDs of Concertgebouw performances from 1976-80 (Tahra 232/5), the World War II broadcasts (229), the Romantic Concerto album with Gilels and Arrau and the Bruckner album (162/70) shared with his brother Georg-Ludwig. Some indeed of the above make an appearance in this Centenary Anniversary collection of three boxes each comprising four CDs, conveniently split across two slimline doubles. And here Tahra have outdone themselves because each box, elegantly designed, typographically attractive, with full matrix and recording details sets a new gold standard in presentation for this company. At a stroke these boxes become cornerstone purchases for admirers of the conductor and cover a large amount of ground discographically including broadcast performances of lasting value. Reviews of the other two boxes will follow shortly but itís as well to point out now that each box contains a different species of documentation Ė the first volume contains a biographical portrait, the second contains his discography (less the hundreds of as yet unissued broadcast archive performances) and the third focuses on his repertory. Each is worth an article in its own right.

Volume One is devoted to pre- and Wartime recordings Ė including two broadcasts made in 1944 (the Corelli, in Hamburg and Beethovenís Fifth, Berlin, 1945); the Fifth is also to be found on Tahra 229, which also adds a performance of the Pastoral Symphony from June 1943 which is also to be found in Volume II of this Centenary edition. So in the first volume we can concentrate on core repertory by a man who, when this series starts, is thirty-one (thereís some slight typographical confusion in the documentation with both 1933 and 1938 quoted as the year of his Tannhäuser Overture recordings but itís the former thatís correct). Thereís an amount of surface noise present but itís soon filtered out of the mind and sufficient high frequencies have been retained to make the aural journey comfortable. Jochum is generally presented as a Furtwängler acolyte, one whose tempo modifications and sense of subjective freedom, whilst not as convincing as the older man, were nevertheless powerfully expressive. Thereís clearly a degree of truth in that which is not the same as admitting that Jochum lacked profound individuality, even in his relative youth. The von Hausegger pupil forged an independent path, leaving Berlin to succeed Muck in Hamburg and clearly made sufficient impression to be signed for a prestigious series of Berlin Philharmonic discs for Telefunken in the late 1930s. Tannhäuser is sonorous but sensitive, the strings phrasing with elegance and precision, the fairly frequent portamenti applied with discretion and stylistic aptness. Brahmsí First Symphony receives an already eloquent reading from the thirty-six year old conductor; at a steady tempo, which fluctuates within the accepted subjectivist norms, Jochumís strength and attention to detail are notable. He gives great life to the winding lower string themes and retards the climaxes in the interest of dramatic tension, a feature of his performance that will doubtless not appeal to all. His slow movement, measured and resonant, shows, as an incidental pleasure, the splendid cellos and basses of the Berlin orchestra in highly effective form, and the leaderís solo is sweet with a narrow vibrato and aurally very well captured by Telefunkenís engineers. Jochumís Allegretto is fresh, equable, with piping woodwind well captured spatially and the finale once more vibrant and measured (but not too slow). Thereís a weak edit at 8.01.

The following month Jochum returned to set down Beethovenís Seventh Symphony. There are some queasy moments in the first movement amidst the hornsí headlong rush and some then-conventional portamenti Ė downward and succulent; the famous Berlin basses are well to the fore here, their saturnine playing wonderfully expressive. Jochum, as one would expect, takes a slow tempo in the Allegretto maintaining the line with fine string blending and an elevation of spirit and he is particularly expressive in the central section of the following Presto. His finale is about as fast as Toscaniniís in 1936 Ė well articulated. For Brahmsí Third Symphony, a recording made just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Jochum returned to his own orchestra in Hamburg. This had a much leaner, less saturated sound than the Berlin Philharmonic with brass that was less ideally blended. Nevertheless they were experienced musicians and contribute strongly with an elevated sense of nobility and direction. The Andante is perhaps somewhat subdued, the Scherzo correspondingly solemn (but with excellent woodwind) and the Allegro finale forward looking and carrying the thematic material with conviction.

The second of the doubles housed in this four CD set gives us more Beethoven as well as Mozart, Corelli and Reger. Mozartís Jupiter Symphony (Berlin, 1941) has some eloquently romanticized violin phrasing in a first movement notable for Jochumís affectionate treatment, rich string moulding in the slow movement, charm in the Allegretto and a degree of strength (perhaps not ideally enough) in the finale. The Reger Serenade receives a loving and winning performance. It was one of Jochumís wartime Concertgebouw recordings (the issue of German conductors playing and recording with orchestras from occupied countries is extra curricular to this review but should be noted, albeit the Catholic Jochum made his own views with regard to the Nazis very evident when he left Berlin for Hamburg in 1933). The Reger is saturated in high spirits, lissom strings and piping woodwind in the Allegro, sectional discipline excellent, strings splendidly expressive, Regerís use of rusticity and fugato ideally matched by the Concertgebouwís elegant virtuosity - nothingís overplayed either or straining for effect. Jochumís rhythmic sense is exemplified in the burlesque second movement and the affectionate phrasing in the slow movement Ė rich and beautifully veiled string lines Ė most impressive. Note the mass trill as well Ė stunning. The work ends in the sunset splendour of the Allegro con spirito and brings to an end a performance of admirable engagement, spirit and execution in the warm and sympathetic acoustic of the Concertgebouw.

After which we come to the only disappointment in the first volume, recorded amazingly only a couple of days after the Reger with the same forces. Given Jochumís later position as a most eminent interpreter of the last symphonies it strikes me as perplexing that this recording of the Mozart G Minor Symphony should be so flat. Others doubtless will have their own position but it strikes me as rather dead and listless, with a first movement seen as if through a glass darkly, curiously detached and untouched. The slow movement is a very subdued affair and the Minuetto quite fails to come to life; the degree of clarity delineated in the finale is never at odds with the music but neither is it sufficient to vest it with any real meaning. Odd. The last two performances here are live recordings made in 1944 and 1945. The Corelli La Follia with his Hamburg forces is a massive Stokowskian affair - overlapping strings, hugely and Ė to me at least, but Iím partial to this kind of thing Ė wonderfully irresistible. Thereís a prominent harpsichord and string soloists framed by the gargantuan, Brucknerian sized orchestra. His Beethoven Five has a strong and romantic first movement, big boned, with the brass perhaps a little raucous, sectional discipline not quite what it had been in 1938 - and the recording is somewhat over reverberant (but this was Berlin in January 1945) but otherwise excellent. There are certainly some rather rhetorical phrasal ploys in the slow movement, caesuri that draw attention to themselves, but are nevertheless powerfully engaged and this is clearly an emotive performance with a finale that drives ahead with fluctuating tempi in a way that serves only to intensify the complexity and spirit of the music.

This is an excellent conspectus of the earlier recordings of Eugen Jochum. Tahraís attention to detail and their sensitive production values have been amply rewarded. The strong recommendation I make for this set applies equally to the three boxes as a whole. But start here for Jochumís first explorations of the canon on record and for an insight into his expressive and intellectual approach to music making that remains compelling to this day.

Jonathan Woolf

Volume 2 Volume 3


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