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Centenaire Eugen Jochum (1902-1987). Volume III.
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Nocturnes (1900)
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Benvenuto Cellini – Overture (1838)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Parsifal (1882) - Good Friday Music
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868) – Overture
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Cantata No. 202; Wedding Cantata Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Symphony in D minor (1886-88)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Symphony No. 4 (1884-85)
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Piano Concerto (1868)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Symphony No. 9 Great (1825-28)
Emil Gilels (piano) in the Grieg Concerto
Elly Ameling (soprano) Hermann Krebbers (violin) and Cees van der Kraan (oboe) in the Bach Cantata
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Orchestra of RIAS Berlin (Schubert only)
Eugen Jochum
Recorded live 1963-86
TAHRA 474-477 [4 CDs 247.54]
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This is the third and final volume in Tahra’s celebratory series that takes Jochum’s 1902 year of birth as a welcome pretext for twelve CDs packaged with distinction in black and white/sepia tinted boxes. The Three Ages of Jochum in fact, for each box sports a photograph of the conductor, left facing for reasons of conformity, another thoughtful Tahra touch – the curled and wiry haired, quietly smiling and bespectacled youth of Volume One leads on to the silver haired, quiet gaze of the middle aged man and the august and benign strength of the elderly Jochum, his dramatic Roman nose obscured by the omnipresent glasses.

What is the least likely repertoire one can think of when it comes to Jochum? Coleridge-Taylor maybe or Mascagni? For all his benign appearance one doesn’t much associate him with frivolity or lollipops. And so, no Coleridge-Taylor and no Mascagni of course but leafing through the repertoire listing which is included in volume three – the first volume includes a biography and the second a discography – is a most intriguing experience. So at random here are some surprises – at least to me – amongst his repertoire; Fricker’s First Symphony, Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, Honegger’s Fourth Symphony (though he was an avid performer of the Fifth), Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Kletzki’s Violin Concerto, Krenek’s Johnny spielt auf, Lassus, Malipiero’s Cello Concerto, a lot of Frank Martin, Martinů’s Concerto for two pianos and Concerto grosso, Roussel’s Fourth Symphony, Sibelius’ Seventh and Violin Concerto, Tippett’s Ritual Dances, Vaughan William’s Tallis Fantasia; and too many Dutch works to mention, not at all surprising given his close association with the Concertgebouw. The final volume however is both a consolidation of expected verities and a welcome exploration of the Franco-Belgian repertoire that again is not much part of Jochum’s discographic inheritance; Debussy, Berlioz and Franck.

There’s plenty of clarity and purpose in his Debussy and if the 1963 sound is a little cramped it doesn’t do too much damage. I liked Sirènes for its boldness and for the singing of the women of the Toonkunstkoor choir that, although rather recessed and indistinct, still manages to register strongly. Benvenuto receives an affectionate and occasionally quite brash reading – Jochum first began conducting it in 1935 and along with Romeo and Juliet was the only Berlioz in his repertoire. With Wagner we are on known territory. The Good Friday Music (Concertgebouw, 1972, live – as are all these performances in this last volume with the exception of the Berlin Schubert) is splendidly eloquent and nuanced whilst the overture to the Mastersingers is resilient, strong and firmly handled. Elly Ameling joins the Concertgebouw for Bach’s Wedding Cantata, taped in 1973. With her are Hermann Krebbers and oboist Cees van der Kraan as well as an unnamed harpsichordist. Ameling had an almost perfect voice for Bach, pure yet vibrant, well supported at the bottom and yet capable of secure extension at the top. Here she steals in with exquisitely controlled breathing almost before one has noticed her. The coffee house intimacy of the Cantata is reinforced by the refinement and appositeness of the accompanying instrumentalists – a small band – and by the soloists, principally Kraan (excellent) and Krebbers (delightful). Ameling’s affectionate phrasing and winning way with words and mood register even more strongly as the cantata develops – this is a well paced and durable performance. When it comes to César Franck one finds Jochum relishing the Wagnerian moments as well as some beautifully veiled string tone. The rise and fall of his phrasing is charted with determination though his overall conception is certainly not over fast. It’s a strong, good but not outstanding performance.

Brahms’ Fourth Symphony opens with a slow but intensely elastic sense of sculpted movement; wind detail is very much to the fore in the opening Allegro as well as some splendidly subjective phrasing. I don’t suppose anyone has vested the Andante with as much unstoppable and emotion laden hysteria as Knappertsbusch in concert in Cologne in 1957. Jochum is of course far more decorous, seeing to sectional discipline even within a chastely emotive patina, bringing sophisticated technique and purposeful individuality. And how well he encourages some diaphanously draped flutes in the Allegretto – truly delightful – and negotiates some powerful ritardandos in the finale where strong weight of tone reinforces the sense of the strain that Jochum seeks to convey. His first violin entries are clearly audible here and not covered by the brass as they sometimes can be and he balances sections with great acuity, as one would expect. Something has gone wrong with the timing and tracking here though; the Allegretto lasts six minutes not twelve and the tracking of the finale doesn’t start until half way through the movement. The Grieg Concerto teams Emil Gilels with Jochum and his "second" orchestra once more, the Concertgebouw. This is a strongly characterised reading and very communicative, Jochum shaping feminine woodwind responses to Gilels’s masculine passagework. The pianist takes care though to shape his phrases with requisite finesse and both men seem in one accord in the Adagio, which is full of poetic spirit, and in the bracing and increasingly driven finale. The final and most recent performance is of the Schubert, the Great, in a May 1986 performance with the RIAS Orchestra of Berlin. Strong and songful in the first movement Jochum is occasionally gaunt and resolute in the Adagio. He is also very slow here but despite this it is no valedictory reading, no autumnal leave taking. On the contrary it’s a frequently candid, considered, well-paced and thoughtful traversal, flecked with moments of disruptive splendour.

There is much distinguished music making in this and in the two other Jochum sets that form this centenary tribute. As I wrote in my introduction to Volume I this now must stand as a cornerstone edition for those interested in the broad sweep of Jochum’s discography. Presentation is impressive, documentation thorough and intriguing in equal measure and the whole edition a conspicuously fine example of thoughtful intelligence applied to a most worthy object of homage.

Jonathan Woolf

Volume 1 Volume2

 


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