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Willem Mengelberg. Archives inédites II
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No. 1 in C Op. 21 (1800)
Symphony No. 3 in E flat Op. 55 Eroica (1800) – minus First Movement
Egmont Overture Op. 84 (1810)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Bella mia fiamma… Resta o cara Concert aria K528 (1787)
Max TRAPP (1887-1971)

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1931)
Alexander VOORMOLEN (1895-1980)

Concerto for two oboes and orchestra
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Euryanthe; Overture (1823)
Interview with Mengelberg in Munich 1938
Chapel Carillon, recorded August 2000
Walter Gieseking (piano)
Jaap and Hakon Stotyjn (oboes) with
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Egmont – Salzburg 1943 and Weber – Salzburg August 1942), Concertgebouw Orchestra (Beethoven Symphony No. 1 – October 1940, Symphony No. 3 – April 1940, Mozart – March 1942, Trapp – October 1935, Voormolen – February 1944)
Willem Mengelberg
TAHRA TAH 401/402 [2 CDs 130.17]

The Mengelberg collector has probably never had it so good. A continuous array of broadcast material seems to pour forth – and is frequently bewilderingly recycled – from a number of record companies. What might seem like a first ever release to the laughable novice turns out to have been released and had a shelf life many times over. As one who finds the discographic Mengelbergian thickets tough to penetrate I won’t venture too far off the path but will start by saying that this is the second volume Tahra has put out devoted to previously unissued Mengelberg performances – the first was 391/3, a three CD set. This second volume collates two aspects of the canonical Mengelberg – his Beethoven and his promotion of contemporary music, a less appreciated facet of his overwhelming contribution to Dutch musical life.

His Egmont overture from the Salzburg festival in 1942 is dramatically laced and powerful and is in really first class sound, as is Euryanthe, which was recorded at the same festival but three days earlier. This, if anything, is even finer – evocative and outsize and truly dramatic. The First Symphony (Concertgebouw October 1940) features outer movements of remarkable breadth. All the Mengelberg stamps are there: huge personality, orchestral mastery, tonal effulgence and some characteristically outlandish rubati. It is as performances go the polar extreme of Weingartner’s commercial recording. It’s a great shame that the Eroica of April 1940 is missing its opening movement. Given the existence of other Beethoven performances this is low on the list of priorities but there is still enormous instruction in Mengelberg’s Marche funebre, very slow and italicised, and the dramatic diminuendi of the Scherzo with his equally slow trio. The Mozart from March 1942 is in somewhat less good sound and there are some acetate scuffs.

Max Trapp (1887-1971) studied piano with von Dohnányi and composition with Paul Juon subsequently teaching at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. He also took composition master classes in 1934-35. His Piano Concerto, composed in 1931 and finding an admirer in Walter Gieseking, is in three movements and lasts some twenty-seven minutes. It’s the earliest known surviving Mengelberg broadcast performance. It opens with some cascading leaps, negotiated with a certain drive by Gieseking. The orchestration is not quite turgid but it does lack distinction even though the counterpoint is characteristically fluent. It develops a certain craggy polyphonic drive – Reger’s influence on Trapp was decisive in this respect it seems – but fails to develop any neo-classicist potential. The second movement pursues a questing, unsettled line and features an absorbed clarinet line but once more there’s precious little to detain one – beyond the archival interest inherent in its survival. A small chunk of this movement is missing (I believe it’s intact on a rival Audiophile Classics release). By the time the finale comes around the piano is in complete control and leads a boisterous charge; a nice, elfin violin solo also flecks the score (which increasingly lightens, shedding the Regerian as it does so) and punchy trumpets bring the work to an assertive conclusion. Of course it’s important to have this survivor from the mid-thirties but I won’t be returning to it often.

Not so the Voormolen. Born in 1895 and strongly influenced by French impressionism his Concerto for two oboes is a delight, a real charmer. The opening is bright, busy, and gently neo-classical and the second movement, an Arioso, has charm and overlapping traceries. Both Jaap and Hakon Stotyjn play magnificently – Jaap, the principal oboist of the Concertgebouw was one of the very few players incidentally that the increasingly crabby Léon Goossens had any time for. Both brothers phrase the Arioso with ineffable delicacy and bring to the finale a chattering and chundering brio, with its muted trumpet full of humour, which threatens at any moment to turn the august orchestra into one big dance band turn. Delightful. Brilliantly played as well.

To round things off there is a very spontaneous sounding 1938 interview, made in Munich and lasting five minutes. The text is reprinted in the documentation to these two CDs which consists of a long, tall book sized shape, 10" x 5." The colour photographs of Mengelberg’s chalet retreat are delightful and the commercial discography and photos of LPs a splendid touch (though in my eagerness to scrutinise all this my reviewer’s fingers have managed to detach the booklet from the covers – watch out). A difficult set to review because of the torso of the Eroica and the miscellaneous nature of the recordings generally – but I was greatly taken by performances, works and the unusual presentation of the set and give it a firm and enthusiastic recommendation.

Jonathan Woolf

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