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Karel Ančerl Gold Edition 18
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major K216 (1775)
Bassoon Concerto in B flat major K191 (1774)
Jan Václav Hugo VOŘÍŠEK (1791-1825)

Symphony in D major Op. 24 (1820-21)
David Oistrakh (violin)
Karel Bidlo (bassoon)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Karel Ančerl

Recorded Prague, 1950-54
SUPRAPHON SU 3678-2 001 [71.27]


This is now Volume 18 of the much-awaited Ančerl edition of reissues from Supraphon’s back catalogue. It teams him with two distinguished soloists, the visiting David Oistrakh, always sure of a hero’s welcome in Prague, something of a second home for him in the fifties and sixties, and native son Karel Bidlo. The latter was appointed to the Czech Philharmonic by Talich in 1930, joining such famous names as leader Stanislav Novák, flautist Nesporého, French horn player Seligera, oboist Dĕdu, clarinettist Holase and the other elite members of the orchestra.

Oistrakh left behind a number of recordings of the Mozart Concertos and live recordings also exist to expand the bounty. Recorded in the Rudolfinum in April 1954 this was the earliest of his recordings of the Third Concerto and joins those conducted by Barshai (1959) and self conducted by Oistrakh (Philharmonia 1958, and Berlin over a decade later). Other performances, notably those conducted by Kondrashin, are known to survive and have indeed been released on smaller labels. One is constantly drawn to Ančerl’s lively shaping of phrases and sturdy accents – the first fiddle accents in the opening movement are very emphatic. Oistrakh’s little comma points here are quirky and humorous and more than offset his elsewhere muscular humanity. The winds, as one would expect of this orchestra, are supremely characterful and act as apt foils for Oistrakh’s masculine approach. The conductor gives the Adagio a splendid lift – there’s plenty of verticality in this kind of approach – and one listens transfixed to the trademark and pellucid Oistrakh trill and to the exquisitely maintained romantic cantilena [track 2; 1.15]. The finale later tended to be a bit heavier with a greater weight of bow pressure and vibrato but back in 1954 there is some delightfully incisive bowing and a humorous and attractive patina to the performance. This is a first class traversal in the romantic manner.

Bidlo joins his colleagues for an equally authoritative Bassoon Concerto. Born in 1904, and four years older than Oistrakh, he lived to a grand age, dying in 1992. He began his career in Southern Bohemia – in the theatre band in České Budĕjovice – before moving to Prague and joining the famed Wind Quintet there. He was a member of the Czech Philharmonic for thirty-seven years (I think he took over from Karel Vacek) and achieved the kind of eminence in Czech musical life that, say, Archie Camden did in Britain’s – an exemplary bassoon player and colleague. He recorded the classics as well as more local fare (Pauer and Spisak) and this Mozart Concerto recording shows his many and varied strengths. There’s splendid tonguing in the opening movement and a perkily judicious tempo for the Rondo [track 6; 0.45] whilst the Andante ma adagio is songful and lyrically infused. He is tonally rich, technically adroit and very characterful.

The pleasures of this disc are only increased by the inclusion of the Voříšek Symphony. Incredibly this wasn’t published until 1957- and this recording predates publication by seven years. Listening to its urgent Beethovenianisms makes its neglect all the more baffling because this is a work that scents the future and has the technical sophistication to sustain its length. The opening Allegro con spirito is fine enough, if somewhat too breezy, but the second movement Andante packs a much more impressive punch. Stern and tragic it reaches an almost operatic apotheosis in Ančerl’s hands [track 8; 4.10] that lends it an exceptionally intense profile. A kinetic and brusque Scherzo, with a superbly judged trio section, prepares the ground for the Finale. This splendidly virile movement is full of powerful perkily wind flecked motifs and string accenting and leads to a sweepingly triumphant climax. The performance draws out the power and the lyricism of the Symphony and does so with penetrating insight.

The booklet notes are authoritative and the programme judiciously chosen. If Voříšek shows himself less in thrall to Mozart than to Beethoven then that only adds spice to the selection. Sound quality has been excellently enhanced, only adding to the desirability of the disc.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Don Satz


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