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Wolfgang FORTNER (1907-1987)
Concerto for violin and large chamber orchestra  (1947) [22.24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.61  (1806) [43.20]
Gerhard Taschner (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Fortner); Georg Solti (Beethoven)
rec. Titania-Palast, Berlin 1949 (Fortner), Gemeindesaal, Berlin 1952 (Beethoven)

Taschner was the violinist for whom Fortner wrote his concerto and it was Taschner who was instrumental in bringing it to fruition. He’d been Furtwängler’s leader in the Berlin Philharmonic and his youthful precocity has here given way to mature control. Fortner’s Concerto is very much of its time, or just after, a driving motoric work redolent of the neo-classicism of Stravinsky. It has great lyricism as well and in the slow movement some characteristic baroque evocation, fulsome warmth enshrining a certain reflective loss maybe inspired in part by Berg.  The threnody here takes on a tread that contrasts with the central section with its ominous martial calls and unsettled direction. Premièred just after the War its reflective and militaristic profiles are clear, and equally so that it suits Taschner’s somewhat astringent tone very appropriately. The finale is notable for his commanding bowing, renewed motoric drive and a pulsating cadenza. As a work it can’t claim to be as moving or important as Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre  - which in any case it doesn’t resemble stylistically – but it has its share of emotive complexity. Furtwängler modestly deferred to his erstwhile leader at many points during rehearsals and performance and he conducts with clarity and rhythmic acuity.
Coupled with the Fortner is the Beethoven with Solti presiding over the Berlin Philharmonic. One senses here that Solti would prefer to takes things faster than Taschner but the result is a convincing collaboration nevertheless. I’ve written before that I’m unable to share in the Taschner adulation that has burgeoned since his cruelly early death. His tone always sounds to me insistent and rather tense – a product of his vibrato usage – and almost steely. Still, he phrases with novel freedom in the first movement cadenza – his phraseology is decidedly thought provoking and I listened to him with eye narrowing concentration. His pellucid trill illuminates the slow movement, which is rapt and prayerful; he creates an air of intense tranquillity through splendid articulation rather than through emotive tone. The finale is a touch lacking in sparkle.
There’s a small degree of rumble audible in certain moments in the Beethoven Concerto but the actual recording quality of both concertos is very fine and up to the best contemporary German broadcast standards. Good notes as well. Taschner devotees will not hesitate and Furtwängler admirers may not have caught the Fortner in its previous appearances, which makes for a valuable disc.

Jonathan Woolf



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