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Pristine Audio

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102 (1887) [32:06].
Jean Fournier (violin); Antonio Janigro (cello)
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Hermann Scherchen.
rec. 1952. ADD

Part of an impressive download catalogue, this Brahms Double serves primarily as a reminder of the stature of the conductor Hermann Scherchen. Scherchenís LPs were at one time claiming premium prices on the second-hand LP market. Although that is less the case now, it is good to explore the recorded work of a conductor many may only have heard of by reputation. Pristine Audioís website makes this incredibly easy.
The recording quality, thanks to Pristine Audio, is generally excellent. The orchestra lacks some depth on my CD, admittedly - something one canít say about Janigroís mellow cello. Neither is the woodwind always in tune. But it is the spirit of the performance that is catching, and credit for that should go to Scherchen. Interestingly there seems more body to the orchestra if one listens direct from the site - I found it an altogether more comfortable experience - and I tried the CD on two different players to double-check my impressions.
There is a wonderful glow to the Adagio, which is replete with a concentration that leads to some truly rapt moments. Fournierís violin is sweet and expressive, but more importantly there is real communication between the soloists.
The finale creeps in, but with no hunt of rhythmic laziness. This is a spirited reading that will surely give much pleasure. But it is certainly not a first recommendation.
The Double Concerto has never attained the popularity of Brahmsí other concertos, but there is still much competition. Comparison with my benchmark recording did rather put Scherchen and his soloists in the shade. Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky were the soloists in 1961 for RCA - with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Wallenstein: RCA Victor Living Stereo 09026 63531 2. The difference is palpable. Wallensteinís orchestra positively blazes. Janigro is no match whatsoever for Piatigorsky - how proud he sounds in the finale - and Heifetz is, well, Heifetz. If it is true that the RCA orchestra can very occasionally sound a trifle workaday, there is remains no comparison with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.
Nevertheless, the download price of the Scherchen is minimal (an MP3 of this is 5.25 Euros). The Heifetz/Piatigorsky is definitely worth the few extra pounds, it is true, but the curious should not hesitate to sample Scherchen.
By the way, my photocopied sheet with the recording details claimed this release to be PACD042, while the disc gave PACD034 (the website indicates the former - Ed.).
Colin Clarke


Pristine Audio


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