Violin Concerto in D major Op 61 (1806) [43:57] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.39 in E flat, K543 (1788) [27:42]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. live 9 January 1944 (Beethoven), 7 February 1944 (Mozart) MELODIYA MELCD 1001105 [71:24]
Melodiya has embarked on
a major programme devoted to wartime Furtwängler broadcasts.
These have been multiply available by now and whilst uniformity
may sometimes be a virtue one must note that Melodiya – or
their heirs and successors – are still sticking to attributions
long held to be dubious. Clearly there has been no new evidence
that Stenka Razin was ever conducted by him, though
he did conduct the Glazunov Violin Concerto. Similarly the
Haydn Symphony No.104 and Grieg Piano Concerto have never
been shown to be conducted by him, nor the piece by d’Albert
either. The Haydn was, I believe, conducted by Alfred Dressel
in Bavaria. Melodiya are repeating the line that these are
Vienna recordings and that the dates are open to conjecture.
But to continue to reissue these and other performances in
this way, without any such warning on the box itself, is
a move open to the severest censure. The notes address the
point but in a half hearted way and since these are School
of ’72 Melodiya translations – you’d think Oligarchs might
have got translation services on the move by now – they are
not best placed to make their points with clarity.
That having been addressed
there are no such problems with this release. This is by
no means an exhaustive list but the Beethoven has been available
on a DG box devoted to just these broadcasts, covering the
years 1942-44. Volume 1 contains both works on this Melodiya
as well as Beethoven’s Symphonies 4, 5 and 7, Schubert’s
Ninth and other important material. Budget labels have also
got their hands on these performances and you can, for example,
find the Concerto on Magic Master and, coupled with Kulenkampff’s
Sibelius, on Archipel.
Röhn was one of the most
distinguished of Furtwängler’s leaders amongst whom stood
Borries and Goldberg; his grandson also happens to be one
of the most impressive of the current crop of younger players.
The Beethoven Concerto was heard at the last concert given
at the Philharmonie before it was destroyed. If it lacks
Menuhin’s spirit of elevation and tonal reserves in his performances
with the conductor, it is superior to the Schneiderhan recording.
Röhn’s pure tone is classically clean; some portamenti point
to certain expressive traits but in the main his is a vivid
and rhythmically controlled performance. His opening broken
octaves are more secure than many a better-known elite player.
And it’s especially valuable to hear how the nature and depth
of his vibrato changes in the slow movement. Furtwängler
marshals a texture that’s rough-hewn yet still essentially
elegantly phrased in the finale. The Berlin basses and cellos
are powerfully to the fore, winds enliveningly audible – capricious
By a coincidence the Mozart
was given at the first concert after the Philharmonie bombing.
It’s a powerful reading, sinewy and not inclined to indulge
any aristocratic vestiges; certainly no Beecham swagger here.
Tempo relations however are proportionate though he omits
the first movement repeat. The slow movement has a vocalised
expressivity against which the loss of a repeat is ultimately
of little significance. The Minuet is tremendously engaging
and has all repeats intact.
If you have the first DG
volume then you have these broadcasts. Others may want to
investigate this issue – and by extension the series - if
they lack the Concerto, which is an important document, and
the dynamic Mozart. It would be simpler and cheaper though
to collect the DG volumes.
Founding Editor Rob Barnett Editor in Chief
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny MusicWeb Webmaster
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