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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
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]
Erich Röhn (violin)
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 too.
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.
Jonathan Woolf


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