This four CD set
from Tahra ranges unusually widely. It might seem like something
of a buffet but actually it possesses a gourmet touch. Firstly
it presents what is apparently the first ever CD transfer of
Mitja Nikisch’s only commercial disc recording – though he did
make piano rolls. Mitja was the son of Arthur Nikisch. The notes
are strictly discographic and not biographical so they don’t
have room to mention is that he’s far better known for the famous
dance-band he led in Berlin than for this foray into the classical
world – though of course he had a prestigious classical background.
His career with blighted by the Nazis and he killed himself
in Venice in 1936, aged thirty-seven. The set of K466 is a fairly
rare one and sounds a little swishy in places. The conductor
of Arthur Nikisch’s old orchestra is another little known musician,
Rudolf Schulz-Dornburg. The performance is articulate and certainly
worth a listen – though rather heavy from time to time.
conducts the brief music from Les Petits Riens. The desirability
of this is increased by virtue of the fact it was recorded in
wartime Switzerland and must have seen limited distribution.
The same thing applies to Leopold Ludwig’s Berlin recording
of Symphony No.39 K543, which must have been set down within
a few months of the Scherchen. Ludwig may now be better known
as a fine accompanist but he proves quite capable of sculpting
the slow movement with considerable panache.
I welcome any and
all duplication of repertoire by Dennis Brain. This 1954 broadcast
of K417 is presided over by that sovereign musician Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt.
To those who find the Brain-Karajan recordings a touch Olympian
then live performances such as this one and a recording directed
by Rosbaud of the E-flat, K. 447 might prove salutary. New Brain
archive material is being issued at a fine rate – and there
is plenty more to come. A few months later Schmidt-Isserstedt
was taped in the Divertimento No.11 K251. To complete the second
disc we have the already mentioned Rosbaud making the Orchestre
National de France sound pretty tidy in Symphony No.38.
The third disc opens
with the Sinfonia concertante with Grumiaux and Primrose as
protagonists and the much underrated Otto Ackermann directing.
Both string players had performed the same work with Ansermet
in 1953. As far as the violist is concerned I’d rate this fortunate
survival on a par with his recording with Albert Spalding -
although by now Primrose had taken on a Heifetz-influenced tone
– and ahead of his meetings with Stern and Heifetz himself.
Grumiaux’s recording with Pelliccia and Colin Davis is justly
famous but this is the only live recording known to me. A splendidly
preserved meeting of titans. Scherchen’s Toronto Serenata notturno
– with a really Scherchenesque slow Minuet – is followed by
yet another rarity – Ančerl’s Jupiter. No commercial
Mozart symphonic recordings are known to have been made by him
so this 1970 Toronto performance is all the more valuable.
The last disc is
given over to a 1952 broadcast of La Betulia liberata.
A little reminder of two of the soloists - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
and Boris Christoff – should stimulate some interest. Fortunately
the recording is in very acceptable sound for its time. There
is also a harpsichord continuo. Listeners will note the slow
movement of the Sinfonia concertante had its origins in an extended
aria in this work. Christoff is all one would expect and Myriam
Pirazzini is a scary, tough Judith; Schwarzkopf has less to
do but this is nevertheless a valuable souvenir of a pioneering
performance of a seldom-performed work.
Obviously this is
specialist collector territory. Its mix of rare commercial recordings
and equally rare preserved broadcasts is attractive - and I
would say enticing. The programme is also really quite well
balanced – symphonies, concertos, divertimento, ballet music
and a big vocal work.