This is a very useful
reclamation from Music and Arts, with gaps usefully filled.
It’s also attractively presented with a Fried discography and
biographical essay – though it’s a measure of where the bulk
of enthusiasm is felt to lie with this release that the text
is in German. There’s a brief synopsis in English.
In terms of Fried’s
discography his major contribution will remain his mammoth acoustic
recording of Mahler’s Second Symphony, though his acoustic Bruckner
Seventh is not so far behind. Skimming through the discography
I noticed a number of things I’ve never heard – Beethoven’s
Eroica and Brahms’s First Symphony (both c.1924), the
two Berlin Symphonie fantastique recordings (the later
Melodiya 1937 is amazing), and his 1928 Scheherazade. Added
to these one must add his 1928 London recording of the Pathetique
and you have quite a select list of things I’d rather like
to hear. Both the Mahler and the Beethoven Choral Symphony have
been out on CD as has the Rimsky – though obviously I’ve not
heard it. The Eroica is out on Arbiter. Smaller pieces
have also made it to CD.
Music & Arts
concentrate astutely on works that even collectors might not
have heard. The Oberon overture from c.1924 is heard in a rather
gritty and worn copy. The performance however is especially
ebullient and colourful and for a late acoustic inherently pretty
good sound-wise. Then we move onto the conductor’s own arrangement
of themes from Hänsel and Gretel. This was recorded in
1928 and takes numerous themes, all helpfully noted, to last
the length of four twelve-inch sides. The recording quality
has, naturally enough, incrementally improved and the performance
is full of warmth and vitality. The Wagner Faust Overture was
recorded in the same year and receives the kind of performance
Albert Coates was dishing out to scores at the same time – a
magnetic, fast and viscerally accomplished reading.
The Strauss Alpine
Symphony is the most intriguing item and another acoustic,
which presented the usual problems for the studio engineers.
Certain conductors at the time – Fried himself, Coates and Henry
Wood, to take just three prominent musicians – all seem to have
shared a penchant for fast tempi that cannot alone be put down
to recording exigencies. It seems to have been a natural matter
with them, though whether things were slightly rushed
is a moot point. That’s the context for this astronomically
quick performance. Of course dynamics are reduced and the orchestral
forces are compromised by virtue of the acoustic set-up. There’s
a veil of surface hiss. And you can hear a common enough tactic
of the time, the end-of-side ritardandi to prepare for the turnover.
Given the foregoing it’s actually remarkable how well this boisterous
score comes out. Fried’s intense dynamism and his driving energy
carry all before him. The orchestral solos are notably well
balanced and instrumental colour does emerge with a degree of
fidelity. Certainly this is a galvanising retrieval from the
Fried admirers will
naturally gravitate to this, as will those who have a fondness
for the grandiose ambitions of German studios in the 1920s. Fried’s
discography is actually rather circumscribed and so far as I’m
concerned everything in it is valuable.