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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Violin Concerto [20:47]
Le Sacre du printemps [32 :57]
Bela BARTOK (1881-1945)
Divertimento for String Orchestra [24:38]
Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester/Ferenc Fricsay
Festival of the Ruhr, Recklingshausen, Germany, 8 July 1951 (concerto)
Funkhaus, Saal 1, WDR Cologne: 5 October 1953 (Sacre) Funkhaus,
Saal 1, WDR Cologne: 4 May 1953 (Bartok)
MASTERS MM020-2 [78:26]
treasures from WDR Radio Archives, courtesy of Medici. With
the exception of the Stravinsky Concerto this is repertoire
Fricsay recorded commercially for DG; the live Bartók Divertimento from
1953 followed his DG studio recording by one month while
the live 1953 Stravinsky Sacre du Printemps preceded
the studio recording by six months. The Stravinsky Concerto
with Grumiaux is an earlier performance. Grumiaux recorded
the work for Philips in 1966 (with Ernest Bour).
Fricsay was at the time so closely associated with the RIAS
Symphony Orchestra in Berlin he did undertake a number of
guest engagements with other orchestras. He made several
appearances with the Cologne RSO in the early 1950s, conducting
the contemporary music with which he was associated alongside
the classics. In the 1951 concert, for instance, Stravinsky’s
Violin Concerto was flanked by Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 and
Schubert’s Great C major; the Bartók Divertimento was
performed alongside Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Ravel’s Bolero,
and Le Sacre with Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 and
Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. In many cases this
mirrored repertoire Fricsay had recently performed in Berlin
so the music would have been fresh in his mind.
earliest recording here, that of the Stravinsky Concerto,
is rather occluded in terms of sound but is perfectly serviceable
given its date. Grumiaux and Fricsay create a balance between
the objective and lyrical in this most neo-classical of works.
The motor rhythms of the outer movements create a considerable
sense of impetus and the final Capriccio is played
with just the right degree of controlled exhilaration.
performance of Aria I brings out the darker aspects
of the music more than in some performances, with a weighty,
almost doom-laden central section. Aria II on the
other hand allows Grumiaux to exploit fully the music’s lyrical
potential. A good performance overall but not superior to
Grumiaux’s later traversal.
Bartók’s Divertimento benefits
from the best sound on the disc – spacious, clear and weighty,
with contrasts between solo and tutti well brought out. Overall
this is a very similar performance to his DG recording but
perhaps the orchestra is not quite as attuned to the idiom
as their Berlin counterparts. The sound here however is a
big improvement on the last incarnation of the RIAS version,
which in any case is currently unavailable. As ever Fricsay
is a persuasive advocate of his compatriot’s music. Hungarian
rhythms in the opening Allegro non troppo are well
observed, and the final Allegro assai is performed
with suitably foot-stamping vitality! The central Molto
adagio distils a mysterious nocturnal world from the
opening pages and the chromatic outbursts later in the movement
provide the necessary degree of passion.
Sacre du Printemps sound is again slightly more restricted.
Part 1 creates an effective build up to the Dance of
the Earth, from the measured woodwind passages of the
opening through the weighty rhythms and cross-accents of Spring
Rounds. The string passages in this section are played
in a legato style, making the contrast with the latter
part of the section more marked.
2 opens with a proper sense of stillness and mystery, the “Pagan
Night” of Stravinsky’s imagination effectively evoked. The
Mystic Circles of the Young Girls move with measured
tread indeed, but this makes the outburst at the Glorification
of the Chosen One all the more effective. Here, also,
speeds are not excessive but the slashing woodwind figures
are made to contrast with the pounding bass rhythms. Note
the prominent timpani here and in the subsequent Evocation
of the Ancestors.
is broadly similar as a performance to his DG studio version
in its emphasis on purely musical values rather than showmanship.
In this sense it is not dissimilar to the composer’s own
approach by allowing the music to generate its own impetus
and tension through scrupulous observation of tempi and dynamics
and through clear articulation and rhythm. Not all the orchestral
playing is immaculate and sometimes we sense that Fricsay
is having to be a bit careful with an orchestra for whom
this music still represented a challenge even forty years
after the premiere. Speeds will strike some listeners as
cautious and the performance does not always generate the
cumulative abandon that can be heard in other performances.
these qualifications Fricsay is always interesting to hear.
This is a well-planned reissue, containing some memorable
performances in generally excellent sound.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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