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AntonŪn DVOŘŃK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto Op.53 (1879) [30:53]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto (1940) [33:42]
Gerhard Taschner (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Lovro von Matacic (Dvorak)
NWDR Symphony Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (Khachaturian)
rec. live 26 November 1942 (Dvorak), 8 & 9 May 1955 (Khachaturian)
TAHRA TAH641 [65:05]
Experience Classicsonline


Is it or isnít it? Thatís the question posed by Tahra of this live performance of the DvořŠk Violin Concerto. It was part of the huge batch of tapes returned to Germany during Gorbachevís Perestroika; itís elsewhere listed with unknown soloist, orchestra, conductor and date in a compilation of performances of the RRG Ė the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft. So the question is, obviously, who are they?
 
I wonít spoil your pleasure by summarising the reasons by which Taschner, the Berlin Philharmonic and Lovro von Matacic were selected Ė you can read it in the booklet and prima facie the reasoning is suggestive. Itís certainly known that Taschner loved the work Ė in fact the opening bars of the slow movement were carved on his tombstone. He was also strongly associated with the work, because despite the name and the later course of his career, Taschner was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, studied in Prague and then led the State Theatre orchestra in Brno. According to the writer Norbert Hornig in The Strad several recordings of his performances of the work were erased. Perhaps this is one of them Ė returning unerased, to add to the store of RRG performances now restored to us.† Independently Iíve not had to look too hard to find details of several prestigious performances he gave of it over the years Ėwith Bernstein and the Vienna Symphony in 1948 for instance. The story of Taschnerís row with von Karajan over rehearsing the work may or may not be apocryphal Ė Taschner, Furtwšnglerís leader, was the subject of a poaching attempt on behalf on von Karajan at the State Opera so there may be an element of conflation.
 
Iím not actually a huge admirer of Taschner, usually finding that his performances are good but not elite, a sort of super-concertmaster class. But it canít be denied that he kept the best of musical company Ė with Gieseking one of his colleagues. So he was clearly amongst the most prominent violinists in Germany by the end of the war in the absence of the departed Busch and Kulenkampff. Again, though - is its Taschner? For what itís worth it doesnít sound like rivals. Kulenkampff was then, in 1942, the ranking German violinist in the country; heíd recorded the concerto in 1937 and was associated with Bohemian and Slavic works but itís certainly not him. It doesnít sound like Erich RŲhn, who was more of a classicist and had a smaller, sweeter tone. Itís unlikely to have been a Berlin concertmaster predecessor such as Borries. It certainly sounds to be a player with Taschnerís rather fast vibrato and propensity Ė unusual amongst that generation of younger German violinists Ė for sometimes quite excessive portamenti (see his Bruch G minor performance).
 
The orchestral winds are distinctive as well Ė the principal fluteís second movement counter themes sometimes cover the soloist Ė so doubtless an expert could make an educated guess as to the players involved and also the hall acoustic. But itís certainly a good performance, expressive in the second movement Ė much more so than Kulenkampff - and skilfully dextrous and exciting in the finale.†
 
Tahra has already released one Taschner performance of the Khachaturian concerto with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin under Rother from September 1947 [Tahra 350/51]; hereís another. This time itís with the NWDR Symphony Orchestra and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt in 1955. Once more it shows Taschnerís affinities with music somewhat to the east of the Austro-German hegemony, a trait - as one has already noted - that he shared with Kulenkampff, who was Hanseatic, and inclined to be broad minded. Taschnerís way with the work is tensile and enjoyable though itís certainly not the last word in tonal variety. Heís certainly not nearly as tonally arresting or rhythmically incisive as the two leading Russian exponents of the work, Oistrakh and Kogan. He finds poetic warmth in the second movement within certain rather limited expressive ranges but leads a spirited, fluent finale.
 
Whatís not in doubt in any of this is the spirited commitment to Taschnerís art shown by Tahra, who have once again placed themselves at his service. Youíll doubtless enjoy the notes, which detail the process by which these players were selected as the most likely. And the performances are good too, alive with historical frisson.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 



 


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