Oh dear, what a pity …
fifteen years ago RAI began broadcasting in the early afternoons
a long series of “Concerti DOC”, archive documents from their
extensive vaults. For all I know they still do but my time
schedules are rather different now. I taped a large amount
of it and more recently put onto CDR the items I considered
worth preserving, including these two. Neither my home-taping
equipment nor my home-CD-making equipment was exactly of the
highest professional standards, so what a pleasure, I thought,
to be able to have these valuable performances professionally
transferred and made to sound as well as they reasonably can.
trouble is the Mendelssohn, in particular, sounds worse, much
worse. Right from the beginning the opening orchestral bars
have a husky, scrubbed sound, as though the recording has
been de-noised and de-clicked and de-hissed and God-knows-what-elsed.
The violin has a shrill, teeth-edging, dentist-drill penetration
without a trace of quality. If these strings were made of
catgut, the cat must have been still alive.
copy is muddier, with a bit of rumble, but it has a certain
fullness and the violin retains enough quality for you to
hear that it is actually being played very beautifully.
differences are smaller in the Brahms though at the beginning
of the finale, for instance, I seem to hear a little more
presence to the violin in mine. But surely a professionally-made
thing you actually buy in the shops should sound better
than something you tape at home.
is no trace anywhere of the “RAI Trade” emblem so I take it
these performances were home-taped by someone with equipment
no better than mine, maybe worse, and have been doctored mercilessly.
Though nothing will disguise the fact that these 1952 recordings
were not state-of-the-art even in their day I am quite sure
that sympathetic treatment by someone authorized to use the
original tapes would yield reasonable results.
the circumstances it seems pointless to describe the performances
beyond noting that they are fiery and incandescent. A discussion
of interesting matters such as how Furtwängler adjusts to
his different soloists in these recordings and the famous
ones of the same concertos with Menuhin had better be left
till we can enjoy them better.
also query the given date of 11 March for the Mendelssohn.
I noted down 6 June 1952, as given out by the radio announcer.
He may have been wrong, but I know Furtwängler/Turin recordings
from 6 June 1952 of the Flying Dutchman Overture, Siegfried’s
Rhine Journey and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and the Mendelssohn
would slot into the middle of that well enough. If it was
really played on 11 March – yes, I have checked that this
is the same performance as I have – I should like to know
what else was played at that concert. The Brahms, by the way,
was followed by the First Symphony. Since the RAI orchestras
gave their concerts weekly I should have thought it unlikely
that there were concerts on both 7 and 11 March.
I seem to be finding fault all round, I’ll point out that
the note by Danilo Prefumo is good but the translation is
rather obviously not by a native English speaker, though it’s
far from being the worst of its kind I’ve seen. Just one example,
in Italian “autori” write books but also compose music and
paint pictures. The translator evidently doesn’t know that
in English “authors” only write books.
of you may be thinking – if you’ve got something better, why
not duplicate a few CDRs, make a pretty cover and write some
notes, set up a little record company in your garden shed
and make a few bucks? It’s a question of honesty towards the
music. These are performances of the highest level of artistry
– just slightly compromised by the quality of the orchestra
– and I know that my own resources will not show them at their
best. The fact that other people whose resources do not show
them at their best are happy to profit from them doesn’t affect