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Jonathan Woolf
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Oskar Fried - Mahler’s Disciple. Live and studio recordings
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550 [28:03]
Serenade No. 13 in G, K525, Eine kleine Nachtmusik – Rondo (1787) [2:44]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Scala Di Seta (The Silken Ladder) - farsa giocosa in one act (1812) – Overture [8:35]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischütz (1820) – Act III Hunter’s Chorus [2:54]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhäuser – Einzug der Gäste (1845) [4:23]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Das Lied Von Der Erde – Von der Schönheit [final eight bars missing] (1907-9) [6:43]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1892-1971)
The Firebird - suite (1910) [17:22]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Danse macabre [6:43]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Stravinsky, Saint-Saëns)
Berlin Charlottenburg Opera Orchestra (Rossini)
Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Mozart - Eine kleine Nachtmusik-Rondo, Weber, Wagner)
All-Union Radio Orchestra, Moscow (Mozart Symphony)
Astra Desmond (alto)/BBC Symphony Orchestra (Mahler)
conducted by Oskar Fried
rec. 1927-37
ARBITER 153 [77:55]


Experience Classicsonline

Fascination runs riot in this release which covers a wide range stylistically and which offers up, to those interested in such things, an array of surviving material recorded on film soundtrack (the G minor symphony) and off-air on acetate (the Mahler) as well as things derived from commercial recordings.

Fried remains a creature of fascination and I can recommend reading Allan Evans’s long booklet note which is full of interest, personal, musical, biographical, political and every other which way and contains a newly translated Russian reminiscence of Fried by a colleague. And this of course is without considering a note of Fried’s performances. He remains one of those conductors whose legacy is frustrating in that its transfer to CD has necessarily been partial. There have been previous releases devoted to him, but this one has a decided fascination for three specific performances; the Stravinsky, the G minor symphony and of course the Mahler.

Mozart first. It’s salutary to hear how, in 1937 with the All-Union Radio Orchestra, Moscow, his opening can sound so didactic and emphatic. Note separation is such that it sounds monumental, curiously gruff, and very different from the kind of performance one might have expected of him. The pervasive and uniform portamenti illustrate a period practice common to those of his generation but slightly unusual to find quite so endemic going into the Second World War. The slow movement is fluent, slow, with good winds. And the finale has requisite swagger.  The Rondo from Eine kleine Nachtmusik is pleasantly aerial, though the surface is quite steely.

It’s equally important to be able to hear his Stravinsky, which was recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1928. Despite the rather steely surface the sonics are actually good and one can hear the orchestra with considerable clarity. I believe that this was the first recording of the Firebird Suite and it shows the vibrancy and rhythmic clarity Fried was able to instil in his performances. The Mahler extract is Von der Schönheit (last eight bars missing) from Das Lied Von Der Erde with British alto Astra Desmond and Fried conducting the BBC Symphony in 1936. This is one of the famed Leech recordings deposited at the British Library’s National Sound Archive. The sound is pretty good. The performance comes in at about a minute slower than the almost contemporaneous Brno Walter commercial recording but the more important fact seems to me the sense of fluctuation between speeds. This is a valuable example of a Mahler specialist and intimate at work and shows us how malleable and different were the approaches of all those whom we now consider to be the leading second generation standard bearers; Walter, Klemperer, Mengelberg – and Fried.

The other recordings perhaps appear of less immediate interest but in fact almost everything recorded by Fried is of importance. The Rossini sounds excellent  - plenty of orchestral badinage to be heard. The Weber does blast a bit, the Wagner is good and the Saint-Saëns sounds vibrant and exciting. I don’t know who the violin soloist is; Wolfsthal had been leading but by 1928 I think he was with ‘Klemps’ at the Kroll.

Historical devotees; don’t think twice if you admire Fried or his era. A few aural limitations must be accepted. The rewards in historical frisson are palpable.

Jonathan Woolf



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