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Arthur Nikisch conducts Beethoven
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op.67 (1807) [31:32]
Egmont Overture Op.84 [8:27]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Oberon – overture (1826) [8:53]
Der Freischütz – overture (1820)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le Nozze di Figaro – overture (1786) [4:10]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody No.1 [12:10]
London Symphony Orchestra &
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Arthur Nikisch
rec. London and Berlin, 1913-14
DUTTON CDBP9784 [74:42]


Experience Classicsonline

Nikisch made a series of recordings before the First World War with the newly formed LSO and the Berlin Philharmonic. Of them the most famous and discographically pioneering was the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven. Actually “pioneering” should be qualified because there was an earlier traversal of the symphony by the Grosses Odeon-Streich-Orchester directed by Friedrich Kark made in 1910. Kark was a kind of German Landon Ronald. I’ve seen this announced on Wing, an exploratory Japanese label, but have never heard it and it would be good though I suppose commercially semi-suicidal to release it given that so few people would want to listen. Given that I’m one of the twenty or so who do let me encourage, if not suicide, then exploratory altruism amongst record companies. Kark was an important figure in the early history of the gramophone and it would be good if his large-scale recordings were represented more fully for us now.

But let’s return to Nikisch whose June 1913 recording of the Fifth triumphantly survives the relatively primitive sonics as one of the greatest examples of malleable, expressive romanticism in action. Trenchant and powerful it reflects the arch-hypnotist’s art and cogently and one assumes faithfully reflects its conductor’s spirited, rich impulses in the canon. So too the moulded, flexible approach to the Egmont overture. His Berlin orchestra – a reduced component to sit in the acoustic studio - is reliable and solid. The two Weber overtures were made in London just before the outbreak of the First World War. Der Freischütz is properly  buoyant whilst Oberon is tense, and tension filled. At the same time that he recorded the overture to Egmont he recorded Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.1. Being born in Hungary - and therefore a subject of the Dual Monarchy - may be seen to give him an advantage in terms of vitality and colour. But the recording still manages to preserve a reading of power, vitality, verve and true commitment. 

The transfers are very smooth; maybe for die hard 78 fantatics too smooth. Noise reduction has certainly taken off some treble frequencies but has promoted a homogeneity of sound that, to many, will be very acceptable. 

Jonathan Woolf


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