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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto Op. 47 (1903 rev. 1905) [30:15]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto (1940) [34:05]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)

Carmen Fantasy after Bizet’s Opera Op.25 [9:07]
Gerhard Taschner (violin)
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Herbert Sandberg (Sibelius); NWDR Symphony Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (Khachaturian); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Lehmann.
rec. 6 January 1956; live 8-9 May 1955; live, 21 August 1953
Experience Classicsonline

The white-heat Gold Standard for German violinists in Sibelius was set by Kulenkampff, whose live broadcast with Furtwängler has been widely re-issued. That was a performance of searing intensity. Over a decade later Gerhard Taschner turned to it – he shared something of the Hanseatic Kulenkampff’s predilection for the Slavic. But Taschner’s Sibelius couldn’t be more different from that of his august predecessor. It’s lightly bowed and curiously undemonstrative despite the quick slides. He reserves tensile power and instead adopts a broadly aristocratic, rather aloof profile. The first movement cadential passages are rather unconvincingly phrased and the orchestra meanwhile sounds rather prosaic and uncommitted. Taschner brings some fanciful moments to the finale, a movement he apparently spoke to Sibelius about in 1944, proposing a slower-than-usual tempo. Here he plays the standard type of tempo. And as a whole this is a rather lightweight reading.

Tahra has already released two Taschner performances of the Khachaturian concerto, one with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin under Rother from September 1947 [Tahra 350/51] and this one from 1955 with Schmidt-Isserstedt. Once more it shows Taschner’s 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. Taschner’s way with the work is tensile and enjoyable though it’s not the last word in tonal variety. He’s 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.

The Sarasate was taped in a very reverberant church acoustic with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Lehmann. Taschner is at his best here, charismatic, powerful - totally committed music making.

I prefer MDG’s transfer of the Khachaturian to Tahra’s. It has a slightly clearer sound-stage than Tahra’s slightly muddier one. As for the Sibelius if you have Archipel ARPCD 8232 – the most recent incarnation of which I’m aware – you‘ll find MDG’s work clearer and far more open on all fronts and greatly to be preferred.

Jonathan Woolf


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