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