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Hermann Scherchen conducts Beethoven
Westminster Archives – Scherchen Volume 5
CD 1 [69:30]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor, Op 37 (1803) [34:36] ¹
Overture - Leonore II Op.72 [14:11]
Overture - Leonore III in C major Op.72a [14:16]
CD 2 [59:15]
Egmont; incidental music (1788) [42:02] ²
Grosse fuge Op.133 (1825-26) [17:10] ³
Paul Badura-Skoda (piano) ¹
Magda Lászlò (soprano) ²
Fred Liewehr (speaker) ²
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Hermann Scherchen
English Baroque Orchestra/Hermann Scherchen ³
rec. 1951-58
TAHRA WEST 3009-10 [69:30 + 59:15]
Experience Classicsonline


Tahra West is a label sub-division that inspires confidence and promises outstanding reclamations from Westminster’s vaults. In short it means Scherchen. And in this case it happens to mean Badura-Skoda and Magda Lászlò as well, and a two CD Beethoven set.

The pianist recorded a Vienna-based concerto cycle with Scherchen, one that lasted for much of the 1950s. We have the C minor in this release, taped in July 1958 and recorded in stereo. As ever Scherchen encourages some sinewy, rough hewn lower string sonority from the ranks of his orchestra. There’s a gruff, no-nonsense sense of involvement and engagement throughout this opening orchestral introduction that sets the stage well for Badura-Skoda’s youthful performance. He brings out voicings with palpable relish and there is an outstanding sense of maturity to his playing, one that doubtless had something to do with the clearly well established and sympathetic rapport generated between both men. Reserved nobility characterises the central movement whilst the finale is quite measured, not especially sparkling, but seriously inclined, and unapologetically terse. This first disc is rounded out by performances of Leonore II and IIa. The string sound may be a little papery but the performances generate quite a bit of steam.

The second disc is perhaps even more valuable given that it restores the July 1953 recording of Egmont to the catalogue. Admirers of the conductor will know that another performance with Rosemarie Ronich (soprano), Kurt Paryla (speaker), and the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra exists. This was recorded in November 1960 and has already appeared on Tahra TAH103, issued back in 1997. Now over a decade later we return to the established commercial discography with this well-remembered Westminster performance. Incidentally the speaker in this Vienna performance – I can’t see it noted in the booklet – was Fred Liewehr. It well deserves its restoration, a good one by the way in these finely engineered transfers. Percussion is certainly to the fore, almost stentorian and there’s that strongly etched bass line once again. The entr’acte music I [track 3] is exciting and there’s commensurately noble seriousness in the succeeding music [track 4] which is also graced by lyrical fluidity in its central panel. The death scene is affecting done and the drum tattoos in the victory symphony are triumphant and galvanizing. Magda Lászlò sings eloquently and Liewehr is a sonorous and vividly declamatory speaker. To round off this disc we also have the bonus of the Grosse fuge in this 1954 recording with the English Baroque Orchestra. Once again Tahra has done the honours for this work in another performance – the Italian Swiss Radio Orchestra, recorded in Lugano in April 1962 [TAH-126/27] – and veteran Scherchen watchers will certainly need both performance, not least for the fact that the EBO performance is the more vital.

There’s a pleasing, small reminiscence in the booklet from Badura-Skoda on his association with Scherchen. Once more the Tahra West label bears fruit.

Jonathan Woolf


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