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
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.