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Russian Compact Disc


Ernst PEPPING (1901-1981)
Symphony No. 2 in F minor (1942) [37:26]
Heinz SCHUBERT (1908-1945)
Hymnisches Konzert for soloists, organ and orchestra [37:39]
Erna Berger (soprano); Walter Ludwig (tenor) Berlin PO/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. live, Berlin, 30 October 1943 (Pepping); 6 December 1942 (Schubert). ADD. mono
RUSSIAN COMPACT DISC RCD25016 [75:46] 
Experience Classicsonline


This disc is last volume in Russian Compact Disc's fifteen CD intégrale of the recordings liberated by the Soviet victors from the German Imperial Radio archives in 1945. They were carried off to Moscow with other booty and have previously appeared from Russian sources on LP. With the exception of some Glazunov (Stenka), ravel (Daphnis suite no. 2) and Sibelius (Violin Concerto, En Saga) the series represented Furtwängler through the mainstream German classical repertoire in radio recordings made during 1942-45 with the VPO and BPO.
 

This is the only entry that allows us to hear two composers who had some prominence in Germany during the period 1920 into the National Socialist era. 

While there is clearly some groove damage to the Pepping master it sounds very good indeed as does the even denser Schubert piece. 

The Pepping symphonies we may know from the CPO cycle. His Second Symphony was written during the dark days of 1942 so it was still finding its way when this recording was made. Mind you it could hardly ever have had such an incandescently intense performance as it receives here. It is stern and haunting at first then develops a leaping ebullient athletic confidence. It often refers back to the Regerian organ-loft though without Reger's occasionally suffocating, flatulent and cluttered textures. The second movement is calm, unadorned and mellifluous. It is marred only by groove damage which sometimes produces a frayed edge to the sound. The third movement rests on rustic play and might lead you towards  a Husarenlied jollity. Pepping is however free of creaking ländler and clodhopping boots. The finale returns to the intrepid character of the first movement with more than a hint of Elgar second symphony and In the South. 

Heinz Schubert was to die in 1945. That was three years after this glowingly concentrated performance of the towering Hymnisches Konzert. In this the orchestra - as if not imposing enough – is joined by organ and the ringingly soulful voices of Erna Berger and Walter Ludwig. This is music of grandiloquence occasionally falling into Wagnerian grandiosity as at 2:10. Most of the time however it is just magnificent. The two solo voices sing the words of the Mass and the Te Deum. There is some lovely luminous writing as in the almost ‘Vaughan Williamsy’ pages for solo violin and the whisper quiet organ at 4:52. The trumpet calls at 5:55 might well be referencing Brucknerian refulgence but they are elegiacally impressive nonetheless. Schubert creates a great bath of interleaving string sound and the counterpointing brass grace melodies have a Bachian splendour all their own. This loftiness is sustained when the music becomes a boiling cauldron. The voices enter at 17:00 with Berger's and Ludwig's sung - then spoken - Sanctus being an eerie echo of Holst's ‘round dance’ in The Hymn of Jesus. Berger's wailing Sanctus rises from being piercingly nasal to fuller tonal fruit. From the gleaming dawn of ppp strings at 21:33 rises a great fugal ascent. As things become more emotionally heated Ludwig and Berger are called on to confront the orchestra and rise above it in great virtuosic streamers of sound. The music has a majestic stride and rush as at 36:06 as well as the radiance of confidence.

There’s no applause in either case. 

There are general liner-notes about the conductor but nothing about the works. 

These are powerhouse performances that are athletically affirmative in their reach and conviction.

These recordings have also been reviewed here by Jonathan Woolf in the Melodiya version.

Rob Barnett


 


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