These are two of the most contentious – and rarest - recordings
made by the doyen of Czech conductors. Although I have heard rumours
that the whole Czech Philharmonic decamped to Vienna to record
there, they were apparently made in situ in the National
Theatre in Prague in the days of the Nazi-Soviet pact. The Piano
Concerto was recorded first and then a year later the Violin Concerto.
It’s not hard to see what might have annoyed people. The endeavours
smacked to some – Talich doubtless had little or no say in the
matter - of the triumphalist and collaborationist; the subjugated
Czechs playing the music of their oppressor’s ‘ally’ under their
own greatest conductor and orchestra and with two imported Austrian
soloists – recordings moreover for the pleasure of the Greater
Reich on Electrola and German Columbia.
Both 78 sets are
hard to find. In my experience the Violin Concerto is the harder
to find, as I last saw a good set of the Piano Concerto in Teuchtler’s
record shop in Vienna only a year or so ago. After the sessions
for the Violin Concerto the discographer Oliver Wurl noted that
Talich set down a complete recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth
Symphony though it’s been alleged that the matrices for this
were destroyed. It might interest some people to note that the
radio archives in Bratislava hold about an hour’s worth of unpublished
post-War Talich material but whilst the archivists are exceptionally
helpful the highers-up are not and access to this material is
proving very difficult.
Back to this recording
for Pristine Audio with its transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. The
Violin Concerto has been out on CD before – on Urania 149, which
I believe was taken from a good tape copy of the 78 set, and
on Amadeo 431 344-2 which sounds to me – I could be wrong –
that it was transferred direct from the 78 set. The soloist
is Wolfgang Schneiderhan and as a mark of the respect with which
he was held it should be noted that in the week of his death
in 2002 Vienna’s music and classical record shops had his photograph
draped in black. His playing is very sweet in his best post-Wolfi
style; he had first recorded in 1927 as the boy prodigy ‘Wolfi’.
The portamenti are succulent and fast, the tempi fast-fluid.
The slow movement is melancholy and over-expressive on my view,
a malleable lied with constant finger position changes and a
rather sentimentalised character. Note however the glowering
Prague basses and the distinctive wind solos, Talich’s summoning
up of gloom being first class. Over-recorded and too close to
the microphone though he may be throughout, the finale shows
Schneiderhan’s technical resources at full throttle though he
comes close to phrasal gaucheness at one or two points.
Winfried Wolf is
the less well known of the two soloists, though he had an intriguing
career and some of his rarer 78s are sought after. He too was
born in Vienna, studied in Berlin; he composed – the First Piano
Concerto was premièred in 1938 with the Berlin Philharmonic
under Carl Schuricht in 1938 for example - and he wrote stage
works after the War. He taught in Berlin and Salzburg and died
The surfaces of
the transfer are a touch noisy but there is wide dynamic range.
Wolf was not an infallible technician but he displays a strong,
resilient and quite sinewy propensity for the Concerto. He certainly
abjures the speciously grandiloquent but it’s a shame that he,
like his violinistic colleague, was over–recorded so that counter
themes are strongly subservient - though orchestral tuttis register
strongly. Wolf is not the most overtly colouristic of soloists
but his sensible and thoughtful musicianship reflect well on
Unlike the Violin
Concerto this is the first ever transfer of the Piano Concerto.
The definition and range is impressive. The companion work,
as noted, has seen extended play before. Mark Obert-Thorn has
ensured that this Violin Concerto transfer sounds warmer and
somewhat more veiled than the Amadeo. If you have that last
transfer you will have some of Schneiderhan’s early recordings.
I find it catches the room ambience better than this Pristine
work but it’s something of a transfer swings and roundabouts
In any case the
Wolf-Talich is an additional and very real draw. Talich collectors
really can’t do without it. There are brief producer’s notes
and mini biographies on the jewel case. My advice is to grab