Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No.5 in A, 'Turkish' K.219 (1775) [29:00] ¹
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26 (1868) [24:23] ²
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Violin Concerto No 8 in A minor Op 47 Gesangsszene (1816) [18:53] ³
Georg Kulenkampff (violin)
Berlin German Opera House Orchestra/Artur Rother ¹
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Joseph Keilberth ²
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt ³
rec. 1935 (Spohr), 1941 (Mozart) and 1942 (Bruch), Berlin
DUTTON CDBP 9804 [72:31]

None of these restorations is new to the CD market, but the three concertos make for a well-selected programme. It also reinforces Dutton’s good work on behalf of violinist Georg Kulenkampff, who for many years was best known on disc for his Beethoven Concerto recording and for his role in the posthumous premiere of the Schumann Concerto and the ensuing international nonsense surrounding it.

The Mozart Concerto was first restored, so far as I’m aware, back in the late 1960s on LP, and a few years later made another appearance. You can find another CD transfer on Opus Kura [OPK2090]. It was recorded in Berlin in 1941 and paired Kulenkampff with the Berlin German Opera House Orchestra and Artur Rother, a dependable rather than especially charismatic conductor. The recent re-release of Josef Wolfsthal’s recording of the same concerto on Pristine Audio [PASC239] shows how these two near contemporaries approached the work, albeit Kulenkampff was recorded a decade later: both fiddle players incidentally died young. Of the two it’s the Hanseatic Kulenkampff who proves the more convincing Mozartian. He plays with wit and assurance and though the accompaniment is heavy – the bass up tuttis are especially clogged and dogged – the violinist crests these limitations with confidence. The slow movement is easefully done and dynamics are carefully graded. True, parts of the finale can sound rather affected but there’s a certain aristocracy in the phraseology when he’s on song. Jan Dahmen was a lesser player than Kulenkampff but his recording with Böhm and the Saxon State is another German recording of the time well deserving of a hearing, and it too has been transferred from 78.

You may associate the Spohr with Heifetz and/or Albert Spalding (see review) but Kulenkampff’s 1935 recording was another in the triumvirate of early readings of the work; indeed Spalding and Kulenkampff’s discs preceded Heifetz’s by some way. I have always had a very soft spot for Spalding here. He plays marvellously and vividly, and the work suits his cut and dried technique and oratorical powers very nicely indeed. But Kulenkampff proves a most eloquent exponent of Spohr’s scena concerto. His legato is gainfully employed, his trill is tight and fast, and the rapport between him and Schmidt-Isserstedt – who accompanied the famous Beethoven Concerto – is first class. Kulenkampff’s glamorous slides in the finale are exciting, and his approach throughout tonally and stylistically apt.

The Bruch Concerto takes us into early wartime. The playing here is admirably direct, and though it’s certainly not the last work in romantic expression, it is cultivated and warm-hearted. Joseph Keilberth is on hand as accompanist. I rather prefer the remake that Kulenkampff made in Zurich with Schuricht – the same conductor who directed it on disc for Stanske on DG – but this earlier performance is not greatly inferior.

The Bruch and Spohr were released on Alte Nova [CDAN1] which was an enthusiastic bit of work, but rough and ready. This Dutton is much superior in that respect but too treble starved for my own tastes. You can also find the Spohr and Bruch together on Opus Kura OPK2092 alongside the Mendelssohn. Otherwise, many will find this disc attractive, and the programme worthy of note.

Jonathan Woolf

Attractive and worthy of note.