This is just one of a long line of re-releases on Berlin. Conductors
represented include Sanderling and Herbig and, as here, Masur.
But there are also Max Pommer and Herbert Kegel. The repertoire
is mainly standard, though adherents will be delighted to see
the Leipzig recordings of music by Paul Dessau directed by Herbig
and Kegel, Eisler’s Deutsche Sinfonie (Pommer conducting),
recordings by the quartet led by the soloist in the disc under
review, Karl Suske, and vocal recitals by Peter Schreier, Gisela
May and Hanne-Lore Kuhse.
So, some things worth looking out for. For now the focus is
Beethoven, Leipzig, Suske and Masur. The violinist was born
in 1934 and has had a long and successful career as one of Europe’s
most experienced concertmasters and quartet players. He became
leader of the Gewandhaus orchestra in 1977 and he also led the
orchestra at the Bayreuth Festival for many years. In some ways
he is to Leipzig what Hermann Krebbers was to Amsterdam.
Yet, it is to Krebbers I would turn in performances of the concerto
repertoire, if faced with the choice. Suske’s Beethoven
is lyrical and his smallish, elegantly sweet tone is finely
equalized. He plays in a calmly unruffled way, unhurried but
not at all flaccid, though without a great sense of genuine
voltage. He prefers, instead, a sense of relaxed grandeur in
the first movement, and a warmly textured, prayerful slow movement.
Here he is borne on a string cushion fashioned by a master accompanist.
Masur brings out some seldom heard voicings, orchestral counter
themes and features of the accompanying fabric that more routine
conductors would simply not seek to find. Equally, one finds
the conductor measuring the music’s harmonic direction
with scrupulous care. He provides excellent support for his
concertmaster, though not one that goads the soloist to faster
speeds or more incisive rhythmic thrust. If one feels at times,
especially in the slow movement, that Suske is almost performing
an obbligato, then it is testament to his integrity and musical
skill, that he nevertheless manages largely to convince one
- except perhaps in the rather hidebound and heavy finale.
The ‘fillers’ were recorded earlier under conductor
Heinz Bongartz, at a time before Suske had been appointed the
first concertmaster of the orchestra. The ubiquitous Romances
are played with attention to detail. The Romance in G
is particularly successful and nicely coloured. But it’s
the last work that will naturally be the main focus; it’s
the fragment of the Violin Concerto in C, WoO5. It sounds fully
Beethovenian with its strong and long introduction, and its
inclination to make life a little awkward for the soloist in
his opening salvo. The fragment is nine minutes long. Some musicians
have attempted to complete it, but we hear the untouched version,
which comes, therefore, to an abrupt stop.
This novelty amplifies and illuminates aspects of the writing
for the eventually conceived Concerto. But I doubt you’d
be buying this disc for that alone. It’s ancillary to
a good, modest, lyrical and likeably nuanced performance of
that great work.