Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Overture; Leonore No.3 Op.72b (1806) [15:01]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No.88 in G major Hob.I:88 Letter V (1787) [22:08]
Paul DESSAU (1894 - 1979)
In memoriam Bertolt Brecht (1957) [14:51]
Gustav MAHLER (1860 - 1911)
Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen (1884) [16:41]
Anneliese Burmeister (contralto)
Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra/Kurt Masur
rec. 17 November 1967, White Rock Pavilion, Hastings and 18 November 1967, Royal Festival Hall, London (Dessau, Mahler)
These live broadcast performances follow the touring Berlin Staatskapelle and conductor Kurt Masur during a brief visit to England. The concerts were given on consecutive days in November 1967. The first venue was the lofty White Rock Pavilion, Hastings, and the second the somewhat grander Royal Festival Hall in London.
The disc gives us two pieces from each venue. From Hastings we hear a sinewy and powerful Leonore No.3, Masur extracting every ounce of tone from his band’s ‘bass up’ German sonority. But smaller details are also well attended to, not least the off stage or, in this case, galleried trumpeter. It’s followed by Haydn’s Symphony No.88 in a robustly rewarding reading. There’s a good string cantilena, and the movements are adeptly characterised, the finale being especially engaging. There are no quirks interpretatively, and it’s enjoyable in particular to hear the fluent wind choir’s contribution.
In London we hear Paul Dessau’s formidable In memoriam Bertolt Brecht which had been composed a decade earlier. Indeed Dessau himself recorded it with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig, later to be Masur’s orchestra. Dessau had first met Brecht in Paris in 1933 and their paths were to cross many more times, not least when they both found themselves in America during the War. Dessau returned to the country of his birth in 1948, settling in East Germany. He had also known Schoenberg in America and it’s twelve tone that informs this taut and unsettlingly work - an intense distillation of Brecht’s art and achievement, rather than a simple memorial piece as such. The terse drum tattoos and brass are part of the aural fabric of a work that trades in threnody but also celebrates the achievement of a life.
Anneliese Burmeister is the soloist in Mahler’s Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen and her contralto is finely controlled and richly burnished. She’s in good voice and proves a laudable exponent. If you’ve come across her in Sawallisch’s Elijah or Masur’s Beethoven Ninth and Missa Solemnis you’ll know she was a fine musician, even if she is best remembered, I suppose, for her Bach. But she was certainly not averse to contemporary music and, in a good inter-connection, she recorded Dessau’s Einstein and other pieces.
The recording quality captures both venues with real fidelity, offering a natural audience perspective shorn of spotlighting. It’s a well balanced disc into the bargain.
Jonathan Woolf 

No quirks interpretatively … enjoyable stuff.