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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64 (1844) [26:21]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 (1878) [32:38]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op.20 (1878) [8:08]
Gerhard Taschner (violin)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Lehmann (Mendelssohn)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Artur Rother (Tchaikovsky)
Michael Raucheisen (piano)
rec. August 1953 (Mendelssohn) April 1948 (Tchaikovsky) December 1943 (Sarasate)
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 642 1797-2 [67:30]

Three labels in particular have done much to bring the name of violinist Gerhard Taschner to international prominence; Tahra, German EMI, and MDG (see reviews of the Beethoven & Fortner and Sibelius and Khachaturian concertos on MDG). Born in 1922 in what is now Krnov in the Czech Republic, also known as Jägerndorf to German speakers, he had early success in Prague and was leader of the Brno opera orchestra. This Czech background is a little deceptive as his musical orientation was broadly Austro-Hungarian, given that he studied with Jenö Hubay in Budapest between 1930 and 1932. His first conducting mentor was Hermann Abendroth who recommended to him to Furtwängler. It was through this latter association, and Taschner’s appointment as the Berlin Philharmonic’s leader at an incredibly young age, that he first rose to prominence.
 
Though he became the leading German violinist by the early 1950s, after the deaths of Kulenkampff and Busch, his career didn’t last long. He gave up solo performances when he was 40, devoting himself to teaching. Thus it is that Taschner, who didn’t like studio recording, lives posthumously through radio broadcasts such as these.
 
I’ve never been wholly convinced by the documents that have survived. Great claims have been made for Taschner but I find them seldom supported by the playing, attractive, indeed intense though it can often be. Whereas I didn’t elsewhere much like his Bruch, his Mendelssohn is rather more convincing. True, he makes some expressive gestures that don’t sound wholly integrated into the fabric of his playing - something I’ve often noticed in his performances, a kind of expressive inconsistency - he plays thoughtfully and often imaginatively. There is a musing quality to the slow movement, and a rhythmically attractive control in the finale - neither too fast, nor too sluggish. Like the fine concertmaster that he was, good rhythm is the name of the game. He is somewhat let down by Fritz Lehmann and the Bamberg Symphony who are heavy handed from time to time - especially the lower strings, which boom - and by a recording that is inclined to spread.
 
With his old orchestra (which he had left in 1945) he performs the Tchaikovsky, in April 1948. Artur Rother, an old hand, proves a more suitable accompanist here. Like his Hanseatic colleague Georg Kulenkampff, who died that same year, Taschner was attuned to the Slavic muse. Indeed Taschner would have been listening avidly when Kulenkampff performed, as he did so often, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Furtwangler during the War. Taschner binds the first movement’s second subject well, though very occasionally one notices a blanching of tone. Fluent but not overtly personalised, he is affectionate in the Canzonetta, and effective in the finale. The final piece is the wartime Zigeunerweisen with Michael Raucheisen, which has been reissued at least twice before, I believe.
 
There’s no faulting MDG’s commitment to Taschner’s legacy, which I am happy to commend. The notes are good and the restorations similarly.
 
Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Stephen Greenbank

Masterwork Index: Mendelssohn violin concerto ~~ Tchaikovsky violin concerto