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FORGOTTEN ARTISTS - An occasional series by Christopher Howell
1. Henry Swoboda (1897-1990)  


For many readers the name of Henry Swoboda will come in tandem with that of Clara Haskil. He was the conductor for three of her earlier concerto recordings. These have been reissued on various labels dedicated to historical material. But who was Henry Swoboda?
 
Such information as shows up is sketchy. Wikipedia’s brief stub gives as its reference “Sources relating to the history of émigré musicians”, edited by Horst Weber and Manuela Schwartz (Munich 2005). A profile and interview by William A. Weber (The Harvard Crimson 2.11.1962) followed Swoboda’s appointment as conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. A quite detailed posting in an internet discussion group seems to reproduce the entry in John Holmes’s classic book “Conductors on Record”.
 
Some of this material is contradictory, so it would be interesting to hear from anyone who knows more or better. Briefly, Henry Swoboda was born in Prague on 29 October 1897. He studied under Vaclav Talich there and also in Vienna. He was an assistant conductor at the Prague Opera (1921-1923), worked for Electrola in Berlin (1927-1931), guest conducted in Edinburgh, Berlin, Dresden and Vienna and was a conductor and programme planner for Prague Radio (1931-1938). Wikipedia also states that he was guest professor at the University of Southern California between 1931 and 1939. This may not be compatible with the other appointments listed and the Harvard Crimson article, derived from an interview with Swoboda himself, does not mention it. They agree, however, that he settled in the United States in 1939 and became an American citizen in the 1940s. Post-war, he appeared in Europe and Southern America but did not actually conduct publicly in the United States till 1960, when he appeared at the Empire State Music Festival. Thereafter he was conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (1962-4), visiting professor and conductor of Texas University orchestra (1964-8) and, one supposes, drifted out of the scene with encroaching old age. He died on 13 August 1990.
 
Swoboda’s pre-war career had involved administration and organization as well as conducting. Post-war he was one of the founder-members of the Westminster recording company in 1949. He recorded prolifically for this in the early 1950s as well as for Concert Hall and its associated Musical Masterpieces Society and La Guilde International du Disque. On one slightly later recording (1959) he accompanied Ruth Slenczynska in Saint-Saëns’ second piano concerto, conducting the Symphony of the Air. This was issued on Decca.
 
Given Swoboda’s part-ownership of Westminster, this might look like a partly vanity career. If there was any element of this, then he used it well. Of the works he set down for Westminster, several were first recordings and, apart from some concertos with noted soloists, practically none were easily obtainable in other versions at the time. Whereas Concert Hall, and in particular the Musical Masterpieces Society, were interested in making available cheap versions of repertoire works. Swoboda set down a number of popular items for them, in particular symphonies by Haydn and Mozart. Westminster also undertook - presumably under Swoboda’s influence - the promotion and preservation of the art of several conductors not otherwise well documented by the record industry, especially Hermann Scherchen. The Westminster recordings were mainly - and, in Swoboda’s case, exclusively - made in Vienna with the Symphony Orchestra or the State Opera Orchestra. Some of the earlier Concert Hall and Musical Masterpieces Society recordings use pseudonymous groups such as the “Concert Hall Symphony Orchestra”. Properly identified orchestras were the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. The latter was a pick-up band using players from various Dutch radio orchestras, unrelated to the present-day orchestra of the same name. As we shall see, Clara Haskil was not the only distinguished soloist apparently happy to be accompanied by Swoboda. He proved an excellent collaborator in every case.
 
Swoboda’s recordings can be obtained from a number of download sources, all of which I wish to thank for their dedication and efforts. In particular, “Mon Musée Musical”, a fascinating and very well organized French-language site run by René Gagnaux, “The European Archive”, a site offering a lot of material but sometimes depending on damaged LP copies, Random Classics and Squirrel’s Nest, two sites which, for reasons explained therein, may not remain visible much longer. The willingness of these collectors of rare - and out-of-copyright - records to share their treasured possessions in this way is a beacon of light in an ungenerous world, the more so since there would probably be little or no profit to be gained by reissuing most of these old LPs as commercial CDs.
 
The material I have found does not quite amount to Swoboda’s complete recorded output, but it would seem enough to get an idea of his qualities. These enthusiasts are working from old LPs, not master tapes, many of which may not have survived anyway. To avoid repeating ad nauseam comments such as “the recording is reasonable for its age”, I shall discuss recording or transfer quality only if it seems exceptionally good or a real stumbling-block to appreciation of the performance.
 
I have not been able to provide exact dates for these recordings. In a postscript I have shown the WERM edition or supplement in which they are first listed. From this it can be seen that a few of these recordings were on sale by April 1950, almost all of the rest by the end of 1952. Swoboda’s recording career was therefore intense while it lasted, but concentrated within a period running from the end of the 1940s to the very early 1950s.
 
 
Baroque: Bach and prize-winning Vivaldi
Bach’s first orchestral suite is a performance strictly of its time. The strings of the Winterthur SO seem pretty numerous, there’s no continuo that I could discern and little dynamic variation. It has a certain vibrancy in its favour (MMS-74).
 
Swoboda’s recording of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, on the other hand, has a number of claims to fame. The story is told in several places on the internet, most fully at the Naxos site.
 
The violinist is Louis Kaufman, described as one of the most recorded violinists of all time, on account of his participation in hundreds of Hollywood film scores. Post-war, he moved to Europe and gave a number of major premičres, including works by Martinů and Milhaud. This was not, as sometimes stated, the first ever recording of “The 4 Seasons”, having been predated by a version under Molinari (1942). But it was the one that caught the popular imagination, converting Vivaldi almost overnight from a peripheral figure in the history books into a household name. It won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1950 and entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
 
Billed as played by the “Musical Masterpiece String Orchestra”, this was one of Swoboda’s few recordings set down outside Europe, the band consisting of moonlighting members of the New York Philharmonic playing in the Carnegie Hall. And moonlighting is the word, since the recordings were set down after midnight during the last week of 1947 - the venue was fully booked at all other hours. At the time, Kaufman was unaware that these concertos were the first four from a set of twelve. On learning this he embarked upon a quest to Europe and, on the advice of Malipiero, tracked down an early edition of the complete set in Brussels. His recordings of the other eight, in 1950, belong to another story since the conductor was Clemens Dahinden.

The revised edition of “The Record Guide” (1956) tells us that “Louis Kaufman has made a special study of the stylistic problems involved in playing Vivaldi’s music”. The many violinists who have made such studies in more recent years have not, however, concluded that the historical sources justify a rich vibrato and a degree of swooping portamento that might now be considered bad manners in Max Bruch. Similarly, we would today expect a harpsichord continuo all through. At first, there seems to be no continuo at all. An organ appears in the far distance in “Summer”, to rather spectral effect - I seem to detect it at times in “Winter” too. A harpsichord suddenly turns up in “Autumn”, strumming away with its lute stop during the middle movement. Combined with Kaufman’s swooning approach and the lush NYPO strings, the effect is as ripely romantic as anything Respighi, or even Rodrigo, ever imagined. Most modern ears will get the idea they are not listening to real Vivaldi at all but concertos “in the old style” by Respighi or another early 20th century Italian post-romantic. On the other hand, it is all marvellously imaginative and alive. This goes for Swoboda just as much as Kaufman. Few versions since have had the same capacity as these to astound and involve the listener. Their place in the history of recorded music, and in the revival of the Italian baroque, would seem unquestioned (MMS-56).
 
WERM shows that Swoboda set down a few more concertos from the Italian baroque.
  
Pre-Classical: C.P.E. Bach and Carl Stamitz 
Swoboda showed at least a passing interest in the transitional period between baroque and classical. In a “piano concerto” in A minor by C.P.E. Bach, the pianist Franz Holletschek - to use the spelling on the disc label - and the conductor seem uncertain how to treat this music and content themselves with a generalized liveliness. Listeners today are likely to find, in alternation, passages where the modern grand piano works surprisingly well and others - probably the majority - where it doesn’t convince at all, possibly because the pianist seems to feel the same way.
 
On the other side are two symphonies - H.663 and H.659. These are musically much more interesting than the concerto, indeed fascinatingly unpredictable. Swoboda seems much more convinced here, inspiring the Vienna SO to play them with fire and real point (Westminster LPG 8324, rec. 27 July 1950). 
 
The Vienna SO also plays a Sinfonia Concertante in F by Carl Stamitz. This proves an amiable piece and rather more than that in the middle movements, which go very nicely. Swoboda puts plenty of vim and vigour into the tutti passages of first movement but lets the tempo slacken when the unnamed soloists enter, somewhat dissipating the effect. The same happens in the finale to a lesser extent (Westminster WL-50-17, rec. 19 December 1949).
  
Haydn and Mozart: Haskil and some notable symphonies 
In a coupling of Haydn’s symphonies 77 and 78, very likely first recordings, no.77 gets an unhurried but lively performance, with a beaming, good-hearted appreciation of the music. The ensemble of the so-called Concert Hall SO is far from tight at times. No.78 is a tougher, minor-key work and gets a suitably vigorous performance (CHC-30).
 
For the Musical Masterpieces Society, Swoboda led the Netherlands PO in a popular coupling of Symphonies 94, “Surprise” and 100, “Military”. After a thoughtful introduction, no.94 is much lighter and jollier than was the norm at the time, with infectious rhythms and a real bounce to the minuet. In 100 he goes beyond mere jokiness. The “military” instruments impinge on the innocent lilt of the second movement and the jollity of the last with brutal, devastating effect. In this symphony, Swoboda opts for a very relaxed minuet. Two very fine performances (MMS-59).
 
With harpsichordist Hans Andrae, violinist Peter Rybar and the “Concert Hall SO”, Swoboda also recorded Haydn’s double concerto Hob.XVIII:6. As often with Haydn, a concerto seems less interesting than most of his symphonies. It doesn’t help that it is played in a very formal, rococo style that seems to stem from the harpsichordist, whose rigid, heavily-registered (and closely recorded) playing negates the advantage of having the “proper” instrument (CHS-1081).
 
Swoboda in Mozart inevitably evokes the name of Clara Haskil, whom he accompanied in the concertos K.459 and K.466. In the former, Haskil’s unruffled, seemingly laid-back but somehow very “complete” performance needs an orchestra of like refinement. Swoboda does his best, coaxing light Papageno-like textures from the Winterthur SO in the first movement and assisting the soloist’s gentle expressiveness in the second. In K.466 Haskil offers calm, poised playing in a concerto which would seem to demand something more, yet with an inner light that makes it convincing in its own terms. Swoboda goes along with the soloist’s view very skilfully and the orchestra plays better than in K.459, perhaps because the piece itself was more familiar to them (Westminster LPG 8329, rec. 1 September 1950).
 
Haskil was not the only distinguished soloist to record Mozart with Swoboda. Mozart’s Flute Concerto K.314 gets a lovely performance from Aur čle Nicolet, in which Swoboda and the Winterthur SO fully share. However, while the flute is well caught, the recording is congested and distorted in tuttis so one is bound to prefer later recordings by this flautist (MMS-87).
 
The gem of Swoboda’s Mozart concerto recordings, though, is that of K.413 with the pianist Artur Balsam, who combines outward calm with inner vivacity and superbly pointed characterization. This is one of the finest performances of a Mozart piano concerto I have ever heard. After a slightly bland opening, Swoboda and the “Concert Hall SO” provide real collaboration, not just backing (CHS-1116). This team also set down K.415, which I have not been able to hear.
 
On his own, Swoboda gives a vigorous, fiery performance of the brief Symphony 23, with a nicely paced central section. There is some poor intonation from the Vienna SO wind at times and the oboe’s recorded tone is a little odd (Westminster LPG-8321, rec. 1 December 1949). 

Symphony 29 gets a lovely performance from the Vienna State Opera O. Though not lacking in energy, the abiding impression is of an unhurried, old-world graciousness. The recording is incredibly reverberant (MMS-75).
 
With the same orchestra, Swoboda gives a totally different sort of performance of Symphony 34. An upfront first movement has fiercely jabbed accents and a fairly staccato style, abetted by raucous (as recorded) oboes and trumpets. The second movement has a Gluckian serenity at a quite flowing tempo while the finale is a knockout - a real presto, finely controlled (no actual rushing). Overall this fiercely passionate performance is uncomfortable but extraordinarily stimulating (MMS-65).
 
The one common feature between this latter and Symphony 35, with the Netherlands PO, is a sense of great conviction. This is a slowish performance, majestic and stately but well-phrased and rhythmically alive. The leisurely gait illuminates in particular the lead into the recapitulation in the first movement. The second movement is lovingly tended (MMS-75).
 
The Netherlands PO also play Symphony 40. This has well judged tempi, allowing drive in the outer movements but not so speedy as to disallow properly breathed second subjects. The second movement has an attractive, stately flow. By unerringly avoiding the many pitfalls of this symphony, Swoboda actually came up with one of the best versions of the early LP era (MMS-65).
 
 With the Vienna SO and unnamed soloists, Swoboda gave an unhurried, elegant performance of the Concertone in C. Alas, here caution is in order. The LP copy used by the European Archive uploader has both repeating and skidding grooves up to the middle of the first movement. One can only hope that a better source will emerge for this likeable performance (Westminster LPG 8321).
 
The extreme contrast between Swoboda’s individual performances of Haydn and Mozart, and in particular between the latter’s 34th and 35th symphonies, is fascinating but puzzling. Did his own mood swing from one performance to another? Or did he have strong views on the different characters of the single symphonies? WERM shows that he set down several other symphonies by both composers, generally from among the lesser known ones. It would be interesting to hear them.  
 
Beethoven and Schubert: Haskil again and a Beethoven premiere  
Beethoven’s Third Concerto with Haskil and the Winterthur SO is another Swoboda recording that has remained in the general view. Haskil plays with surprising command where Beethoven forces her to do so, notably in the first movement cadenza and the coda to the last movement. There are moments in the outer movements where she veers towards the merely agreeable. On the whole, though, she stays the right side of the divide between the understated and the insufficiently stated. The slow movement is certainly inspired. Swoboda backs her very well. The orchestra is not the world’s greatest, but today’s HIP-conscious world may look more favourably on its reduced size than critics did at the time (Westminster WL 5057).
 
For the Musical Masterpieces Society, Swoboda set down the first recording of Beethoven’s oratorio “Christ on the Mount of Olives” (the second was Scherchen’s for Westminster). Conducting the Vienna Chamber Choir and the Vienna State Opera O, he gave a well-paced, vital account - the opening orchestral introduction shows him as a Beethovenian of good pedigree. The soloists were all members of the Vienna State Opera. The soprano and tenor, Margit Opawsky and Radko Delorco, perform well, though it can be heard that the bass, Walter Berry, was the one with something extra - both his tone and his phrasing are that much more focused. The recording becomes distorted under the impact of the final chorus but is otherwise fair for the date (MMS-2024). 

Schubert’s First Symphony, with the Winterthur SO, also seems to have been a recording premičre - the first edition of WERM shows no other version. It has an imposing introduction followed by a lithe, energetic Allegro. The finale, too, has excellent spin and the orchestra is on best form. The second movement is mobile and lyrical while the minuet is slow and majestic (MMS-2). 

Schubert’s Rondo in A for violin and strings was a slightly odd coupling for Lalo’s Violin Concerto. Miriam Solovieff, of whom more under Lalo, gives the overlong piece a well-turned performance. The Vienna State Opera O plays (CHS-1143).
 
 
Romantics: Some treasurable Dvořák
To judge from his performance of the Serenade no. 1, Brahms was not a composer who brought the best out of Swoboda. This is an enthusiastic, rambunctious if messy affair in which the “Concert Hall SO” appears to have a thin complement of strings. The first movement tears away, dropping the pace in second subject territory and the third movement goes at an uncomfortable speed similar to that for which Boult’s late recording has been much criticized. This approach works best in the finale. The second movement, however, is steady and galumphing, allowing the syncopations to tell. This would be my one motive for returning to the performance. The uploader at the European Archive had a poor copy, with a jumping groove in the third movement and the fifth faded out just before the end, presumably to disguise some intractable problem (CHS-1087). WERM also lists a recording of the Second Serenade under Swoboda.
 
 Much more pleasure is to be had from Goldmark’s “Rustic Wedding” Symphony, with the Vienna State Opera O. Surprisingly, this lively, well-turned performance was by no means a first recording, Robert Heger having set it down in 1931, and it had the misfortune to be followed only about a year later by a classic version under Beecham (CHS-1138). 

Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony “Polish” - already had a number of recordings to its credit, starting with Albert Coates’ of 1932, though the second edition of “The Record Guide” (1955) lists it - without enthusiasm - as the only one available in the UK at that time. The outer movements have good energy levels while lyrical themes are affectionately shaped. The playing, by the Vienna State Opera O, is pretty scrappy at times, especially in the finale where Swoboda rightly drives his players regardless of whether they know the notes. Missing is a sense of symphonic sweep. This is arguably lacking from Tchaikovsky himself in this early work, but conductors such as Markevich have managed to create an impression that it is present after all. A goodish recording which has served its day (CHS-1139). 
 
Another fairly rare Tchaikovsky piece set down by Swoboda was the Souvenir de Florence. Played with the full complement of the Vienna State Opera O strings, this sextet original sounds bottom- and middle-heavy, with the upper strings sometimes unrelated to the rest. The orchestra’s less than immaculate playing is also a drawback. Against this is to be counted the fine passion and real conviction Swoboda brings to the proceedings (Westminster WL 5083).
 
Swoboda’s Czech birth and studies with Talich would suggest he had a natural authority in Dvořák. He conducted the first recordings of the third and fourth - then unnumbered - symphonies. I have been able to hear only the former.
 
The glory of Dvořák’s Third Symphony is its first movement. Swoboda does reasonable justice to it. Transitions have some scruffy playing from the Vienna SO, suggesting this was not much more than sight-reading-plus, but the proper conviction is there. The second movement is admittedly too long for its own good, but Swoboda’s fast tempo - 09:59 compared with Neumann’s 14:43 (his analogue cycle) and Smetacek’s expansive 16:28 - sounds merely perfunctory. The music just doesn’t breathe. The finale could be more dashing - Swoboda takes 09:15 as against Smetacek’s 07:34 - but it is lively and buoyant and Neumann took a similar view - 09:22. The second recording of this symphony, by Smetacek (pub. 1961), was certainly preferable, but at least Swoboda left his listeners in no doubt as to the splendours of the first movement (Westminster LPG 8332).
 
Completing this disc is the Scherzo Capriccioso. Here Swoboda understood perfectly Dvořák’s heady brew of impulsive panache and nature poetry - the central theme is memorably introduced. The hardworking VSO struggle at times and the recording is somewhat dim.
 
Swoboda seems to have been the first to set down Dvořák’s overture-cycle “Amid Nature”, “Carnival” and “Othello” as a sequence, though they had all been set down singly by both Talich and Kubelik. They show Swoboda at his finest. The performances breathe the sort of total identification with Dvořák’s poetry that we find in old-world Czech maestros such as Sejna. It is easy to believe here that Svoboda was a pupil of Talich. The Vienna State Opera Orchestra is superior to the VSO in the Scherzo Capriccioso and the recording, apart from compressed dynamic range in fortes, is reasonable for its age. A Dvořák record to cherish alongside the early Supraphons. It was completed by the Nocturne for strings, lovingly unfolded (CHS-1141).
 
With the Winterthur SO, Swoboda set down a relaxed, yet vital and passionate performance of Dvořák’s Czech Suite (CHS.1157).
 
Another possible recording premičre was of Verdi’s 4 Pezzi Sacri, recorded with the Vienna Chamber Choir and the Vienna State Opera O - the date would have to be checked of the Aachen version under Rehmann which entered WERM at the same time. As most collectors know, Viennese choirs in the early 1950s used a strong vibrato in the female department which doesn’t always please English listeners. This is a matter of taste, obviously. Some will find it more “Verdian” than the typical “straight” English choral sound. Granted that this is how they sing, only in a few tough passages are the sopranos momentarily unsteady or below pitch. In general, this is finely nuanced, disciplined singing. Swoboda would appear to have had considerable gifts as a choral conductor. Furthermore, his interpretation has an authentically Verdian mix of devotion, fervour, fire and drama. For as long as things stay under a mezzo forte, the recording copes well, allowing more detail and a better choral-orchestral balance than one might expect for the date. Above mezzo forte, the dynamics are clawed back and distortion reigns. This is obviously most serious in the Te Deum which, one dimly realizes, is actually getting a glorious performance. This is a case where whoever holds the original master tapes - if anyone does - might profitably investigate their quality. The performances themselves must be among the best these works have received (CHS-1136). 

Lalo’s Violin Concerto - not to be confused with the “Symphonie Espagnole” - was a first recording and there haven’t been all that many since. The soloist, Miriam Solovieff, would deserve an article to herself in this series if we had a few more discs to remember her by. Born in San Francisco in 1922, she was a family friend of Oscar Shumsky, whose son Eric she taught in Paris in the 1980s. Most of the little information available, in fact, is to be found at Eric Shumsky’s site - he considers her a “great violinist and a superb teacher”. One incredible piece of information he gives us is that, while Miriam was still a child prodigy, her father murdered all her family in front of her. She herself narrowly escaped, after which her father took his own life. Her mother, on her deathbed, pleaded with Miriam to go ahead with her New York debut, planned for the city’s Town Hall a few days later. Miriam did this, with great success.
 
During the 1960s, Solovieff recorded the Brahms violin sonatas with Julius Katchen, but suffered some kind of breakdown towards the end of the sessions, which were never completed or issued. Apparently private copies exist. Katchen later set down these works with Josef Suk. Apart from the Lalo/Schubert coupling, she can be heard playing the violin solos in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” in the Vanguard recording conducted by Mario Rossi.
 
In the Lalo, Solovieff and Swoboda, conducting the Vienna State Opera O, caress winningly the lyrical moments of the concerto, give the dramatic gestures in the first movement their full weight and evidently enjoy the finale. In the second movement at least they convince me they’ve struck gold (CHS-1143). 

MacDowell’s Second Piano Concerto, issued in 1952, has been claimed as a premičre, though the version by Sanromŕ appeared earlier in the WERM listings. The pianist was Alexander Jenner (b.1929), an Austrian artist who made quite a few recordings in the 1950s and then concentrated on teaching. Both Jenner and Swoboda, conducting the Vienna State Opera O, agree to make the work sound as much like proto-Rachmaninov as possible - it actually predates any of the Rachmaninov concertos. Slightly later Vivian Rifkin, with her then husband Dean Dixon conducting, set down a more lyrical performance, and a little more mercurial in the central scherzo. Both artists prove their point persuasively (CHS 1137).  
 
The first commercial recording of Bruckner's Sixth Symphony 
Issued in 1950 and played by the Vienna SO, Swoboda’s Bruckner 6 deserves special treatment, and not only because it was the first commercial recording of this work. Earlier versions listed on John Berky’s Bruckner site - from which the Swoboda can be downloaded - are Furtwängler (1943, lacking the first movement) and Georg-Ludwig Jochum (1944). These were commercially issued only later.
 
Swoboda’s remains sui generis in a number of respects. At 10:12 the scherzo is very nearly the slowest ever. Berky gives longer timings only for Charles Adler, 1952 (10:38) and Atsushi Takahashi, 1995 (10:16). Colin Davis came close in 2002 (10:02). Typical timings from conductors with a particular reputation in this music are 07:37 (Furtwängler 1943), 07:51 (Haitink 1970), 07:52 (Karajan 1979), 07:55 (Jochum 1966), 07:58 (Jochum 1978), 08:02 (Steinberg 1970), 08:18 (Celibidache 1991), 08:34 (Horenstein 1963), 08:36 (Haitink 2003), 08:48 (Wand 1996), 08:52 (Solti 1979), 08:55 (Tintner 1995), 09:23 (Klemperer 1964) 09:48 (Rosbaud 1961). One is initially taken aback as Swoboda digs into the repeated low As at the start, rather like Barbirolli launching Mahler 6. High caution in a work the orchestra didn’t know very well? I don’t think so. On other recordings of other music, Swoboda showed himself capable of pitching in with a dashingly fast tempo, regardless of whether the orchestra could play all the notes. He certainly plays this as if he means it. More than anyone else, he recalls Deryck Cooke’s maxim that, behind all Bruckner’s fast tempi, there’s an underlying slow tempo. The scherzo, as Swoboda sees it, is in the triplet quavers, which go at about the speed of a typical Beethoven scherzo. The backdrop to this scherzo is a trudging, menacing nocturnal landler. Taken on its own terms, I find it terrifically, even terrifyingly, convincing.
 
The second movement is another interesting case, timed at 21:10. Longer versions come from Celibidache 1991 (different performances from the same year vary from 22:01 to 22:40) and, very marginally, Takahashi 1995 (21:12). The “typical” conductors listed above come in at 12:43 (Klemperer Concertgebouw 1961), 14:42 (Klemperer 1964), 15:45 (Wand 1996), 16:15 (Steinberg 1970), 16:20 (Furtwängler 1943), 16:50 (Horenstein 1963), 16:55 (Davis 2002), 17:02 (Adler 1952), 17:08 (Jochum 1966), 17:19 (Haitink 2003), 17:25 (Haitink 1970), 18:20 (Rosbaud 1961), 18:36 (Jochum 1978), 18:46 (Tintner 1995), 18:58 (Karajan 1979), 19:22 (Solti 1979). Those who feel that Klemperer’s 1964 studio recording - I haven’t heard the live Concertgebouw one - takes this movement too fast for the wailing oboe theme near the beginning to have its proper space will rejoice in Svoboda’s long-drawn opening. Moreover, he maintains it nobly, justifying it with phrasing of heart-felt warmth, rather than rarefied spirituality Celibidache-style. I didn’t find it hung fire. Indeed, while I immediately noted that it was slower than Klemperer - the latest I had listened to - I was astounded to find it was considerably slower than everyone else too, except Celibidache.
 
If the conclusion so far is that Swoboda liked his Bruckner almighty slow, there are surprises in store in the outer movements. It is true that his first movement, at 15:16, is broader than Steinberg 1970 (14:53) and identical to Haitink 1970 and Karajan 1979 (both 15:16). On the other hand it is swifter than Haitink 2003 (15:56), Horenstein 1963 (15:59), Adler 1952 (16:04), Jochum 1978 (16:11), Rosbaud 1961 (16:28), Wand 1996 (16:30), Jochum 1966 (16:31), Davis 2002 (16:55), Celibidache, 1991 (17:02), Klemperer 1964 (17:02), Tintner 1995 (17:02), Takahashi (17:35) and Solti 1979 (17:41). Similarly his finale, at 13:59, is longer than Furtwängler 1943 (12:14), Steinberg 1970 (13:05), Jochum 1966 (13:20), Haitink 1970 (13:27), Jochum 1978 (13:35), Klemperer 1964 (13:48), Wand 1996 (13:57), but faster than Rosbaud (14:04), Adler 1952 (14:17), Haitink 2003 (14:39), Horenstein 1963 (14:39), Tintner 1995 (14:44), Davis 2002 (15:02), Celibidache 1991 (15:08), Karajan 1979 (15:13), Solti 1979 (15:14) and Takahashi (17:36). In short, if Swoboda hasn’t turned tables in the first movement to produce the fastest performance of all, he’s not far off, while his finale is round about average. The most striking conclusion is that, while “slow” conductors are usually slow in all movements, and “fast” conductors are usually fast in all movements, the fact that Swoboda belongs to the first category in the middle movements and to the second in the outer movements means that the symphony has completely different proportions in his hands compared with all others, the long-drawn, epic slow movement and gauntly iconoclastic scherzo flanked by warmly flowing, far from monumental outer movements. 
 
The issue of tempo relationships in the outer movements is also fundamental. In particular, how to interpret the direction “Bedeutender langsam (considerably slower)” for secondary material in the first movement. Horenstein and Rosbaud are two who take the extreme solution of exactly halving the tempo. Swoboda relaxes in a more natural way. Indeed, one is struck both here and in the finale by the conversational ease with which he slips in and out of the different tempi, all the time maintaining the long line, the structural goals well in view. This is noble, instinctive Bruckner conducting in the Schuricht mould, though Schuricht - whose interpretation of the 6th seems not to have survived - would surely have done the middle movements very differently.
 
A casual visitor to the Berky site, measuring Swoboda’s unusual timings against his almost non-existent reputation as an interpreter, might assume this first recording of the work to have been a brave but misguided attempt by a conductor who didn’t really know what he was doing. Such an assumption does not withstand actual listening. The performance is completely convincing, though it must be admitted that problems of balancing and ensemble, especially in the first movement, have not all been overcome. The recording is pretty good for its date (Westminster WL-30001). On its first issue, the symphony spread over three sides and the set was completed with Bruckner’s settings of Psalms 112 and 150.  
 
Twentieth century composers: Hindemith, Ibert, Kodály & Martinů 
Swoboda’s discography extended to a number of middle-of-the-road then-contemporaries. In Hindemith’s “The Four Temperaments” piano concerto the soloist was Franz Holletschek. It was coupled with the fourth “Kammermusik” concerto, in which the violin soloist was Peter Rybar. “The Four Temperaments” is likeably done; “Kammermusik” no.4, surely the more significant work of the two, is played with strong conviction. Neither performance is immaculate, both offer the sort of unexceptionably musical presentation of a contemporary work that radio stations have been adept at providing down the years (Westminster WL 5074).
 
The Ibert disc starts disappointingly with a raucous - in the wrong way - and ill-balanced rendition of the “Divertissement” by the Winterthur SO which substitutes hearty vigour for Gallic wit. The last two sections suffer least, but the gendarme’s whistle is inaudible. Conductor and orchestra seem better attuned to the breezy charm of the “Capriccio”, a less ironic work that comes over like an unbuttoned piece of Ravel. Even the recording seems better here.
 
Better still is the “Suite Elizabethaine”, recorded in Vienna on 26 October 1950 with the women’s voices from the Vienna Academy Chamber Choir and the Vienna SO. There is also a soprano solo taken by Emmy Loose. This is a delightful piece, assembled from music Ibert wrote for a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It incorporates old English themes, and the Westminster chimes, in a sort of Respighi-meets-René Clair confection. The Viennese forces are not immaculate but they seem to be enjoying themselves (Westminster WL 5061).
 
The major item on the Kodály disc is the rousing Te Deum. It is given with suitably Slavonic fervour by the “Vienna Choir” and the Vienna SO. Sieglinde Wagner, Rudolf Christ and Alfred Poell sing well, while on the soprano line Sena Jurinac provides all the luscious soaring tones one might expect. The recording copes up to a point but climaxes often degenerate into inchoate noise, from which only the trumpets stand out. Jurinac fans who don’t know the work are warned that the soprano part only amounts to a few minutes.
 
This disc is completed by the Theatre Overture. Kodály wrote this, quite unnecessarily most people think, for a later production of Háry Janos. It is too long and ramshackle in its construction, but the performance is lively and affectionate (Westminster WL 50-1). These both seem to be first recordings.
 
In Martinů’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra, Piano and Timpani, the rather surprising soloist is Artur Balsam. The “Concert Hall Society Orchestra” give an energetic, gutsy rendering. The recording doesn’t give the timpani much of a look-in. There are a couple of brazen tape-edits (Concert Hall DL-9).
 
Other 20th century composers recorded by Swoboda, but which I haven’t been able to hear, include Janacek, quite a lot more Martinu, Milhaud, Prokofief, Roussel and some Americans.
 
In the Harvard Crimson interview referred to above, Swoboda stated that he had been “a revolutionary all my life - always for the avant-garde”. However, he ridiculed the latest developments from Stockhausen. The picture we get is of a capable musician with wide sympathies and a far from predictable approach to the few works from the regular repertoire that we have from him. The strong differences between his performances of the different Mozart symphonies, for example, may remind us of Hermann Scherchen. Bearing in mind that the Westminster label, of which Swoboda was a founder, ended up by promoting Scherchen far more than Swoboda himself, we may wonder if this conductor, rather than Swoboda’s early teacher Vaclav Talich, might not have provided Swoboda with a role-model.
 
 
Christopher Howell
 
Postscript: Recording Dates 
Dates are not usually given by the download sources and may not be known. Listings in the World Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music (WERM) at least indicate the latest possible date of issue:
 
WERM First edition (cut-off date April 1950)
BRAHMS: Serenade 1
HAYDN: Concerto for harpsichord, violin and orchestra, Symphonies 77 & 78
MOZART: Piano Concerto K.413, Concertone, Symphony 23
SCHUBERT: Symphony 1
VIVALDI: The Four Seasons
 
WERM First Supplement (cut-off date May-June 1951)
CPE BACH: Piano Concerto in A minor, Symphonies in C and D
BACH: Suite 1
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto 3
BRUCKNER: Symphony 6
DVORAK: Symphony 3, Scherzo Capriccioso
IBERT: Divertissement, Capriccio, Suite Elizabethiane
KODALY: Te Deum, Theatre Overture
MARTINU: Concerto for Piano, Timpani and Double String Orchestra
MOZART: Piano Concertos K459 & K266
 
WERM Second Supplement (cut-off date December 1952)
BEETHOVEN: Christ on the Mount of Olives
DVORAK: Overtures “Amid Nature”, “Carnival”, “Othello”, Nocturne, Czech Suite
GOLDMARK: Rustic Wedding Symphony
HINDEMITH: The Four Temperaments, Kammermusik 4
LALO: Violin Concerto
MACDOWELL: Piano Concerto 2
MOZART: Symphonies 29 & 34
TCHAIKOVSKY: Souvenir de Florence, Symphony 3
VERDI: 4 Pezzi Sacri

WERM: Third Supplement (cut-off date December 1956)
HAYDN: Symphonies 94 & 100
MOZART: Flute Concerto K314, Symphonies 35 & 40  

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