One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider

/


Leticia Gómez-Tagle (piano)


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones & printers


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical

alpha_classics.com
Alpha Classics
a new advertiser

 

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Arcodiva
Atoll 10% off
CDAccord
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Hortus
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sheva £2 off
Sheva Contemporary
Sterling 10% off
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

 

Availability
Edvard GRIEG (1943-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 (1869) [28:20]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Piano Concerto in F sharp minor Op.20 (1897) [26:28]
Friedrich Wührer (piano)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Karl Böhm (Grieg), rec. 1944, Vienna, live broadcast
Pro Musica Orchestra, Vienna (Vienna Symphony Orchestra)/Hans Swarowsky (Scriabin), rec. December 1954, Vienna
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR677 [54:50]

Forgotten Records has disinterred an LP with a history. When the Grieg was issued on Royale 1264 in 1952 it was listed as being played by Gerhard Stein with the Berlin Symphony, directed by Karl List. In fact it was Friedrich Wührer with the Vienna Philharmonic directed by Karl Böhm in 1944. This was rectified on its next release on Urania, where the real names replaced the pseudonyms. Why the false names? Partly because this was an Austrian radio recording, and not a studio recording – and Royale wanted to give the impression of a commercial undertaking. Possibly also because, by all accounts, Wührer was a bit of a bad egg and had been almost as enthusiastic a supporter of National Socialism – if that is possible - as his pianist confrère, Elly Ney. What seems not to be in doubt is that as later as 1952, when the Royale LP was released, he was refused teaching positions in East Germany because of his war record.
 
Naturally this is all interesting, biographically and politically. It’s also indicative of the subterfuge that was endemic in certain areas of the recording industry at the time and, indeed, for years to come. Wührer is an impressive pianist. I admire his Beethoven recordings, the cycle of concertos that he recorded, and those sonatas that have been preserved. His traversal of the last sonatas marries digital finesse with an intellectual clarity to produce readings that are eloquent without being romanticised. He was not a known exponent of the heroic repertoire and there were off-days. The very bright radio sound has a touch of ‘halo’ about it. It’s not enough to cover some far from note-perfect playing from a pianist who reveals frailty in both the opening chords and, more catastrophically, at the very end where there are fistfuls of wrong notes. In between things are better. The orchestral accompaniment is over-sugared with some very sleek string lines. Wührer’s natural austerity of expression has a directional power to it, not least in the first movement cadenza, after which some rather precious phrasing by the Vienna strings rather robs the music of nobility. The sentimentalised string playing in the slow movement contrasts powerfully with the pianist’s patrician reserve. In the finale the biting over-balanced trumpets spit fire but towards the final peroration the balance is unkind to the pianist - and perhaps the conductor is too. For stretches Wührer is swathed under the burnished colours of the Vienna Philharmonic; the pianist can just about be heard, usually in the treble. Maybe it’s that which led to his making a hash of the final chords.
 
The Scriabin F major Concerto was recorded with Hans Swarowsky, once again in Vienna, in 1954. The orchestra was the Pro Musica Orchestra, Vienna – in other words the hard-working Vienna Symphony. This is another recording in which tensions generate interesting results. This is objectified, almost romantically classicized Scriabin in which clarity trumps colour. It’s akin to performances of Debussy’s piano music by Daniel Ericourt and George Copeland, in contradistinction to those of Gieseking. Here Wührer plays the crystal-clear objectifier to the atmospheric drama exemplified by someone like Sofronitsky. Despite his reputation for elevated aloofness of expression there are times when, allied to his refined palette, the music does indeed generate a strange gravitational pull in his hands. It’s certainly unconventional but it is also diverting to hear.
 
I daresay these historical performances will enjoy only a relatively small hearing circle but I can certainly note that the transfers are, as so often from this source, exemplary in their fidelity. No notes.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Grieg piano concerto