Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 [43:39]*
Violin Romance No. 1 in G major, Op. 40 [7:11]
Violin Romance No. 2 in F major, Op. 50 [8:53]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Violin Concerto No. 8 in A minor, Op. 47 [24:07]
Siegfried Borries (violin)
Munich Philharmonic/Fritz Rieger*
Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie/Georg-Ludwig Jochum
rec. 1961*, February 1959, Bielefeld, Germany

Siegfried Borries (1912-1980) could trace his violinistic pedigree, through Bram Eldering with whom he studied at the Cologne Conservatory, to Jenő Hubay and Joseph Joachim. After winning a couple of prizes in the early 1930s, he became a bright star in Germany after Georg Kulenkampff. At the age of 20 in 1933 he was appointed concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic by Wilhelm Furtwängler. Later, several other accolades came his way. In 1941 he was persuaded by Karajan to become concertmaster of the Preussische Staatskapelle, Berlin, a position he held until the end of the war. He then renewed his position with the BPO. Post-war, he taught at Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik and cultivated a career as a soloist and chamber musician. Politics and East German involvement led to his suspension from the Hochschule for a while but he was later reinstated with restrictions. In the late 1950s, a dispute regarding his fee and refusal to participate in a 75th Birthday concert of the BPO resulted in his resignation in 1961. He died in Berlin in 1980.

This recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto surfaced several years ago on a Japanese Denon CD coupled with the Haydn ‘Emperor’ Quartet, with Borries in the lead role. To the concerto he brings a patrician elegance and a wealth of interpretative insights. He plays with expressive delicacy in the slow movement, and rhythmic vigour in the finale. Set down in 1961, the performance has lost none of its potency over the years. Borries’ relatively fast vibrato, which can be relentless does, at times, invest his sound with a high metallic sheen. This is particularly evident in the slow movement. Also, I feel his sound has no distinguishing features, which renders his timbre impersonal to some extent, with his tone being mostly monochrome. Rieger is an effective collaborator and points up the orchestral detail, especially the woodwinds, to impressive effect. The Romances are little charmers, both beautifully executed. These are partnered by Georg-Ludwig Jochum and the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie.

It is a delight to have the Spohr Concerto. The Op. 47 is the most popular, but has not seen too many recordings in the studio. It’s a delightful work and makes a pleasing listen. Borries is especially effective in the recitative sections, yet to the whole work he applies a formidable virtuosity. Intonation is always spot-on. Heifetz, who has always been a favourite of mine in this work, has a more varied tonal palette, this is especially evident in the adagio movement.

Violin fanciers will not want to be without this generously timed disc. Recordings by BPO Concertmasters in a solo role seem to be making something of a comeback with Gerhard Taschner, Szymon Golberg and Erich Röhn all being promoted by reissue companies - a worthy cause.

Stephen Greenbank

Masterwork Index: Beethoven violin concerto