Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring (1801) [23:35]
Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 Kreutzer (1803) [30:52]
Georg Kulenkampff (violin)
Siegfried Schultze (piano)
rec. June 1940, Berlin
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1143 [54:29]
In the absence of significant competitors following the emigration of Adolf Busch, Georg Kulenkampff assumed the position of Germany’s leading soloist. He was also the beneficiary of multiple opportunities to record salient parts of his repertoire. He first recorded the Kreutzer sonata in 1935 with Wilhelm Kempff, re-recording it five years later – the version preserved here – with Siegfried Schultze. After the war, he had the chance to set down his third and final interpretation for Decca, with the young Georg Solti. The Spring fared less well; this was his only recording. Both recordings with Schultze were made in June 1940.
They’ve been reissued before on CD, though I think this is the first time that they have been coupled together. Those familiar with his recording of the Violin Concerto, a version admired to this day, won’t be surprised at his sweet-toned, focused lyricism in the Spring, nor with his elegant, if sometimes elastic phrasing in its opening movement. The pathos evoked in the slow movement is invariably accompanied by judicious use of expressive devices, and he doesn’t smooth out the rhythmic hijinks of the Scherzo as some others are prone to do. Throughout Schultze, a distinguished player with excellent training and pedigree, gives him notably fine support. Only the Rondo finale seems somewhat too relaxed, though it’s of a piece with the opening Allegro in that respect.
Kulenkampff was certainly not as rugged a Beethovenian as Busch, whose own aesthetic extended to tempo extremes, especially with his quartet. So, Kulenkampff’s recording of the Kreutzer is direct and unostentatious and without distracting mannerisms. It’s not as fast as the set with Solti but shares with it an in-built buoyancy of expression. The opening is sustained well, the central movement’s variations are well characterised – the pizzicati leap out – and Schultze’s pellucid treble tone is well captured. Dynamism but thoughtful phrasing mark the finale. It’s certainly not a combustible reading, like the famous encounter between Huberman and Friedman a decade earlier in London, though it should perhaps be noted that Schultze was conversant with both violinists’s very different musical selves as he accompanied Huberman in recital and on disc for a number of years between the late 20s and mid-30s.
Forgotten Records used an LP from which to transfer both sonatas, Telefunken HT15. Podium Legend, which has a significant collection of Kulenkampff performances in its catalogue – some exceptionally rare broadcasts included – has transferred both sonatas as well. Their transfer of the Spring on POL 1032-2 is more open than FR’s in the opening two movements but not as good in the finale. Strangely the engineers who dubbed the 78 discs to LP for Telefunken suppressed surface noise in the opening movement but failed to do so in the slow one. As for the Kreutzer things are wholly different. POL 1031-2 sounds terrible – a murky subterranean noise. Forgotten Records’s work is light years better.
If you want the two Schultze accompanied performances, and they make a logical pairing – given the Kempff and Solti accompanied ones are available elsewhere – this transfer will do nicely. There are no notes, as usual from this source.