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Michael Gielen Edition: Volume 4
Kölner Rundfunkchor; SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart; Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra; SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg; SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart/Michael Gielen
No texts or translations
rec. 1968-2014
SWR MUSIC SWR19028CD [9 CDs: ca 11 hrs]

The fourth volume of the Gielen Edition – previous volumes have covered Bach-to-Schubert, Bruckner and Brahms – sees a significant expansion as regards repertoire. The recording dates range from 1968 to 2014 and the music covered is equally broad, especially given the context in this series of two one-composer boxes.

Each of the nine discs has something of lasting value. The first CD is a bits-and-pieces affair, short orchestral pieces that reveal a strong affinity with Mendelssohn and Weber and a stylistic assurance when it comes to the lighter charms of Johann Strauss’s Kaiserwalzer, direct from the 1990 Minnesota Music Festival. Attractive though it is to hear a compilation of such pieces given over the years, Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust offers a more immediate challenge. This spreads across the second and third discs. Günter Reich takes the lead role with stirring bravado, but Judith Beckmann as Gretchen, Robert Holl as Mephisto and Anthony Rolfe-Johnson as Ariel are also excellent. You’ll search in vain in the booklet for texts: you’ll have to look elsewhere. There’s also a sinewy performance of the overture to Manfred, a compelling Bride of Messina overture and a performance of Mahler’s retouched edition of Schumann’s First Symphony.

Ludwig Hoffmann plays the solo part in Weber’s Second Piano Concerto in 1973. The strings sound lithe, but not opulent. Rather like Rosbaud, Gielen has a way of getting to the heart of things with unsentimental directness; thus the slow movement is especially thoughtful. Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, a live recording from 1995, is direct and linear, a recording shorn of all excess. The fifth CD is given over to Dvořák. Josef Suk plays the Violin Concerto in Stuttgart in 1970. There are the inevitable tempo discrepancies when considering the famous LP Suk made with Ančerl; he’s a bit slower in the first movement in Stuttgart but speedier than in Prague in the second. Fortunately, Gielen conveys the folk lilt in the finale very adeptly. Many years later in 2011, over two nights, Gielen performed the Seventh Symphony with stirring intensity, its Wagnerian cadences explicitly brought to the fore. This is a fine, big-boned performance. There’s more, substantial Dvořák in the following disc, in which Heinrich Schiff plays the Cello Concerto in 1992. This isn’t too dissimilar to the recording the cellist made with Colin Davis but Gielen’s play of treacly dark lower strings and high winds at the end of the slow movement is memorable. This disc also contains Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (Baden-Baden, 1993) which shares with the bulk of his symphonic recordings a consistent approach to rhetoric and architecture: this is taut and direct music-making. Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, from 2009, has a Toscanini-like paring away of inessentials and is probably representative of Gielen’s best symphonic conducting in this set. It’s certainly not emotively extravagant but its cohesive qualities are undoubted.

For the Berlioz Requiem in Stuttgart in 1979 he drew on tenor David Rendall in a performance that never quite plumbs the full range of the work’s heights and depths of expression but that nevertheless coheres well. Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead, whilst not as taut as the composer’s own recording, is still profoundly impressive in its control of tension. Suk’s A Summer Tale (Baden-Baden, 1993) is well-paced and not unlike the Karel Šejna reading in that respect., though rather lacking the latter’s qualities of characterisation, tonal warmth and introspective perception.

Other smaller pieces complete this eleven-hour box, where all music is played by three orchestras – those of the SWR SO Baden-Baden and Freiburg, the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony and the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. Most of the works are making first ever appearances or first appearances on CD and the breadth of repertory makes this an insightfully chosen selection that will make a direct appeal to Gielen’s admirers.
Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
CD 1
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture Op. 21*
Bedrich SMETANA (1824–1884)
The Bartered Bride – Overture
Franz LISZT (1811–1886)
The Dance in the Village Inn (Mephisto Waltz No.1) from: Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust R 427 No. 2 • S 110
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Lohengrin Prelude Act 1
Lohengrin Prelude Act 3
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Prelude Act 1
Hector BERLIOZ (1803–1869)
Le carnaval romain Op. 9 – Ouverture caractéristique |
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826)
Der Freischütz – Overture
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
Kaiserwalzer Op. 437
CD 2
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Scenes from Goethe’s Faust
CD 3
Scenes from Goethe’s Faust continued
Manfred – Overture Op. 115
The Bride of Messina – Overture Op. 100
Symphony No. 1 in B flat Major Op. 38 (with retouches by Gustav Mahler)
CD 4
Carl Maria von WEBER
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in E flat Major J 155 (Op. 32)
Symphonie fantastique Op. 14 – Episode in the Life of an Artist
CD 5
Antonín DVORÁK
Violin Concerto in A Minor Op. 53
Symphony No. 7 in D Minor Op. 70 • B 141
CD 6
Antonín DVORÁK

Cello Concerto in B Minor Op. 104 • B 191
Pyotr TSCHAIKOWSKY (1840–1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor Op. 74
CD 7

Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Op. 36
Richard WAGNER
Tristan und Isolde – Prelude Act 1
Tristan und Isolde – Isoldes Liebestod
CD 8

Requiem – Grande Messe des Morts Op. 5
CD 9
Isle of the Dead, symphonic poem Op. 29
Josef SUK (1874–1935)
A Summer tale – Symphonic Poem for large Orchestra Op. 29

Other performers
Faust: Günter Reich (baritone: Faust); Judith Beckmann, soprano (Gretchen/Soprano 1); Robert Holl, bass (Mephisto/Böser Geist); Margit Neubauer, alto (Martha/Schuld/Mater Gloriosa/Maria Aegyptiaca); Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, tenor (Ariel/Pater Ecstaticus); Doris Soffel, mezzo (Sorge); Mitsuko Shirai, soprano (Not/Magna Peccatrix/Soprano 2); Helmut Berger-Tuna, bass (Pater Profundis); Tadao Yoshie, baritone (Pater Seraphicus/Dr. Marianus); Brigitte Messthaler, alto (Mangel/Mulier Samaritana/Soloist)
Ludwig Hoffmann, (piano): Josef Suk (violin): Heinrich Schiff (cello)
David Rendall (tenor)



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