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Hans Rosbaud conducts Mozart
Südwestfunk-Orchester Baden-Baden/Hans Rosbaud
rec. 1951-62, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Germany
SWR MUSIC SWR19066CD [9 CDs: 570 mins]

This is the fifth box set in a series devoted to Hans Rosbaud’s broadcast performances with his SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden. Previous editions have been devoted to the music of Wagner, Weber and Mendelssohn, Bruckner (an 8-CD box) and Haydn.

An all-Mozart box may not seem superficially alluring, given the catholicity of his repertoire and his mastery of the contemporary muse, but there are some important documents here, especially the concertos, that suggest a second look is in order, not least when surviving Mozart operatic performances directed by Rosbaud are so wonderfully convincing.

First up is SWR’s ‘house pianist’ – but what a house pianist she was – Maria Bergmann (1918-2002) in a thoroughly sensitive reading of the Jeunehomme. It’s not the equal, it’s true, of Guiomar Novaes’ scintillating live performance captured live on Marston a few years earlier in 1950 but Bergmann displays refinement and brio alike. In her time she accompanied such elite string players as Příhoda, Grumiaux, Fournier and Starker and a Bour-directed broadcast of K414 has already been released. Géza Anda plays Concerto No.17, K453 in characteristically poetic and stylish fashion whilst Monique Haas plays No.21, K467. She sounds rather more backwardly balanced than her colleagues and perhaps this in some way contributes to a rather introverted reading – though one that improves as it develops. Gulda plays Nos. 14 and 23 – the former with strong, sinewy vertical chording, the latter with aplomb and Robert Casadesus also plays No.23. He’s faster than Gulda in all movements by some way; an athletic traversal that may remind some of his lithe reading in New York in the 30s with Barbirolli.

Dennis Brain can be heard in the second and third Horn Concertos from a single 1953 concert. His tone and technique are, as ever, largely impervious to serious criticism but it’s excellent to hear Domenico Ceccarossi in No.2 as well; a fine player who takes rather more incisive tempi in the first two movements but lacks Brain’s qualities of projection. Orchestral soloists, rather than touring international virtuosi, dominate the other items. The Bassoon Concerto is in the characterful hands of Helmut Müller, whilst Horst Schneider is the eloquent soloist in the Oboe Concerto. Neither flautist Ernst Bodensohn nor harpist Annemarie Schmeisser overinflates the Flute and Harp Concerto, a rarity if Rosbaud’s discography, and violinist Ludwig Bus and violist Ulrich Koch conjoin in a chamber-scaled but rewarding version of the Sinfonia Concertante.

The Symphonies reveal Rosbaud’s buoyant, never heavy approach. The Paris sports some bold entries, Linz is fresh and confident, and the Prague is rhythmically well-sprung. There are two versions of the G minor (No.40) made five years apart, in 1957 and 1962. Whilst the latter is slower in every movement the tempo relations and balances remain largely unchanged. There are two discs of Serenades where the wind and horn principals are to be heard in most eloquent form. The performance of K286 is the only performance in the set to be given in front of an audience, rather than in a studio. This must account for the lack of spatial ‘air’ in the recording though it is nevertheless very beautifully shaped. Eine kleine Nachtmusik goes well. The Gran Partita sounds appositely rustic in places, rather more so than one usually encounters. It’s not at all a suave or manicured reading – instead it’s accomplished but not overtly virtuosic and thus all the more moving.

The final disc is given over largely to the human voice. Suzanne Danco is on delectable form with Maria Bergmann excellent here, once again, in support. Helmut Krebs offers his light, ingratiating tenor in four arias whilst Kim Borg can be heard in two selections; and note the gruffly splendid obbligato bass in Per questa bella mano.
Throughout the SWR Orchestra performs well, if not always with the utmost in polish or ensemble, under the wise, sensitive direction of Rosbaud, a Mozartian of true distinction. The recordings are generally excellent, the booklet helpful, the undertaking successful and valuable.

Jonathan Woolf

Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K271 "Jeunehomme" [32:16]
Maria Bergmann (piano)
Recorded: 28 March 1956
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K453 [30:02]
Géza Anda (piano)
Recorded: 15 March 1952
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K449 [22:30]
Friedrich Gulda (piano)
Recorded: 16 January 1962
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467 'Elvira Madigan' [27:47]
Monique Haas (piano)
Recorded: 19 November 1956
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488 [23:46]
Robert Casadesus (piano)
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488 [26:25]
Friedrich Gulda (piano)
Recorded: 14 April 1959
Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, K417 [13:52]
Dennis Brain (horn)
Recorded: 06 May 1953
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, K447 [15:05]
Dennis Brain (horn)
Recorded: 06 May 1953
Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, K417 [14:14]
Domenico Ceccarossi (horn)
Recorded: 21 December 1955
Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K191 [17:21]
Helmut Müller (bassoon)
Recorded: 23 June 1956
Oboe Concerto In C major, K314 [20:06]
Horst Schneider (oboe)
Recorded: 15 June 1957
Flute & Harp Concerto in C major, K299 [31:38]
Ernst Bodensohn (flute), Annemarie Schmeisser (harp)
Recorded: 19 December 1962
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola & Orchestra in E flat major, K364 [30:53]
Ludwig Bus (violin), Ulrich Koch (viola)
Recorded: 22 February 1960
Symphony No. 31 in D, K297 'Paris' [17:27]
Recorded: 28 June 1956
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 'Linz' [24:04]
Recorded: 29 December 1956
Symphony No. 38 in D major, K504 'Prague' [24:44]
Recorded: 13 April 1959
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 [25:32]
Recorded: 19 June 1957
Recording Venue: Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Germany
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 [27:14]
Recorded: 25 May 1962
Notturno in D major K286 [13:27]
Recorded: 27 January 1956
Serenade No. 13 in G major, K525 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik' [17:41]
Recorded: 5 December 1955
Serenade No. 11 in E flat major, K375 [26:04]
Horst Schneider (oboe), Fritz Strowitzki (oboe), Sepp Fackler (clarinet), Hermann Nobs (clarinet), Karl Arnold (horn), Karlheinz Beinke (horn), Hans Zuther (bassoon), Kurt Burkert (bassoon)
Recorded: 16 November 1951
Serenade No. 10 in B flat major, K361 'Gran Partita' [43:54]
Horst Schneider (oboe), Fritz Strowitzki (oboe), Sepp Fackler (clarinet), Hermann Nobs (clarinet), Hans Lemser (basset horn), Karl Meiser (basset horn), Karl Arnold (horn), Karlheinz Beinke (horn), Heinrich Eichner (horn), Hans Zuther (bassoon), Kurt Burkert (bassoon), Alfred Steinmüller (contrabassoon)
Recorded: 22 January 1956
Die Zauberflöte, K. 620: Overture [6:58]
Recorded: 31 January 1962
Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486: Overture [3:57]
Recorded: 12 January 1961
Ch'io mi scordi di te?... Non temer, amato bene, K505 [10:31]
Suzanne Danco (soprano), Maria Bergmann (piano)
Recorded: 13 November 1953
Se al labbro mio non credi, K295 [11:41]
Helmut Krebs (tenor)
Recorded: 1 December 1955
Recitative & Aria ‘Or che il dover - Tali e cotanti sono’ KV 36 [9:22]
Helmut Krebs (tenor)
Recorded: 1 December 1955
Or che il dover, K. 36 [9:22]
Recorded: 2 December 1955
Va, dal furor portata, K21 [6:33]
Helmut Krebs (tenor)
Con ossequio, con rispetto, KV 210 [2:40]
Helmut Krebs (tenor)
Recorded: 2 December 1955
Per questa bella mano, concert aria, K 612 [7:28]
Kim Borg (bass)
Recorded: 7 December 1955
Mentre ti lascio, K513 [8:52]
Kim Borg (bass)
Recorded: 7 December 1955

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