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Brahms VC C220081
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Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Hussite Overture, Op 67 (1883)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77 (1878)
Henryk Szeryng (violin)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
rec. 11 June 1967, Konzerthaus, Vienna
ORFEO C220081 [50]

This is a reissue of Orfeo’s C719071 and offers a snapshot of the visiting Bavarian Radio Symphony’s visit to the 1967 Vienna Festival. They performed two concerts – this one and Mahler’s Eighth. Although there was clearly a symphonic work in the second half, the Dvořák-and-Brahms programme works well, and the overture-concerto conceit offers a rounded view of conductor, soloist and orchestra.

Kubelík and the Bavarians recorded the Hussite overture just under a decade later in Munich. As one would expect structurally the two performances are very similar though this live Vienna reading – which includes some applause and therefore inflates the timing - is that bit more intense. The bracing acoustic of the Konzerthaus, at least as recorded here, imparts a crispness to the performance as well, not least in the grandiose and blazing first statement of the chorale. This nationalistic statement of intent, buttressed by splendidly committed brass playing, generates a sense of heroism and power that lasts until the final measures.

Szeryng’s surviving studio Brahms recordings are well known. Best of all was the one with Pierre Monteux, though the recording in 1962 with Dorati is also fine. In 1973 the combination of Szeryng and Haitink produced sleepy results (review), soloistically far too elastic in phrasing, with the conductor unable to generate much in the way of drama. One senses a true kinship between Szeryng and Kubelík in Vienna, where the fluidity in the first movement is much more natural and some excited foot stamping from either one of the other attests to the vitality of the live reading. The slow movement’s pulse is much better conveyed in Vienna than it was to be in Amsterdam, and in the finale Kubelík achieves a splendidly dynamic attack, allowing Szeryng every opportunity to characterise and vitalise the Hungarian elements.

There has been, of late, a wealth of Szeryng material, both live and studio bound. As nearly always the former draws from a performer a greater quotient of communicative energy, though sometimes at the expense of accuracy. That was seldom an issue for Szeryng, who maintained an awesome discipline for most of his career and who performed at his peak for decades. If you’ve not encountered this Vienna performance, lend it an ear.

Jonathan Woolf

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