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Jensen legacy v3 DACOCD913
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Thomas Jensen (conductor)
Legacy - Volume 3
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major Op.35 (1878) [29:57]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 4 in E minor (1884-5) [37:03]
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (1865-68) [67:21]
Endre Wolf (violin)
Agnes Giebel (soprano), Erich Wenk (baritone)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir
rec. 1949-61
No texts
DANACORD DACOCD913 [67:13 + 67:21]

I’ve reviewed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto 78rpm set (review) when it appeared in a Danacord twofer devoted to Endre Wolf’s Tono recordings. I enjoyed it very much and because I wrote briefly about it, I think it makes sense to import the whole text here, for ease of reading. Wolf’s Tchaikovsky (1949) is fast, though bowed with such security that it doesn’t seem unduly rushed, notwithstanding a cut finale. There are no particular idiosyncrasies, his trills in the slow movement are pellucid, his legato excellent and the dynamic shaping (especially diminuendos) equally accomplished. I think, though, that even generous auditors would carp at a finale of this work lasting barely just over six minutes. Also there sounds like a slightly jarring side join – this was a 78 set – at 4:23 in the first movement: it sounds a bit tentative and, as it’s on an open violin note is a strange place to have a turnover. It still sounds the same in this latest transfer, which is disappointing.

I noted that Thomas Jensen was ‘efficient’ in his role as accompanist, as indeed he is, but he can be heard to greater interpretative advantage in the companion works by Brahms. The Fourth Symphony comes from a live broadcast given at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris in April 1955. Though Jensen’s hearing was later to deteriorate significantly, at this stage it was still fine, and the sound quality of this broadcast is very decent mono. For much of its earlier history the orchestra had performed Brahms symphonies with Fritz Busch but by the time that Jensen came to direct it he was clearly able to stamp his own authority. It’s a well-paced, cogent reading with elements of flexible rubati that mark out individuality but not so overt that these incidents detract from the symphonic development of, in particular, the first movement. The slow movement is strongly etched and accented but expands noticeably when the expressive temperature is at its peak. In fact, this is throughout an engaging and authoritative reading.

By the time that he broadcast Brahms’ Requiem in 1961, hearing for Jensen had become very problematic. Yet he was clearly unafraid to take on big works such as this and to deal with complex balancing issues with soloists, orchestra and chorus. The Danish Radio Concert Hall broadcast sound is good for the time. Once again, the orchestra had been associated with Busch in this work. In fact, they’d first performed it with him in 1936 – the choir had only been formed in 1932 – so this Jensen broadcast was made a quarter century or so after that notable occasion. Again, Jensen’s tempi in Brahms are unexceptional and the orchestral responds pretty well to his lead. What’s more concerning is the chorus, whether because of Jensen’s physical problems, insufficient rehearsal time, technical corporate frailties in the choir, the stress of performance or a combination of these. There are imprecisions in the performance and whilst the singing is certainly passionate it’s hardly tidy or always in tune. The baritone is Erich Wenk who is best known for his Bach recordings with Fritz Werner. He’s less persuasive in Brahms and is outclassed by the excellent Agnes Giebel – tonally focused, expressively controlled and always eloquent in her phrasing. The main thing is that Jensen generates the necessary cumulative sense of consolation that one should always experience as the work comes to an end.

Neither Brahms broadcast has been released before. Danacord’s documentation is always more than acceptable, and the uniform look of the booklet ensures conformity. Like all the Jensen Legacy releases, this is priced two-for-one but you’d need to be a Jensen collector to find this indispensable.

Jonathan Woolf

Performance details
October 1949, studio recording (Tchaikovsky): April 1955, live broadcast at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris (Symphony): February 1961, live at Danish Radio Concert Hall (Requiem)

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