Classical CD Reissues, Part 2   
for October 2002

BRAHMS: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

Elizabeth, Scwarzkopf, soprano
Hans Hotter, baritone
Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts Lucerne Chorus and Orchestra

Melodram GM 4.0056 78:45 (Distrib. Albany):

This performance of A German Requiem, taped 20 August 1947, is that same inscription preserved on lacquers made from a BBC rebroadcast of January 12, 1948 and recently issued by Music & Arts (CD 1085). Furtwaengler began conducting the Brahms Requiem in 1925; his last performance was in Vienna on January 25, 1951. The performance is singularly broad and architectural, a close ally of the commercial reading by Fritz Lehmann, but quite different in rhetoric and inflection. Despite another Furtwaengler interpretation with the Stockholm Philharmonic from 1948 and a surviving tape of the 1951 farewell, Furtwaengler made no commercial recording of this divine piece. Instead, EMI producer Walter Legge saw fit to employ the same soloists with Herbert von Karajan for the 1947 inscription, convinced that a Furtwaengler version would be “one house-emptier too many.”

Collectors who gravitate to this set rather than the Music & Arts must still tolerate a host of technical impurities: wow, distortion, and surface noise galore. The final bars of music are missing because Furtwaengler delayed the decay of the sound considerable leeway. But the musical compensations are many: an exalted, arched approach to the “Denn alles Fleisch,” not quite like any other conductor, although Klemperer has the girth, if not the personal agony. Schwarzkopf and Hotter are in excellent voice, the latter’s providing more than music, but a real characterization of religious angst. Furtwaengler puts considerable emphasis on the 53-bar pedal D in the tympani; at rehearsals of “All Flesh is Like Grass” he insisted the player exceed his own sense of fortissimo. The mighty sixth movement rings its affirmations against Death’s sting even in the midst of muddy sound, in what might well be the most spiritual of interpretations. There are no liner notes and no timings for individual movements. So, if your budget permits (and sonic considerations bow to musical values), go with Music & Arts (which includes the 1948 Stockholm reading). The Melodram is a powerful second choice.

--Gary Lemco

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482/Concerto No. 10 in E-flat for 2 Pianos, K. 365/Serenade No. 10 for 13 Wind Instruments, K. 361/Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550

Paul Badura-Skoda, piano (K. 482; K. 365)/Dagmar Bella, piano (K. 365)/Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Music & Arts CD-1079 62:53; 73:26 (Distrib. Albany):

Much of the credit for this restoration goes to engineer Maggi Payne, splicing together tape-fragments of air-checks and Japanese LP’s in order to create as authentic a version, in more than passable sound, of the 8 February 1949 E-flat Concerto for 2 Pianos and the 27 January 1952 performance of the big Concerto No.22 in E-flat with the young Paul Badura-Skoda. Given the number of Furtwaengler “apocyphal” recordings in circulation, it is refreshing to have scholarship and musicianship collaborate on a meaningful reissue, since this E-flat, K. 365 is the only such performance by Furtwaengler of this piece listed in his discography. The Wind Serenade (Grand Partita) and the G Minor Symphony are from EMI sources, 1947-49, are have had prior incarnations.

What immediately strikes any Furtwaengler enthusiast as authentic is the lyric breadth of the conductor’s tempos, the emphasis on lower-string ensemble and harmony, the obvious, vertical approach to harmonic-rhythm. Concerto No, 22 receives some delicious chamber music ensemble, with some glittering and bold passagework from Badura-Skoda, much in his teacher Edwin’s Fischer’s lofty manner. Furtwaengler and Fischer had played the E-flat together in 1920, so there is something valedictory in the tragic grandeur of this sturdy performance. Fischer’s salutary influence is again felt in the last movement cadenza. As in the 2-Piano Concerto, the Andante is paced as an Adagio, slow but expansive by contemporary standards. The outside movements of the 2-Piano Concerto are quite brisk, eschewing Furtwaengler’s sometimes ‘polite’ version of Mozart, especially with the VPO. Dagmar Bella, by the way, is Furtwaengler’s daughter; she retired from the concert stage to pursue a career in teaching.

Furtwaengler was devoted to the Grand Partitia, K. 361, having programmed it almost a dozen times between 1941 and 1954. One hears the conductor singing along, stamping a foot and generally adding whatever momentum he can to the fleet yet broad and persuasive feeling he has for this work, much of whose third section presages Don Giovanni. The Mozart 40 is from the studio, December 1948-February 1949, and maintains a cool restrained distance even in the midst of its sorrows. Restricted portamenti and close-knit rhythmic thrusts mark this performance, which was I believe coupled with Eine kleine Nachtmusik on the LP. Pity this wasn’t included in what is otherwise a truly comprehensive set.

--Gary Lemco

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major/BRAHMS: Tragic Overture in D Minor, Op. 81

Hans Knappertsbusch conducts Munich Philharmonic and Suedfunk Symphony Orchestra (Brahms)

Music & Arts CD-1105 77:44 (Distrib. Albany):

Somewhat to my chagrin, I learned Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony (1896) from the Hans Knappertsbusch Decca recording he made in 1956 with the Vienna Philharmonic, a version which for all its luster and beauty, had serious flaws in interpretation and sound reproduction. So, this live performance from 19 March 1959 comes as a refreshing tonic, given the conductor’s penchant for the Franz Schalk edition of Bruckner’s original score, with its abbreviations of some aspects of recapitulation but with the added drama of fluid, mercurial dynamics and rapid shifts of tempo. The Brahms (15 November 1963), by the way, is a colossal, slowly langorous rendition, with many touches that link it to the spirit of the C Minor Symphony (Brahms’s own and that other fellow’s).

Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) often receives the epithet “old school” when the subject is Bruckner, but Kna’s silken and seamless way with orchestral transition has few peers, and he can balance Bruckner’s fluctuating musical pulse with a sturdy sense of arching tension. Rarely have I ever heard Knappertsbusch force a tempo or strain a dynamic entry. Thus, the Adagio movement, with its sudden moments of stretto and emotional fury, retains a glossy serenity Bruckner devotees owe it to themselves to experience. While I miss the full repeat in the Scherzo, which makes the movement a bit lopsided, the urgency to move from the rusticity of the music to the massive hymn of the Finale conveys its own spirit of gravity. Wind section, brass, and tympani emanate a ferocity I do not hear in the commercial, Decca record. Bruckner is not the staid, four-square pedant from the pulpit but a fierce, even whimsical titan. If this sounds like your Bruckner, seek out this historic reissue.

--Gary Lemco

HALSEY STEVENS: Symphonic Dances; Sonata for Solo Cello; Symphony No. 1

George Barati conducts London Philharmonic (Dances)
Gabor Rejto, cello
Akeo Watanabe conducts Japan Philharmonic (Symphony)

CRI American Masters CD 892 53:21 (Distrib. Koch):

Halsey Stevens (1908-1989) remains a California composer, perhaps in spite of early studies with Ernest Bloch and his life-long admiration of Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky. Stevens tried to strike a balance between the New Music and its post-Webern tendency to abstract serialization, and something of the Aaron Copland/Irving Fine refinement and classicism, with no apologies for an occasional melody. Stevens’ music has an open, colorful appeal. From the listening offered here by CRI, Stevens writes sonata-allegro and dance forms, in a predominantly tonal, albeit chromatic modality.

The Symphonic Dances (1958) seems to owe its structure to Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. Commissioned by Enrique Jorda and the San Francisco Symphony, the Dances have a spontaneous, busy appeal, full of color and bits of polyphony. The Cello Sonata (1959) is played by its dedicatee, Gabor Rejto (1916-1987), who premiered it in Los Angeles. In five movements in the manner of an unaccompanied Bach suite, it has two fine slow sections, of which the first is a chaconne in F-sharp. The Sonata is a high-flying affair, and I am surprised that the likes of Janos Starker have not inscribed this modern classic. The First Symphony (1938-40) had its premier in 1946 in San Frqncisco. Watanabe and the Japan Philharmonic perform the revision of 1950. In one movement, the work’s big moment is an extended lament of a slow section that breaks out into a primitive dance. The Symphony reminds me of movie music by way of Martinu; but there are those “Western” moments, whose syntax has more of Siegmeister and recollections of Grofe. All very sturdy, individualistic, what we call an American composer.

--Gary Lemco

FAURE: Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 15/SCHUMANN: Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44

Artur Rubinstein, piano/Paganini Quartet

RCA “The Rubinstein Collection” Vol. 23 09026-63023-2 58:03:

This disc provides inscriptions that pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982) made in 1949 in repertory he re-negotiated with the Guarneri Quartet some 21 years later. What makes this collation especially desirable is the mutual affection of the players for the Faure and the Schumann and the presence of violinist Henri Temianka, whom I met in London in 1984 after a Yehudi Menuhin concert at the Barbican Music Centre. Temianka commented on Rubinstein’s natural affinity for chamber music: “He played more of it than he recorded; he was always reading through a composer’s works with friends. But the record companies wanted to promote him as a stellar soloist. He and I read through the Brahms sonatas together, and he was always so sure of his rhythms. By the way, I recorded the Beethoven sonatas with Leonard Shure for the Library of Congress.”

These performances at first appear streamlined and rather coolly dispassionate, but I do not think they are. The lines of the Faure are taut and strict, eschewing the notion of Rubinstein as a ‘romantic’ in the slovenly sense. Rubinstein always has a great sympathy for French rhythm and he avoids a heavy tread. Robert Courte’s viola has some prominence in this inscription and his interior lines have facility as well as warmth. I was surprised how much ambiance the re-mastering of this performance has. The Schumann is all business - brisk, often brilliant playing. This is extroverted Schumann, Florestan rather than Eusebius, and an unabashedly bravura display. It makes a distinct contrast to the classic Schnabel/Pro Arte recording and collectors should possess both.

--Gary Lemco


BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21; Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36/MOZART: Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 “Haffner”

Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony

Rediscovery RD 051 73:59:

The latest in the Rediscovery reissues of the late Paul Paray and his Detroit Symphony has him serving up excellent renditions of early Beethoven in excellent sound. Taken from Mercury mono masters, with its single-mike concept, the performances have a streamlined airiness and brisk conviction that acts as a real tonic to the lugubrious, over-ripe conceptions of Celibidache. I found the C Major Beethoven superior in concept to the D Major: I like Paray’s ability to suggest Beethoven’s affinity with Rossini, the pert, light handling of string staccati and spiccati and the vivacious wit that permeates the whole. The Larghetto of the D Major is refined and songful. For me some of Paray’s tempi are just too fast. The “Haffner” makes a nice addition to Paray’s Classical library, especially in tandem with his notable “Miracle” Symphony of Haydn. The music is played for its optimistic, virile character; less as an harmonic study from the empfindsamkeit period in Vienna. What I miss in Paray’s Detroit experience are collaborations with some of his noted guest soloists, a gap I hope Rediscovery might fill. No dates are provided for the originals; but there is a brief conversation on the disc between Salvatore Rabbio and violist Morris Hochberg.

--Gary Lemco

Ignaz Friedman, piano - CHOPIN: Mazurka in C, Op. 63, No. 3; Waltz in C# Minor, Op. 64, No. 2; Mazurka in D, Op. 33, No. 2; Preludes in E-flat and D-flat; 3 Etudes; Ballade No. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47; Waltz in A Minor; Mazurka in B Minor/HUMMEL: Rondo in E-flat/BEETHOVEN: “Moonlight” Sonata/SCHUBERT-LISZT: Hark, Hark, the Lark/GAERTNER: Vienna Dance/MOZART: Rondo alla Turca/SCARLATTI: Pastorale/MOSZKOWSKI: Serenata/MENDELSSOHN: Scherzo in E Minor/LISZT-BUSONI: La Campanella/FREIDMAN: Elle danse

Naxos Historical 8.110684 74:57:

Among the most notable of the pupils of Theodor Leschetizky is Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948), one of the more extroverted and volcanic talents Poland produced, who managed to record just prior to and at the onset of electrical recording (in this set 1923-1926). The real legacy of Ignaz Friedman is largely lost to posterity, for it seems that after his invitation in 1940 to tour and to record in Australia, the acetates of his huge repertory were consigned to some landfill! What does remain, however, bears testimony to an active, penetrating mind supported by a fluent, often explosive and mercurial technique, where a powerful inner rhythm and sense for rubato is matched by a temperament formed in the grand style.

Of the twenty-four cuts on this restoration, half are of music by compatriot Chopin (with two pieces in alternative performances), for whom Friedman has more than sympathy, even a propulsion and drama (in the “Revolutionary” Etude) still thrilling to us all. Although Friedman’s most famous Chopin recording is of the E-flat Nocturne, Op. 55, No. 2 (not included), his mazurkas are peerless for idiomatic and visceral readings. The A-flat Ballade has sweep and consummate power. By placing wooden strips over the strings, Friedman manages, in Mozart and Scarlatti, to approximate the dynamic of the harpsichord, albeit with mixed results. [Echh...Those tracks should be in landfill!..Ed.] Viennese music, like Gaertner, Moszkowski and his own “Elle danse,” are as natural as anything in Fritz Kreisler. Mendelssohn, Hummel and Liszt-Busoni show off the lightning in Friedman’s fingers, speed and articulation to spare. The 1926 “Moonlight” is in a style similar to that of Moiseiwitsch, with accents in the left hand being strongly urged in the opening, and some marvelous pedal. Both Danacord and APR have exploited the Friedman legacy, but these reisssues by Ward Marston are no less welcome¸ the first in a projected, extensive series devoted to this master pianist.

--Gary Lemco

Ida Haendel in Popular Encores - PAGANINI: La Clochette, Op. 7/SCHUBERT: Ave Maria/SARASATE: Habanera; Zapateado/RAVEL: Piece en forme de Habanera/DVOARAK: Songs My Mother Taught Me/COPLAND: Hoedown/TARTINI: Andante and Presto/MENDELSSOHN: On Wings of Song/WEBER: Air Russe and Rondo/HALFFTER: Gypsy Dance/BARTOK: Rumanian Folk Dances

Ida Haendel, violin/Geoffrey Parson, piano

Testament SBT 1259 55:50 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):


This 1978 recital by Ida Haendel (b. 1927) captures her fiery temperament in glowing sound, working with her friend and accompanist, the reliable Geoffrey Parsons (1929-1995). Haendel’s rich and rasping violin tone is one of the most recognizable, with its broad, often sensuous vibrato and her clear delineation of the melodic line. No small strokes for Haendel. Everything is large, even over-ripe. Her Hoe-down from Copland’s Rodeo is smirky and savage, verging on the bawdy. Then witness her attack in the Tartini, which pulsates with visceral energy. The same electric pulse emanates from the first notes of Paganini’s “La Campanella” which opens the program. The same nervous energy permeates the Weber selections from his D Minor Sonata and the concluding Bartok dances. For loftiness of sentiment, we have the introspective sensuality of the Ravel and the unending melos of Dvorak and Mendelssohn, the latter of which may surpass the inscription Oistrakh made for CBS (ML 5096) with Lev Oberin.While Haendel’s Sarasate is not so spicy and peasant-like as Ricci’s, it still throbs with earthy voluptuousness, a folksy vitality especially flavorful in Halffter’s Gypsy Dance. No fewer kudos to pianist Parsons, who sticks with Haendel like a glove and shines in his own right.

--Gary Lemco

SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61/HUMPERDICK: Prelude to Hansel and Gretel/HAYDN: Symphony No. 53 in D “Imperial”/MOZART: Sleigh Ride/J. STRAUSS: On the Beautiful Blue Danube; Tales From the Vienna Woods

Leopold Stokowski conducts Symphony Orchestra

Cala CACD0532 75:10:

The latest Cala reissue of Leopold Stokowski material, made in conjunction with the British Leopold Stokowski Society, includes one of his most-sought inscriptions, his March 1949 Haydn Symphony No. 53 (originally RCA LM 1073), the only Haydn this flamboyant conductor recorded commercially. I know of a tape of Haydn’s C Major Violin Concerto from the same period with young Isaac Stern but this collaboration has not resurfaced in CD format. The “Imperial” is deftly played, with pointed phrasing and congenial loftiness. Its second movement sounds like variants on “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” The last, martial movement has a silky power without becoming top heavy. Most of the players come directly from the New York Philharmonic, with a few ringers from the MET.

The program opens with Humperdinck, a richly lush version of the Prelude to Hansel und Gretel that became part of LM 2042, an LP entitled “In a Lighter Vein.” The two Strauss waltzes, again from 1949, suffer every kind of excess, from excisions and no repeats to Hollywood-style schmaltz. Yet the little Mozart “Sleigh Ride,” the third of the K. 605 German Dances (recorded in 1949) is startlingly effective. The ultimate show-stopper is the 1950 Schumann C Major Symphony, a Stokowski specialty (although an unreleased tape of his Schumann D Minor Symphony from the Suisse Romande is extant). This Cala restoration compares favorably with the Rediscovery version of this recording I reviewed some time ago. I heard Stokowski do this piece with the American Symphony around 1966, and as here it was immensely satisfying. The RCA long-playing record (LM 1194) was legendary in its time, and this CD shows you why. Listen to Stokowski’s ritard just before the coda of the opening Allegro ma non troppo or the lovely oboe (Harold Gomberg?) in the pre-Mahlerian Adagio. The sound of this Cala CD is especially warm and Stokowski devotees cannot afford to be without it.

--Gary Lemco

Isaac Stern, In Tribute and Celebration - MOZART: Violin Sonatas, K. 301; K. 306; K. 378; K. 379/SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat, D. 898/BRAHMS: String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111/BACH: Excerpts from Partita No. 1 in B Minor foir Solo Violin, BWV 1002
Isaac Stern violin; Yefim Bronfman, piano (Mozart);Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Michael Tree, viola; Jamie Laredo, viola; Yo-Yo Ma, cello (Brahms); Leonard Rose, cello; Eugene Istomin, piano (Schubert)

Sony Classical S2K 89936 77:10; 72:50:

This compilation celebrates the passing of violinist Isaac Stern, whose talent and personality extended beyond ‘mere’ music-making into musical politics. I met Stern in Atlanta after a duo recital, where I tried to engage him in conversation on Dimitri Mitropoulos. Instead of a discussion, what I got was a polemic on Dimitri’s privacy and how Stern was resolved to protect it. Later, he wrote me a letter on how data on certain people and works of art have to be suppressed in order to keep their character sacrosanct. When I replied that Stern violated his own standard by playing Bartok’s early Violin Concerto, he stopped writing me.

Interviews and after-concert talks with other musicians who knew Stern confirm his rather tenuous moral position in the world of music: his relation with Columbia Artists Management and his virtual hegemony over Carnegie Hall often proved a major hindrance to other musicians’ careers, like Aaron Rosand, whom Stern considered a serious rival. It is not politically correct to speak ill of the dead. So, let this Sony tribute speak for him, performances culled 1965 (Schubert) to 1993 (Mozart, Brahms), where his collegiality is more in force. The Brahms G Major Quintet will complement his famous collaboration with Casals, Katims, Thomas, Schneider, and Foley in the Brahms B-flat Sextet, Op. 18 (Sony SMK 58994) from Prades, 1952. It is a big-hearted, generously sonorous affair, rife with that late-Brahms mix of subdued passion and intimations of mortality. The B-flat Trio is a classic, with great verve and sensitive balances. In his typical modesty, Stern said the recording had no peer.

I went through a period, 1966-1980, where I stopped listening to Stern completely. The advent of his Dvorak Concerto with Ormandy proved so schmaltzy and so ill-prepared I sought my violin pleasures elsewhere. The last fifteen years showed me some improvement, where to play in concert with others Stern was forced to work on intonation and articulation. The Stern-Bronfman Mozart group has the benefit of good tone and loving phrasing, even if they are over-ripe in some respects. Bach was not a strong suit with Stern, although he wanted to inscribe the complete Unaccompanied Sonatas to disc, starting in 1985. If Sony wants to impress, try reissuing the Viotti A Minor with Stern and Ormandy as well as the early Bartok Concerto, a work the composer attempted to destroy but Stern championed - a clear victory of the timeless over the timely.

--Gary Lemco

Return to Home Page for OCT. 2002

Back to the Top of This Page

To Index of CD Reviews for Month