Joseph Keilberth = MOZART: Symphony No. 33; Serenade in G Major, “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”; Serenade in D Major, “Serenata notturna”; HAYDN: Symphony No. 55; DVORAK: Scherzo capriccioso – Deutsches Philharmonisches Orch., Prague/ Joseph Keilberth – MeloClassic

Joseph Keilberth = MOZART: Symphony No. 33 in B-flat Major, K. 319; Serenade in G Major, K. 525 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”; Serenade in D Major, K. 239 “Serenata notturna”; HAYDN: Symphony No. 55 in E-flat Major; DVORAK: Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66 – Deutsches Philharmonisches Orch., Prague/ Joseph Keilberth – MeloClassic MC 5004, 79:02 [www.meloclassic.com] ****:

Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968) made a fine reputation as a reliable conductor of opera, his having been recommended by Wilhelm Furtwaengler to become the General Music Director of the German Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague. After WW II, Keilberth led ensembles in Bamberg, Dresden, the Staatskapelle Berlin, and Bayreuth. Keilberth succeeded Ferenc Fricsay at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Strong in Mozart and the mainstream German repertory, Keilberth took an objectivist stance to music, remaining literal but energetic in his various readings of the Austro-German tradition.

This MeloClassic transfer includes concert materials from 1942-1945, opening with a brisk interpretation of Mozart’s Symphony No. 33 in B-flat Major, K. 319 (3 September 1942, Vienna) that includes a deliberate, melodically lush reading of the Andante moderato second movement. The Haydn so-called “Schoolmaster” Symphony No. 55 in E-flat Major (7 July 1943) takes us into the sturm und drang period in music with a potently driven Allegro di molto led by a firm hand. The finger-wagging second movement – a theme with seven variations – Adagio: ma semplicemente presents a muted-strings, two-part melody in B-flat Major. The sudden outbursts erupt from, alternately, staccato and legato presentations of the variations on the theme. The pedantic cast of the music soon gives way to a con amore sensibility that Keilberth applies with canny nuance. The Trio of the ensuing Menuetto employs a chamber music medium, a concertino of two violins and cello. The Finale: Presto combines rondo and variation forms in bravura fashion, including some perky and rustically humorous riffs in the low winds.

Despite some distant-sounding acoustics, the Eine kleine Nachtmusik Serenade (3 July 1944, Prague) exudes its usual charms and happy application of Classical form.  The Romanze movement makes a persuasive testament to Keilberth’s lyrical sway with his Deutsches Philharmonisches’ string section.  The 1776 Serenata Notturna and Dvorak’s infectiously colorful 1882 Scherzo capriccioso derive from the same Prague concert of 8 January 1945. The former piece, that by Mozart, takes an audacious turn at the traditional cassation or outdoor music staple, reducing the scoring to opposing martial and lyrical concertinos, and they include the active tympani.  I suppose we must accept a Joseph Keilberth reading of the Dvorak in lieu of an “authentic” Prague performance from Vaclav Talich, but our delight in the composer’s astonishing rhythmic buoyancy never wanes, and the coda justifies the admission price.

The “new” MeloClassic packaging adds only more class to an already satisfying experience in historical recordings, and the liner notes by Michael Waiblinger provide ample biographical commentary.

—Gary Lemco

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