Abendroth Conducts = BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67; REGER: Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; DOHNANYI: Wedding Waltz from The Veil of Pierrette–Ballet Suite; SIBELIUS: Finlandia, Op. 26 – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Sibelius, Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1, Dohnanyi)/Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire, Paris (Reger)/Hermann Abendroth
Pristine Audio PASC 256, 77:45 [avail. in various formats from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Hermann Abendroth (1883-1956), sometimes addressed as “the other Furtwaengler,” had been originally a Felix Mottl acolyte, rising through his many efforts in Cologne and Leipzig, even to having survived his National Socialist affiliations. An exploratory programmer of new music, Abendroth’s music-making embraced a wide spectrum of composers, including Bartok, Stravinsky, Reger, Pfitzner, and Tchaikovsky. The recordings here restored by Mark Obert-Thorn, 1936-1942, capture Abendroth’s art just prior to and during WW II, when his persuasive style found vibrant response with Furtwaengler’s own players, as well as with musicians in occupied France.
The 22 November 1937 Beethoven Fifth appeared the same year as a commercial recording by Furtwaengler. The linear style of performance conveys sinewy might and much by way of color nuance, without resorting to false Romantic effects or exaggerated distortion of the basic tempo. The BPO pizzicati in each of the movements receive intense focus, and the sense of graduated transition marks the splendid work between the Scherzo and the final Allegro. Often driven at ferocious speeds, the music maintains a taut line and achieves thrilling peroration certainly worthy of favorable comparison with Furtwangler’s more heralded inscription.
The 1914 Reger Variations on a Theme of Mozart (6 May 1942) take as their impulse the Mozart Sonata in A, K. 331 first movement and evolve eight variants and a fugue from its swaying figures. Easily prone to invidious comparison with the Brahms Haydn Variations, the piece shows off the color elements in the strings and woodwinds, culminating–in the complete score–in assertive panoply in the trumpets. Abendroth omits the fugue. The hissy sound of the French shellacs persists despite modern processing. Still, a sense of staid repose fills the latter variants, which assume the proportions of a cosmic lullaby.
The two Liszt Rhapsodies: No. 1 (arr. Mueller/Berghaus) from 19 June 1937 carry a wonderfully gypsy resonance we know from its alternative incarnation as the Hungarian Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra. Abendroth plays with the metrics a bit to induce a militant or sweeping character, as is his whim. Nice trumpet and triangle work to accompany the silken strings. The flashy schwung all but asks Ferenc Fricsay to take over the podium, so deftly idiomatic swirls this rendition! The perennially popular Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (1 October 1938) enjoys a stately, even lugubrious tempo until the BPO clarinet’s trill ushers in a delicate segue to the friss section which exuberantly and frantically throws kitchen-sink colors at us.
The unusual moment of Viennese kitsch appears as Dohnanyi’s Wedding Waltz from The Veil of Pierrette, inscribed at the same 19 June 1937 session as the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1. Dohnanyi’s inflated waltz resides somewhere between Johann Strauss and Lehar, perhaps to the right of Waldteufel. The music lisps sweetly, though, and its easy Romanticism will find its way into the bin of color pieces that stump aficianados. Finally, an imposing and downright threatening Finlandia (2 October 1936) – almost a warning for the Axis powers to keep away from proud and passionate Finland. We won’t hear the same authority and exalted lyricism in this Germanic conception of the music until Rosbaud’s recording with the BPO in the 1950s.
— Gary Lemco