Arthur Fiedler = Works of WAGNER; WEBER; DVORAK; MENDELSSOHN – Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler – Historic-Recordings

by | Apr 4, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Arthur Fiedler = WAGNER: Rienzi Overture; Tannhauser: Festmarsch; WEBER: Oberon Overture; DVORAK: Carnival Overture, Op. 92; MENDELSSOHN: Fingal’s Cave Overture, Op. 26; ALBERT: Divertissement; GLUCK: Suite (arr. Mottl) – Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler – Historic-Recordings HRCD 00061, 67:56 [] ****:
Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979) and I met once, in Atlanta, after he and the Boston Pops and a young pianist performed, among other items, the Rachmaninov C Minor Concerto with what I termed in my review as “predictable loveliness.”  My epithet need not be construed as vituperative: Fiedler made a lifelong point of performing pretty music in a pretty way for music lovers of all ages. He inherited the Boston Pops in 1930, after having directed the Boston Sinfonietta. Trained in a German tradition and having been active in the Boston Symphony as a violinist, pianist, and percussionist, Fiedler had a catholic knowledge of main-stream repertory, and he had the musical means to inspire uniformly smooth performances from his players.
Historic-Recordings resurrects Fiedler’s work between 1936-1944 in transfers by Bill Anderson and Bryan Bishop. From 28-29 June 1937 we have two Wagner items, each stylistically and dramatically paced. Rienzi moves rather literally according to Wagner’s ideas of Italian melody fertilized by doses of Beethoven; the Festmarch from Tannhauser’s Act II conveys a marked sense of pageantry and solemnity in bright colors. The Pops brass and strings quite resound with ceremonial pomp to invoke the guests’ arrival, the cymbals’ bursting with dignified light.  The Weber Oberon and the Dvorak Carnival likewise date from 29 June 1937, obviously a good day for recording.  The airiness of the woodwinds and strings at the outset of Oberon testifies to a delicate taste, a literalness close to that of Weingartner.  The Allegro section proves quite virtuosic in the string work, the horn and clarinet melody molded with fond attention.
The glossy spirited Carnival Overture performance reminded me that Fiedler also recorded a Hussite Overture for RCA that appeared on the LM 9000 series of LPs that warrants reissue. Considering that Fiedler’s 1937 follows on the heels of the 1935 Talich inscription of Carnival, the performance holds up startlingly well. The last of the Bill Anderson transfers concerns Mendelssohn’s ever-popular 1830 Fingal’s Cave Overture (20 November 1944) and its invocation of the Hebrides archipelago of the west coast of Scotland. The pace remains a mite quick for my taste, but the orchestral definition is strong, the unfolding of Nature’s might and fury in sonata-form delineated clearly with few “romantic” rhetorical devices in evidence. The fugato section projects a deliciously driven tension. Sober and driven, these renditions each attest to a classical spirit in music-making.
The two suites edited by Bryan Bishop pre-date WW II: the Albert Divertissement (1 July 1936) comprises six movements.  It evokes a hectic boulevardier style in its brief opening fanfare; a hazy, thoughtful interlude immediately follows that itself breaks out in active figures in the manner of Stravinsky or Ibert. A brief parody of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March includes pomposo chords and battery riffs that Rossini would admire. The Adagio that follows offers the stylistic challenge, a combination of Petrushka and French Impressionism. An aggressive Allegro follows that sounds like a parody waltz of Delibes or Massenet that explodes into Chabrier. Another mock-march ensues that becomes a galop with a bit of Aussie Tipperary color. The last movement strictly whirls and wheezes with circus colors, Stravinsky and Barnum and Bailey in rollicking fun. Felix Mottl’s arrangement of opera music by Gluck (rec. 24 March 1940) includes an Overture from Don Juan of passionate dignity; the perennially lovely Dance of the Blessed Spirits; and the so-called Air Gai from Iphigenie in Aulide that Stokowski also found to his delicate taste. The ceremonial finale conveys a royal occasion and might well accompany the preparations for a foxhunt until the Tempo di Menuetto ensues. The spirited da capo has our feet tapping and blood racing in appreciation of fine ensemble.
— Gary Lemco

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