Weitblick SSS0055-2, 67:50 (Distrib. Albany) ****:
A live program from 8 February 1972 provides music entirely new to the discography of German conductor Kurt Sanderling (b. 1912), the mighty pupil of Sebastian and Mravinsky; and who at the time of this concert was to embark on a cycle of the Beethoven symphonies with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. After a deliberate, riveting performance of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, we have a rare moment of Sanderling in a baroque work, the E Minor Concerto Grosso of Handel. Using a full complement of players and harpsichord continuo, we savor not an authentic moment of baroque music-practice, but a romantic, even lush, cleanly resonant incarnation of a passionate score, rife with arioso and operatic pageantry. The Polonaise offers a particularly generous texture in the ripieno, with an intimate response from the concertino. While the pulsation and affective life maintain the composer’s spirit, the ripeness of the orchestral tissue hearkens to the subjective sound-life we have when the likes of Klemperer, Walter, Kubelik, and Furtwaengler performed this music.
Sanderling mounts the epic tone poem Ein Heldenleben on a high plane, moving the piece forcefully yet basking in its breadth, on a par with the classic readings by its dedicatee Mengelberg. The violin solo is performed by Gyorgy Garay, and he realizes a warm evocation of the Hero’s Companion, especially in his interplay with harp, oboe, and tympani. The ties of this egocentric work to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony become transparently obvious without falling into a parody of self-conceit. Some really liquid, streamlined phrasing in the opening The Hero sequence, trumpets ablaze. Even the Hero’s critics earn a pathos and sense of yearning most conductors do not care to bring out. The Battle Scene is pure, unmitigated Shostakovich. The Hero’s Works of Peace allude to several major opera, instrumental and vocal works in the Strauss oeuvre, and we can sense what Sanderling would do with Death and Transfiguration. A ravishing reading of this monumental score, huge pedal points, forward moving and rife with a wonderful devotion to orchestral colors. The disc makes a great companion to Sanderling’s eternal DGG inscription of the Rachmaninov E Minor Symphony.
— Gary Lemco