IDI IDIS 6466 69:46 (Distrib. Qualiton) ***:
For those who collect the work of Hungarian virtuoso Geza Anda (1921-1976), this issue from the RAI archives celebrates the thirty-three-year-old in full command of his powers, teaming up 11 December 1954 with Herbert von Karajan (1907-1989) fourteen years prior to their commercial recording of the Brahms B-flat Concerto in 1968. There are many dazzling moments, these in spite of some scruffy, stringent, and pop-ridden surfaces which mar the sonic patina in the Brahms and in the 1942 reading of Mozart. The RAI Rome orchestra plays well, especially with the demands made upon the French horn, strings, and winds. The uncredited cello solo in the Andante makes lovely music with Anda’s velvet legatos and rippling arpeggios, all of which justify Furtwaengler’s epithet for him as a “troubadour of the piano.” Karajan’s ethos is his usual combination of Toscanini literalism and rounded arches, although the RAI personnel do not deliver the antiseptic, seamless gloss to which the Berlin Philharmonic is prone. Anda plays the piece for its bravura poetry, even imparting a sense of play to the double octaves and mincing filigree in the outer movements. The last movement combines a sense of frolic with the lion’s occasional, impassioned outburst, reminding us that this music is a symphony with piano obbligato.
The 1942 Mozart symphony captures the thirty-five-year-old Karajan, only recently liberated from his duties at Aachen and assuming more and varied responsibilities, earning himself the epithet “Little K” which so enraged Furtwaengler. Karajan works with a responsive Orchestra dell’EIAR – an ensemble which made some inscriptions with Markevitch and Schuricht. The G Minor proceeds solemnly, without first movement repeats, but with intense focus on linear clarity between strings, winds, and horns. The heart of the symphony, the Andante, receives loving, expansive treatment, the dialogue between oboe, horn, and bassoon molded deliberately. The last two movements maintain a nervous athletic tension just below the shimmering surface of balanced phrases. Karajan lays on Mozart’s stretti with vigorous clarity. Bruno Walter once remarked that few musicians would have the maturity or the chutzpah to lead Mozart’s G Minor Symphony prior to the age of forty. This young Turk Karajan knows no fear, and now we know his future.