Carl Schuricht = SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture, Op. 115; MOZART: Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 “Prague”; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Carl Schuricht – Testament

by | Feb 16, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Carl Schuricht = SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture, Op. 115; MOZART: Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 “Prague”; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Carl Schuricht

Testament SBT2 1403, (2 CDs) 36:46; 51:44 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) *****:

Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) originally made his reputation by leading concerts in which Stravinsky, Delius, Schoenberg, and Reger were regularly featured; but by the time of this live concert ((8 October 1964), Schuricht, like Bruno Walter, had been cast into the role of musical curator for the Great German Tradition. While there are degrees of similitude with the middle European style we hear in Furtwaengler, Kleiber, Walter, Fritz Busch, and Klemperer, Schuricht took many points of his approach from Toscanini, achieving a sound that is at once lush, warmly subjective, and often nervously idiosyncratic.

Each of these aforementioned qualities assets itself in the course of this fine program: the opening Manfred Overture is driven hard, with the polyphony of the lower strings and horns quite present, without hedging on the surly, convulsive character of the Byron-based music. The Mozart Prague is sheer magic, a thoroughly idiomatic reading suffused with sublime touches of color and shifting accelerations and slowings down. The exalted Andante movement becomes itself a dramma giocoso in the manner of Don Giovanni. Eminently Viennese in style, the performance exhibits a through control of the ensemble, which spins out the generous melodic line with a steady pulse despite agogic shifts and adjustments similar to those a superb pianist might apply with the pedal. Schuricht is the Spencer Tracy of conducting, a master!

The Eroica enjoys a spacious, youthful grandeur, the excitement of controlled spontaneity. The thunderbolts are there, to be sure, but so are the softer underpinnings in the strings and winds. The first movement transition from bassoon to oboe to low strings, all tremolando and stretto, create a vibrant tension as the figures hustle their way to resolve the disjunction between rhythmic and metric impulses. Then, how sweet the spirit of compromise, only for it to be rejected in favor of an assertive victory over former weakness. The ripe sonorities before the staccato figures in the recapitulation already point to the Pastoral Symphony. O Beautiful Music, do not cease!

The deliberate intensity of the Marcia funebre reminds us how much a contemporary Schuricht was of Furtwaengler, how akin their sensibilities. Lyrical, noble, stoically tragic, elegantly inevitable. The edges are rounded, even the heavy counterpoint, but without resulting in the cold, antiseptic gloss that Karajan elicited from the same period with the BPO. The Scherzo restores the restless electricity, the little, jarring propulsions of rhythm edging us closer to some emotional cataclysm. While we are denied a descent into the abyss, we receive those marvelous variations on that innocuous contredanse Beethoven finds so pregnant with voluptuous, dramatic and contrapuntal possibility. The flute work throughout the concert has been exceptional, by the way. Young James Galway? That Testament, due to the shortness of disc one, offers the set at a reduced price makes this invaluable document already elected to my Best of the Year List for 2007.

— Gary Lemco

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