DVORAK: Cello Concerto; Violin Concerto in A Minor – Enrico Mainardi, c./Ida Haendel, v. – Pristine Audio

by | Oct 21, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104; Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53 – Enrico Mainardi, cello/ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Fritz Lehmann/ Ida Haendel, violin/ National Symphony Orchestra/ Karl Rankl – Pristine Audio PASC 308, 69:00 [avail. in various formats from www.pristine classical.com] ****:
The 30-31 July 1947 performance of the Dvorak Violin Concerto by Polish virtuoso Ida Haendel (b. 1928?) has had prior incarnation through the Dutton label in 1999 as CDK 1204, where it appeared in concert with the Tchaikovsky Concerto from 1946 and the Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso from 1945, each of those latter collaborations with Basil Cameron. The Pristine restoration by Andrew Rose carries a pungent immediacy; and thus Haendel’s strong suit, her blazing attacks, gain in their feral approach to a combination of gypsy and Slavic impulses in the music itself. Conductor Karl Rankl (1898-1968), an Austrian musician who like Haendel embraced British citizenship, generates a natural sympathy in the course of A Minor Concerto, although sonically we could wish the National Symphony woodwinds had more color presence. Haendel’s work with the flute solo and French horns in the Adagio of the Concerto proves exemplary in its taste and vocal phraseology. The outer movements with their respective drive and rasping intensity will remind auditors in several aspects of the Milstein approach: virile, robust, grandly scaled.
The Finale perhaps of all three movements reveals the “feminine” character in Haendel’s playing, although Rankl’s orchestral part continues to vibrate with the rustic energies we know from Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance forms. Again, better miking of the National Symphony tympani would have added a distinct power to already colorful approach. The middle section, rife with double notes and high voltage changes in bowing and registration, showcase Haendel’s studied approach, which would gain even more vertical acuity after her fateful encounter in the 1950s with Sergiu Celibidache. The lithe athleticism of Haendel’s upper register and flute tone, however, quite dazzle even here in 1947, and music lovers can only marvel at her combination of fluid technical virtuosity and absolute comfort in the emotional authority of her conception.
The recordings of Milanese cello virtuoso Enrico Mainardi (1897-1976) have been grudgingly slow to re-enter the main stream; and while this affecting effort in the Cello Concerto from 24 January 1955 with Fritz Lehmann (1904-1956) gives us hopes of further issues, many collectors envision that Mainardi’s work with Paul van Kempen will no less warrant restoration. Restoration engineer Andrew Rose has resuscitated a German Heliodor LP with pseudo-stereo effects and done away with all phony sources of separation. Mainardi then reveals himself as a cellist whose style lies somewhere between the older romantic tradition of Casals and the relatively “clean,” almost Spartan linear drive of Emanuel Feuermann. Lehmann, working with the Berlin Philharmonic, performed at the height of his powers, although he would die prematurely only a year later. In 1955, the Berlin Philharmonic still reeled emotionally from the loss of their major conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler, but the discipline remained honed under Karajan, Fricsay, Jochum, Lehmann, and Knappertsbusch.
The scale of Lehmann’s orchestral part does not strive for the metaphysical objectivity of Karajan nor the “patient” indulgence of Fricsay, but rather proceeds in a literalist fashion that might remind some auditors of the classic contribution George Szell provided for soloist Casals. The warm sound of the BPO provides a pampered tissue for the long-lined, impassioned declarations and runs from Mainardi. In their intimate moments together, Mainardi and Lehmann manage a chamber-music effect, quite arresting, that segues easily into the martial and more heroic gestures the first movement proffers, especially in its extended coda.  For those who complain of Mainardi’s predilection for slow tempos, a potent tonic reveals itself in these pages. On the other hand, Mainardi’s old school sensibility in the Adagio yields up thoughtful, exalted moments of meditative beauty bathed in the woodwind miracles of Dvorak’s seamless writing. A self-effacing, meticulous approach may not achieve the epic proportions some of our modern virtuosi effect, but Mainardi delivers a Dvorak Concerto intelligent as it is ardent, and the last movement dances and sings with that especial nostalgia the composer imparts when his fairy-tale ethos meets musical ideas that celebrate both his national style and his universality.
—Gary Lemco

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