Edition Ferenc Fricsay Vol. X = BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 – Gioconda De Vito, violin/RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin/Ferenc Fricsay
Audite 95.585, 80:08 [Distrib. by Albany] **** :
From the archives of RIAS, Berlin come two distinctly rare and exquisitely musical Brahms performances: the Violin Concerto (8 October 1951) studio performance with Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963) and Italian violin virtuoso Gioconda De Vito (1907-1994) and the D Major Symphony (13 October 1953) also from the studio sessions at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem. The two artists’ respective temperaments–De Vito’s sweetly lyrical; Fricsay’s explosively, deliberately dramatic–complement each other so as to produce a realization that is at once driven yet meditative, at least until the De Vito’s fiery execution of the Joachim cadenza.
One contemporary critic, Hartnack, commented at the time that the pair had conceived of the Brahms as a “symphonic concerto with obbligato soloist.” Even De Vito’s occasional rubati and portamenti fit into Fricsay’s fluid design, especially when Fricsay has the horn, flute, and oboe intertwine with De Vito’s singing, illumined figurations. The woods inform the opening of the Adagio, which soon becomes a most intimate dialogue for the soloist with oboe, flute, French horn, and warm strings. De Vito’s tone has a piercing, thinly nasal luster, often reminiscent of Szigeti, but more secure in vibrato and rounding the notes. Critic Joachim Hartnack wrote of this intimate movement as “romantic sorcery” between these two artists. What an opening chord for the Rondo: Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace! A delicate hybrid of flighty virtuosity and buoyant self-assertion, the music moves lithely between De Vito’s fluttering and melodic figures and the wicked, pulsating agogics in Fricsay’s well-honed RIAS players. The fervent mometum increases ineluctably in gypsy style, the woodwinds twittering in step-wise motion to the fateful ritornello prior to the brief semi-cadenza. Fluent trills over the woodwinds wend their way to the “fate” motif over the tympani and the mock-martial statement of the theme in variation. The coda proves a delicious concoction of energy and ecstatic song, ending on three big, Brahmsian chords.
The Brahms Second makes a fine, albeit brisk, complement to the surviving, broader inscription with Fricsay from Salzburg’s Grosse Festspielhaus in February 1961 (DGG 445 407-2) from the Ferenc Fricsay Portrait collection. Brightly colored, the performance nonetheless captures the limpid melancholy in the trombones and pedal tympani. Baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau commented on Fricsay’s “lithe, lean, transparent orchestral sound. . .that revealed total, absolute and enthralling passion within such self-imposed limitations.” The lyrical, tragic momentum of the first movement breaks loose over shimmering string tremolandi and mighty tympanic rolls; hadn’t the composer himself designated the D Major a “sweet-tempered monster”? A wondrous sense of transition takes us to the recap in graduated string and woodwind colors; a tympani roll, a ground-swell, and the haunted cello melody emerges like embossed sunshine, as transparent as anything Bruno Walter ever evoked from an ensemble. When the violence does break, the ferocity proves quite tangible in trumpets, trombones, and tuba. The string work has the sensitivity of chamber music ensemble, especially as glides under the French horn.
Fricsay divides the extended line of the Adagio non troppo into distinct, arched periods, the French horn, flutes, and oboe initiating their own transition to the string and wind sequences. Subtle ritenuti, along with the composer’s own predilection for hemiola and agogic shifts, provide a feral energy in the otherwise melancholy mix. Oboe and dark, low strings take us into a shady arbor haunted by nostalgia. A grand swell emerges from the bass fiddles and into the trumpets, trombones and rolling tympani, beautifully balanced by Fricsay’s wind and string choirs. The Allegretto grazioso, superficially sunny and lyrical, breaks into two distinct, scherzo variations, ending on a note of somber ambiguity, all realized with plastic, confident aplomb. The finale bursts loose with unbuttoned, blazing passion–this despite Hugo Wolf’s assertion that Brahms could not exult–the clarinet, French horn, oboe and strings moving with oceanic breadth towards a preconceived apotheosis of spirit. The trombone trio and trumpets want to invoke the Apocalypse; and whether Fricsay’s streamlined, manic approach succeeds, you must decide upon your own audition of this historic recording of special merit.
— Gary Lemco