Ferenc Fricsay: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophone, Vol. I [TrackList follows] = DGG, 45 CDs

by | Nov 27, 2014 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Ferenc Fricsay: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophone, Vol. I = BARTOK: 3 Piano Concertos; Rhapsody, Op. 1; Dance Suite; Concerto for Orchestra; Violin Concerto No. 2; Dance Suite; Divertimento; Music for Strings, Percussion and Ceelsta; BEETHOVEN: Triple Concerto in C, Op. 56; Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21; Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93; Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55; Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92; Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125; Leonore Overture No. 3; Egmont Overture; BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival Overture; Excerpts from La Damnation de Faust; BIZET: Carmen Suites; BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia; Polovtsian Dances; BLACHER: Variations on a Theme of Paganini; BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D; Haydn Variations; Double Concerto in A Minor; Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major; BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor; DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Danse sacree et Danse profane; DUKAS: L’ Apprenti sorcier; DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor; EGK: Little Abraxas Suite; French Suite after Rameau; EINEM: Ballade, Op. 23; Capriccio, Op. 2; Piano Concerto, Op. 20; Danton’s Tod: Interlude; FALLA: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; FORTNER: Symphony: Finale; FRANCK: Symphonic Variations; FRANCAIX: Concertino for Piano and Orchestra; GLAZUNOV: Violin Concerto in A Minor; GLIERE: Symphony No. 3 in B Minor; GOUNOD: Faust: Ballet Music; HANDEL: Harp Concerto in B-flat Major; HARTMANN: Adagio appassionato from Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6; HAYDN: Symphony No. 44 in E Minor; Symphony No. 95 in C Minor; Symphony No. 48 in C Major; Symphony No. 98 in B-flat Major; Symphony No. 100 in G Major; Symphony No. 101 in D Major; HENZE: Ballet Variations; HINDEMITH: Symphonic Dances; HONEGGER: Concertino for Piano and Orchestra; HUBAY: Here Kati; KODALY: Hary Janos Suite; Symphony in C Major; Dances of Marosszek; Dances of Galanta; LIEBERMANN: Suite on Swiss Folk Songs; LISZT: Les Preludes; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 in F Minor; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 in C Minor; MARTIN: Petite Symphonie concertante; MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; MOZART: Symphony No. 29 in A Major; Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major; Masonic Funeral Music; Adagio and Fugue in C Minor; Symphony No. 40 in G Minor; Symphony No. 41 in C; Serenade No. 13 in G Major; Symphony No. 35 in D; Clarinet Concerto in A Major; Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor; Concert Rondo in D Major; Concerto Rondo in A Major; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major; MUSSORGSKY: A Night on Bare Mountain; PONCHIELLI: Dance of the Hours; PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 in D Major; RACHMANINOV: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; RAVEL: Introduction and Allegro; Bolero; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade; ROSSINI: La Boutique fantasque; Overtures: La scala di seta; Semiramide; Il signor Bruschino; L’Italiana in Algeri; La gazza ladra; Il barbiere di Siviglia; Il viaggio a Reims; SARASATE: Zigeunerweisen; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor; SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major; SMETANA: The Moldau (and Rehearsal); From Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests; J. STRAUSS I: Radetzky-Marsch; J. STRAUSS II: Die Fledermaus Overture; Annen Polka; Eljen a Magyar!; Kaiser-Walzer; G’schichten aus dem Wienerwald; Tristsch-Tratsch Polka; An der schoenen, blauen Donau; Der Zigeunerbaron Overture; Wiener Blut; Morgenblaetter; Rosen aus dem Sueden; Perpetuum mobile; Fruelingsstimmen Waltz; Pizzicato Polka; R. STRAUSS: Don Juan; Till Eulenspiegel; Burleske in D Minor; Duett-Concertino; STRAVINSKY: Le Scare du Printemps; Petrouchka; Capriccio; Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss; Movements for Piano and Orchestra; TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugen Onegin: Waltz and Polonaise; Symphony No. 4 in F Minor; Symphony No. 5 in E Minor; Symphony No. 6 in B Minor; Violin Concerto in D; 1812 Overture; Serenade for Strings in C; Ballet Selections from The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty; TCHEREPNIN: Bagatelles for Piano and Orchestra; VERDI: Overtures, Preludes, and Ballet Music; WEBER: Invitation to the Dance; Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Konzertstueck in F Minor – Geza Anda, piano/ Clara Haskil, p./ Monique Haas, p./ Margrit Weber, p./ Annie Fischer, p./ Gerty Herzog, p./ Janos Starker, cello/Pierre Fournier, cello/Wolfgang Schneiderhahn, v./ Yehudi Menuhin, v./ Johanna Martzy, v./ Erica Morini, v./ Helmut Zacharias, v./ Rudolf Schulz, v./ John Leach, cimbalom/ Nicanor Zabaleta, harp/ Irmgard Helmis, harp/ Heinrich Geuser, clarinet/ Willi Fugmann, bassoon/ Sylvia Kind, harpsichord – RIAS Sym. Orch./ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/ Orch. Lamoureux, Paris/ Vienna Philharmonic/ Bavarian State Orch./ Ferenc Fricsay – DGG 00299 479 2691 (45 CDs!) (9/2/14) [Distr. by Universal] *****:

I suppose my own discussion of Hungarian maestro Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963) must begin with my 1982 Atlanta interview with cello master Janos Starker at the Fairmont Hotel. Starker opened his remarks with a 1946 meeting – perhaps apocryphal – between a rich Hungarian dowager, Starker, and Fricsay, in which some lofty sentiment, “We shall raise the spirit of Hungarian music from the ashes of war,” instigated a firm relationship that would reinstate a standard of music-making that world conditions may have compromised. In 1947 Fricsay stood in for Otto Klemperer in Salzburg to lead Einem’s Dantons Tod. Soon after, in Berlin, Fricsay led Verdi’s Don Carlos with a cast that included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. But the records of those triumphs would remain unknown to me for many years. Until then, I lived on DGG LPs of Fricsay’s sojourns into Dvorak, Beethoven, and Bartok, or upon the sad surfaces of American Decca LPs of Kodaly, Borodin, the one Handel inscription, and “new” music by Egk, Blacher, and Einem.

In 1990, Yehudi Menuhin performed the Elgar Violin Concerto in Atlanta under Robert Shaw, and I met Menuhin and discussed Ferenc Fricsay, just at the time an “undiscovered” Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto surfaced with the two giants from 1949. “He was wonderful,” exclaimed Menuhin. “Such consistent passion. I cannot see how anyone could object to the release of the Tchaikovsky – although we had other concertos for our tour – and I myself was never happy with my commercial record with Boult. I too often paid homage to Heifetz in the Tchaikovsky, feeling his precision made the work his version of the ‘Beethoven Concerto,’ if you understand me.”

The present set embraces and extends my personal memories and my former collection, as integral as I had thought it to be. When Nicanor Zabaleta came to Atlanta, I brought my American Decca LP for him to sign, containing the 1957 Handel Harp Concerto. The tempo of the first movement, so often played pesant e marcato, has an electric freedom that makes Handel sound like Mozart. Zabaleta, too, confirmed the joy of working with Fricsay, “a man most familiar with what I like to call the ‘interior’ of the score,” proffered Zabaleta. In my college days, DGG issued the Berlin Philharmonic LP of the Dvorak New World Symphony, Liszt’s Les Preludes, and Smetana’s The Moldau. As though the marvelous flexibility of tempo and dynamics were not enough in the Liszt and Smetana, the Dvorak proved a revelation, perhaps the most ‘tragic’ of recorded performances I had heard, much as I imagined Furtwaengler might have conceived it. Years later, my having introducing the 1959 inscription to a former clarinet player, he remarked, “What a patient conductor!”

Of course, for the true connoisseur of Fricsay, the eternal treasures lie in the music of Bartok and Mozart, Fricsay’s preferred composers. The Bartok Concerto for Orchestra from 1957 has a profound ritard in the Intermezzo interotto, just a slight touch of genius. The Bartok Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1 has “the troubadour of the piano,” Geza Anda, at the keyboard, and rarely have the spirits of Bartok and Liszt converged with such confidence. When it came to Mozart, my “test disc” was the Adagio and Fugue in C Minor from 1960, a model of intense clarity and drama. All of the work with Annie Fischer and Clara Haskil in the piano concertos and concert rondos set the standard for all future interpretations, although Robert Casadeus remained my favorite soloist, given his quick tempos. Though this edition does not include vocal works, I gravitated immediately to Fricsay’s Mass in C Minor and the Requiem. Live recordings of a New Year’s concert with Peter Anders sparked my interest in collecting all of the Johann Strauss I could obtain with Fricsay, and his Blue Danube, Tales of the Vienna Woods, and Eljen a Magyar! rewarded my efforts. The 1961 Einem Ballade for Orchestra became my premier example of the neo-classic modern school to program for my radio tributes to Fricsay. For my most recent Fricsay revival, I chose the Martin Symphonie concertante, the rarely heard Fricsay version of Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests, and a healthy slew of Johann Strauss, Jr. to light up a Sunday evening. Although Fricsay followed Stokowski’s lead in heavily editing Gliere’s Ilya Mouromets Symphony (1955), the interpretation projects much by way of melody and ecstatic colors. But someday, the Nathan Rakhlin version ought to return to us.

The many other dividends come in the form of marvelous collaborations, from the aforementioned Geza Anda in thrilling Bartok concertos, to the rarified playing of Martzy and Morni in concertos by Bruch, Glazunov, and Dvorak.  The late Tchaikovksy symphonies play more lyrically than explosively, a la Mravinsky, but the few excerpts from Swan Lake (1957) mesmerize us every time. And I do relish the late Haydn symphonies with Fricsay – work he repeated in a small degree in Boston – his late Mozart symphonies bear the stamp of deep thought. My one quibble remains in the first movement of the Symphony No. 29 in A, which remains too marcato and Fricsay is not alone in this – especially after Guido Cantelli opened it up for posterity.

So, the “moral” of the story is to cherish every record, every note.  And then look out for further editions to illuminate the art of Ferenc Fricsay, whom Bruno Walter claimed was “one of the few young artists who knows humility.”

—Gary Lemco

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