FRANCK: Symphony in D Minor; Psyche et Eros; BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival Overture; DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Willem Mengelberg – Opus Kura

by | Aug 4, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

FRANCK: Symphony in D Minor; Psyche et Eros; BERLIOZ: Roman
Carnival Overture, Op. 9; DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun –
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Willem Mengelberg

Opus Kura OPK 2027  59:22 (Distrib. Albany)****:

Virtuoso readings from the always-thrilling Willem Mengelberg
(1871-1951) in recordings made 1937-1940, the German Telefunken
restorations by Bryan Crimp. The usual Mengelberg standards apply:
heroic proportions, flexible rhythms and luftpausen several years wide,
delicate pianissimos, and absolute homogeneity of orchestral tone. The
string colors in the Symphony’s Allegretto, with their various tonal
registrations in second violins, violas and cellos in the fugal parts,
are truly magical. Despite some persistent tape hiss in the Symphony
(1940) and a hum in the 1937 Roman Carnival, the performances’
intensity has the audiophile as well as the old-record collector
equally beguiled. The outer movements enjoy a marked emphasis on phrase
lengths and cadences, with some marvelous brass punctuation in the
first movement coda. The last movement urges a distinctive cello line
under the oboe and clarinet, the fervency  mounting to an almost
savage fury. Psyche et Eros (1938) alternates mysticism, sensuality,
and textural transparency most facilely. The orchestral discipline of
both Franck works is a model from which Stokowski and Mravinsky took
their respective cues.

The 1938 Debussy Prelude proceeds in the manner of an orchestral
aperitif, a singer’s version of a score rife with shimmering and
melting colors. The utter sensuousness of approach almost makes one’s
puritan blood protest. Yet, the reading moves forward in what, for
Mengelberg, is a most literal manner, with few of the Romantics’
licenses with rhythm that might distort the musical effect. The opening
of Berlioz’ Roman Carnival is sheer magic between horns and pizzicato
strings; then the wiry oboe leads a sinewy Latin melodic line that
swells in the full orchestra. The vivo section is another demonstration
of Mengelberg’s visceral style – a Herculean motor impulse aided and
abetted by perhaps the most responsive orchestral players of the time.

–Gary Lemco
 

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