Gewandhausorchester History Edition, Vol. I = R. STRAUSS: Festival Prelude for Organ & Orch.; D’ALBERT: Cello Concerto -HUMPERDINCK: Moorish Rhapsody – Hermann Abendroth, cond. – DRA (with book)

by | Mar 8, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Gewandhausorchester History Edition, Vol. I = R. STRAUSS: Festival Prelude for Organ and Large Orchestra, Op. 61; D’ALBERT: Cello Concerto in C Major, Op.  20; HUMPERDINCK: Moorish Rhapsody – Adolf Steiner, cello/ Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig/ Hermann Abendroth – DRA VKJK  1109, 75:03 (with hard-bound book) [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
An ambitious production, the hard-back 50-page booklet and remastered inscriptions (2011) from the legacy of conductor Hermann Abendroth (1883-1956) makes fascinating reading and listening. The Gewandhaus Orchestra enjoys a long and fruitful history, dating back to the 1740s and having been led by Felix Mendelssohn, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Bruno Walter, and Hermann Abendroth before the modern era that began with Vaclav Neumann. Unfortunately, political events spoiled its history with the advent of Nazism and the ugly removal of Bruno Walter from the helm because of his Jewish heritage. Abendroth, sometimes referred to as “the other Furtwaengler,” led the ensemble until 1945 when Allied authorities removed him for National Socialist sympathies. He was reinstated in Weimar in 1947 and went on to lead the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Besides the historical pictures and commentary, particularly regarding the 1933-1945 National Socialist years, the documents related to Richard Strauss, Eugene D’Albert, and Engelbert Humperdinck prove no less intriguing. The performance of the 1884 Strauss Festival Prelude by Abendoth and an un-credited organist (5 March 1940) conveys girth and potent atmosphere, especially given the political climate of the recording venue, when Strauss himself had achieved a dubious veneration from the Nazi party. The 1899 Cello Concerto (rec. 6 November 1944) by Scottish-German composer Eugene D’Albert (1854-1921) has the benefit of soloist Adolf Steiner, a fine chamber music musician whose politics proved no less costly when he could not be readily de-Nazified after WW II. The somewhat cyclic concerto enjoys several fine melodic moments, not the least of which appear in the Andante con moto second movement. Collectors will recall that Emanuel Feuermann included the concerto in his survey with Leon Barzin at Carnegie Hall.
The forty-minute performance of Humperdinck’s 1883 Moorish Rhapsody (rec. 12 March 1945, in concert) had been available on a Urania LP at one time. In three movements, it borrows heavily in Tarifa: Elegy at Sunset from Wagner’s Parsifal and then distinctly from the shepherd’s melody from Tristan. The solo violin provides the requisite exotic touch. The second movement, Tangier: A Night in a Moorish Café plays like a poor parody of Humperdinck’s elegant scoring and contrapuntal skills in Hansel und Gretel than any serious rival to Saint-Saens as a purveyor of Moorish enchantment. The last movement Tetuan: Ride in the Desert reaffirms the composer’s capacities for string melodic and color commentary, investing in us enough musical curiosity to hear it in more modern guise by contemporary orchestras. Again, we have the distinct feeling that riffs have been lifted from Wagner by way of an oriental violin fantasy with tambourines, but the sonorities and level of execution justify the license.
—Gary Lemco

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