SCHUBERT: Rosamunde Overture; BERG: Violin Concerto; BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 – Christian Ferras, v./ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Joseph Keilberth – Orfeo SCHUBERT: Rosamunde: Overture; BERG: Violin Concerto; BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 – Christian Ferras, v./ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Joseph Keilberth – Testament

by | Jan 4, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

SCHUBERT: Rosamunde: Overture; BERG: Violin Concerto; BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor – Christian Ferras, violin/ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Joseph Keilberth – Orfeo C 838 112B, (2 CDs) 37:12; 60:25 [Distr. by Qualiton] **1/2:
SCHUBERT: Rosamunde: Overture; BERG: Violin Concerto; BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor – Christian Ferras, violin/ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Joseph Keilberth – Testament SBT2 1472, (2 CDs) 37:12; 60:25 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The concert from the Salzburg Festival 17 August 1960 led by Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968) now has two disc representations: this, and one offered on Testament SBT2 1472. Keilberth’s strong reputation in opera led Herbert von Karajan to invite him to return to Salzburg, especially after the debut in 1957 when Keilberth substituted for Josef Krips in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. Keilberth’s busy schedule with the Bamberg Symphony and with the Munich Opera Festival made extended preparation difficult, especially for the Berg Concerto, the first Berg piece in Keilberth’s experience, his having prepared it once prior, in Hamburg 1955 with Andre Gertler. In his diary, Keilberth noted, “For me, it’s the only 12-tone work that I like.” As for the Bruckner Ninth, Keilberth favored the 1894 original edition as edited by Leopold Nowak.
One critic of the period found it odd that “Austrian music was to be played by a Berlin orchestra under a Munich conductor with a French violinist.” The persistent jingoism of the time demanded Austrians maintain their own music, and Bruckner constantly found expression via the Vienna Philharmonic. Yet, after the literalist but lyrical reading of the Schubert overture, Christian Ferras (1933-1982) brings such graceful persuasion to the 1935 Berg Concerto, “dedicated to the memory of an angel,” Manon Gropius, that the work assumes all the dignity of a songful requiem both for the daughter of Alma Mahler and Walter Gropius and Berg himself. Ferras’ own tragic disposition should not be discounted. The opening Andante – Allegretto movement achieves a sensuously noble patina, long-lined and fluid, gorgeously shaped by Ferras, who brings out the melodic kernels without exaggeration. Much of the writing within the twelve-tone system corresponds to the instrument’s expressive, open strings. The more aggressive second part, at least until it “succumbs” to the Bach chorale, “Es ist genug! Herr, wenn es Dir gefaellt!” moves in macabre fancies. The struggle between the solo violin and the clarinets becomes rather a metaphor of the soul’s resistance to inevitable death. A Carinthian folk tune has alternately adorned and plagued the entire course of the concerto, and we wonder if the contest lies between sacred and secular profane love. When the various orchestral instruments drop away, the y expose the solo in cadenza; by the end, Ferras soars to some ineffable pinnacle while the orchestra descends, like one of Michelangelo’s shades, to a haunted space.
I may as well confess that I consider Joseph Keilberth a superior Bruckner interpreter, especially after I experienced the throes of his Bruckner Sixth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic for the Teldec label. Critics of the period praised the Berlin Philharmonic Bruckner Ninth’s “stylistic rigor, its straightforward approach to the music.” If the Keilberth reading does not achieve the metaphysical solace that Furtwaengler elicits, it certainly seeks those same spiritual consolations.
A feverishly committed performance, what determines the purchase of the Orfeo as compared to the Testament incarnation will have to be the sound reproduction, clearly superior in the Testament set, which offers a reduced price as well. The Testament allows Luther Koch’s solo oboe its bright color in the evolution of the aspiring theme in the Misterioso section of the first movement. So, too, the horns and clarinet (Karl Leister) shine in a way the Orfeo sound does not permit. Speculation on whether the Orfeo derives from an aircheck may lead to the solution of the sound differential. The Scherzo demonically rushes to some personal abyss, strings ablaze and woodwinds piping in some pantheistic ritual that finds luxury in annihilation. The last movement resonates, “Dresden Amen” ablaze, in a fury of colossal poignancy. Keilberth occupies the same spiritual space in Bruckner that we allot to Knappertsbusch, Abendroth, Schuricht, and Beinum. The Berlin Philharmonic’s natural Wagner style adjusts to Bruckner’s idiosyncratic hymnody with the easy luster we know from Karajan, except Keilberth allows rougher edges. Karlheinz Zoeller’s flute rises to lovely flurries in the Adagio, distinct moments of clarity in an often tormented universe.
—Gary Lemco
 
 
 
 
 

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