Willem Mengelberg Conducts = BEETHOVEN: Prometheus Overture, Op. 43; LISZT: Les Preludes; BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F Major; MAHLER: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C# Minor – Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/ Willem Mengelberg – Opus Kura

by | Sep 6, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Willem Mengelberg Conducts = BEETHOVEN: Prometheus Overture, Op. 43; LISZT: Les Preludes; BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90; MAHLER: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor – Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/
Willem Mengelberg

Opus Kura OPK 2067,  62:28  (Distrib. Albany) ****:

Restorations 1926-1942 by Dr. K. Yasuhara from the legacy of Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951), perhaps the greatest of the virtuoso colorists whose helmsman ship of the Concertgebouw lasted fifty years, from 1895-1945.  The most famous of these inscriptions are the ferocious realization of Liszt’s Les Preludes (1929) and the brief excerpt from Mahler (1926), Mengelberg’s only studio recording of music he championed consistently throughout his career, at least until the advent of Nazism.  Mahler emerges naturally and tenderly, the slides in the strings unobtrusive on the harp’s delicacies. The momentum and intensity increase without ruffling the graciousness of line. Given the veritable age of the Columbia shellacs Les Preludes performance, it holds up remarkably well.  Besides huge tempo fluctuations, portamenti, and degrees of orchestral slides and rubato, a terrific tension permeates every bar, and the harp and flute parts convey a sweet elasticity.  One can clearly detect a model for Fricsay’s equally flexible approach to the musico-dramatic poem after Lamartine. Mengelberg’s strings, cymbals, and trumpets blaze with feverish glory in the last pages, the tremolandi, pizzicati, and climaxes absolutely thrilling. As a document of orchestral technique and control, it rivals anything by Toscanini and Furtwaengler.

The program opens with the 1942 Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus (from Telefunken), and Beethoven was always a Mengelberg strong suit.  The Mengelberg penchant for grand rhetoric finds a happy vehicle in the Brahms Third; and even after an age of Leonard Bernstein’s excesses, the Mengelberg manages a large canvas. The Concertgebouw high woodwinds elicit a special timbre of their own. Mengelberg takes the first movement repeat more broadly than the first expository statement. At the development section, the various rhythmic tugs of war begin, always musical but often wayward. The Andante endures some structural tugging, but the Brahms style, its combination of lyricism, melancholy, and occasional, martial convulsions, remains recognizable. The Poco allegretto, however, exudes that Brahmsian outpouring of restrained agony that his enthusiasts find irresistible. Beautiful string, French horn, oboe, and flute work. Mengelberg takes the final Allegro–Un poco sostenuto deliberately, building a mighty eruption of the fate motif. The pace quickens decidedly and aggressively, especially in the second violins. The stretti reach a paroxysm and the music catapults to its martial statement, only to dissipate in a fine cloud of F-A-F nostalgia.

— Gary Lemco

 

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