8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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Old Wine, New Bottles |

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedIn 2000 Testamentissued four CDs oforchestral musicby Richard Strauss,recorded by Decca inthe Grosser Saal of theMusikverein by theVienna PhilharmonicOrchestra conductedby Clemens Krauss. My excited review ofthem at the time found these uniquelyinspired performances to be incomparablein every respect. Decca has gathered themall together in a compact 5-CD set, ClemensKrauss – Richard Strauss The CompleteDecca Recordings (4786493), together withthe still talked about 1954 recording ofSalome with Christel Goltz, Julius Patzak,Anton Dermota The Vienna-bornKrauss, although he worked through the Naziera, was not a Nazi. These Strauss performances,writes Nigel Simeone, reveal an interpreter“who understood the importanceof transparent orchestral textures, intelligentpacing, a natural sense of line, a fineear for detail and a clear sense of trajectory.”These qualities are abundant in each ofall nine works; Don Juan, Ein Heldenleben,Zarathustra, Don Quixote, SinfoniaDomestica, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite,Aus Italien, Till Eulenspiegel and Salome.Early in the 1950s when these recordingswere made, English Decca’s FFRR LPs hadalready achieved a level of recording excellenceunsurpassed by the other companies,thriving in the new, world-wide enthusiasmfor classical music, an enthusiasm wellsupported by the press and dedicated periodicals.People no longer had a recordplayer… they had a hi-fi. Victor Olof, Decca’shead recording producer led the team thatdocumented these Strauss recordings thatawed and delighted the music lovers of theday. The inspired and inspiring recordingsnow find their ultimate realization in thisdynamic little set that is the icing on the cakehonouring this 150th anniversary year ofStrauss’ birth.With Karajan 1980s,DG completes itsdecade by decadere-issue program oftheir entire library ofHerbert von Karajan’sorchestral recordings(4793448, 78CDs). In that decadeKarajan became separated from his orchestra,the Berlin Philharmonic and returned to theVienna Philharmonic to conduct and makerecordings, both audio and video. Whichwas Karajan’s best decade? The 1960s (DG47900559, 82 CDs) the 1970s (DG47915775,81 CDs) or the 80s? The 1960s box witnessedBRUCE SURTEESthe emergence of Karajan the Superstarand contents include a vast repertoire ofBeethoven including his now legendarysecond complete Beethoven symphoniescycle, a Brahms symphony cycle, Haydnsymphonies ... let’s forget the PachelbelCanon and the Albinoni Adagio. The 70sbox had new repertoire and also anotherBeethoven cycle, a Tchaikovsky cycle, anotherBrahms cycle, a Second Viennese Schoolcollection and some fine Mahler. This newbig box of recordings from the 80s containssome daring excursions into new repertoiretogether with tried and true Beethoven,Brahms, Haydn and the usual suspects. Herewe may judge performances of some of these154 works against Karajan’s own acclaimedversions and I must say that they face someformidable standards. I am informed that theentire production of this limited edition hasshipped and is in the hands of dealers aroundthe world. Full details her book Onand Off the Record,a memoir of her latehusband Walter Legge,Elizabeth Schwarzkopfrelates an exampleof conductor OttoKlemperer’s perversesense of humour. Inthe autumn of 1958 Klemperer was too illto conduct a Beethoven Ninth in London.Against his better judgment, Legge tookKlemperer’s earnest pleading to heart andengaged Hindemith as replacement. Theperformance was a disaster. Legge: “It’syour fault; you insisted that I engage him.I’ll never take your advice about artistsagain.” Klemperer: “You have been in themusic business long enough to know thatgloating over the misfortunes of colleaguesis the only joy left in life.” Months beforethat London performance, on June 24, PaulHindemith had conducted a vital performanceof the Bruckner Symphony No.7 withthe Stuttgart Radio Symphony in Saxony.Remastered from the original SWR tapes,Hänssler has issued an immaculate recordingof that event which clearly demonstratesthat Hindemith was more than at home withBruckner (CD 94.222). It is gratifying to hearthat Hindemith had well-defined views anda sense of overriding control of arguablyBruckner’s most beautiful symphony. Hisreading is at least comparable with any of thestrong performances from the 50s includingFurtwängler and Jochum, although his sobercontrol is closer to Jochum even though inplaces where we expect a pause, there isnone. The long lines are beautifully spun outand never overindulged. Indeed, the finalcoda which is usually handled as a blazingapotheosis is achieved in subdued manner sothe moment of arrival is realized with a greatsense of serenity. The performance is leanwhich better reveals the structure and sinewof the symphony without sounding at allundernourished.The late highlyesteemed conductor,Carlos Kleiber’s soleperformance of anyMahler work tookplace on June 7, 1967in the Konzerthausin Vienna. On theVienna Symphony Orchestra program wasthe Mozart Symphony No.33 followed by DasLied von der Erde with alto Christa Ludwigand tenor Waldemar Kmentt. The orchestranow has its own label on which they havereleased this Das Lied in quite good monosound (WS007). We can only bewail thatKleiber’s recorded legacy is so very small dueto his famously temperamental approach.He was easily offended and capable of scrappinga well-rehearsed and consummatelyprepared production in a fit of pique. So itis all the more valuable to have this salvagedand restored archival tape from this source.He brings his vaunted objectivity and clarityof approach to this final word of Mahler’s.It is not usual to describe a performance ofthis work as refreshing but this is what itis, while doing full justice to the unsparingsubject matter.“And now for somethingcompletelydifferent.” Afterlistening to an endlessstream of basic andnot-so-basic repertoire,a new disc fromDoremi had me sittingup and paying freshattention to some really stimulating off-beatrepertoire played by the legendary pianistSviatoslav Richter (Volume 23 DHR-8037).The music of Szymanowski is by no meansa simple affair. His scores are complexand rich in unique post-Romantic originalitywhich may seem initially foreign tomany ears and yet here we have music thatis full of surprises and unexpected turns.From our point of view this exciting excursioninto new repertoire is actually veryrewarding. Heard complete is a recital inWarsaw on November 26, 1982 to commemoratethe centenary of the composer’s birthwhere Richter played the Second and Thirdpiano sonatas and was joined by the greatviolinist Oleg Kagan playing the exquisitethree Mythes Op.30. The stereo sound isof studio quality. I am eager to know thesepieces better.84 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015

DEC 13 8PMMASSEY HALLDEC 17 8PMHARBOURFRONT CENTRE THEATREDEC 19 8PMMASSEY HALLDEC 20 2PMROY THOMSON HALLA Barra MacNeils Christmaswith special guests Rose Cousins,David Francey and Lennie GallantDavid Myles:It’s ChristmasSupported byRoch Voisine with special guest Amy SkyMovin’ on Maybe and some HolidayClassicsToronto Children’s ChorusA Chorus Christmas:Ceremonial SplendourWith a special appearance byCanadian acting legend Gordon PinsentFEB 11 8PMWINTER GARDEN THEATREMAY 1 8PMROY THOMSON HALLMAY 30 8PMROY THOMSON HALLJUN 30 8PMROY THOMSON HALLJim BrickmanThe Platinum Tour:Celebrating 20 YearsEvgeny KissinPianoMedia SponsorBobby McFerrinBobby Meets Canada: Toronto!Pink MartiniPurchase a gift certificate and let them choose from these shows and more!CALL 416-872-4255 VISIT or roythomson.comSupported in part by

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