Sunday, 10 July 2011

The latest transfer of Bruckner's fifth symphony, transferred by German engineers from the original tapes, is pretty remarkable. For a recording made in October 1942, the sound is perfectly acceptable, with just the loudest fortissimo passages sounding restrained. In addition, you get the inspired conducting of Furtwängler; no one now in Bruckner has the same mastery of pulse, tempo, dynamics and rubato. And finally, you get the wonderful playing of the old Berlin Philharmonic playing in its old hall.
For me, the only downside is the music. I am fond of Bruckner's 4th and 8th symphonies, I love the 7th and adore the 9th. But the 5th and 6th always leave me standing outside. Anyway, with this new Testament release I can sit back and admire the conducting and the playing, if not the music.

My friend Lee sent me the first CD (of a scheduled six) on which Sherban Lupu plays violin and piano works by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst. I started listening with some scepticism; the only works by Ernst that I know at all well are the Erlkönig transcription and the Last Rose of Summer variations, neither of which is a favourite piece, since in them all too often Ernst seems to be intent on writing music that is pretty well unplayable. However, the pieces on the new CD converted me and Ernst now inspires warm feelings. He had a wonderful gift of melody (better than Paganini). Even if one or two of the Carnaval de Venise variations show Ernst's determination to write violin music that is almost impossible to play, almost all the current CD is highly enjoyable. Lupu plays well, with just the right degree of sweetness the music demands, and Ian Hobson is excellent back-up in the piano parts (which are often interesting in themselves). Hobson even concentrates throughout the repetitive arpeggio figure that accompanies the Carnaval de Venise for ten minutes. And, most important in music such as this, the recording balance (Toccata Classics) is well judged and there is just the right amount of "air" around the sound. Many thanks to Lee for this birthday present; I'll probably buy the next five CDs as they appear.

1 comment:

Lee said...

You're welcome Harry for the Ernst. I will be getting it for myself soon.

For Bruckner, I love the 5th as I heard the BPO & Karajan at the RFH in 1981. Fantastic - I still have the cassette - off Capital Radio in delayed broadcast.