Saturday, 15 December 2012

Schneiderhan and Furtwängler

The orchestral side of concertos can often sound routine. But with Wilhelm Furtwängler at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven's violin concerto, the orchestral contribution is anything but routine; Furtwängler always seemed to be at his best in this concerto, and the violin part in the latest release from the admirable Pristine Audio is played by Wolfgang Schneiderhan (live, May 1953). This is the fourth version I have with Schneiderhan in the solo part, and very good it is too.

It is difficult to understand why this superb performance did not receive better circulation. Part of the problem may have been the critical climate in the 1950s and 60s, when live recordings were somewhat disparaged and the accepted dogma – maybe propounded by the school of Walter Legge – was that recordings were “definitive documents for all time” and that every semiquaver had to be impeccable, something that did not happen with live recordings and performances. The Mark Obert-Thorn transfers for the present release are very good but cannot disguise the highly bronchial audience, nor the fact that the violin is recorded well forward of the orchestra. No real matter; this is a truly excellent performance from two people – Schneiderhan and Furtwängler – who excelled in this concerto, with the added frisson of a live performance with its feeling of tension and continuity. Many thanks to Andrew Rose and Pristine for bringing this performance back into circulation. The cadenzas here are by Joachim, and the tempi for all three movements flowing and acceptable -- something that is not always the case with the first movement of this concerto, which is too often over-expanded and dragged out.

Also on the Pristine release are Furtwängler and the Berliners in an orchestral arrangement of Beethoven's Große Fuge; I find it highly pleasing. Apparently Furtwängler considered the Fuge to be superior with an orchestra rather than with a string quartet; arguable, but pretty convincing in this 1952 public performance in Berlin. All in all, €9 well spent.


Anonymous said...

Check out their Brahms Double too.

Harry Collier said...

Brahms double with Mainardi. Yes; very fine indeed.