BEETHOVEN:  Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (Hermann Krebbers, violin)
RACHMANINOFF:  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Daniel Wayenberg, piano)
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Karel Ancerl, cond.

TAHRA TAH 155  (F) (ADD)  TT:  67:23
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HAYDN:  Symphony No. 92 "Oxford."  FRANCK:  Symphony in D Minor.
DVORAK:  Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88.  PROKOFIEV:   Symphony in D, Op. 25 "Classical."
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Karel Ancerl, cond.

TAHRA TAH 124/125 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD)  TT:  62:20 & 53:55
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'KAREL ANCERL  LIVE RECORDINGS'
MOZART:  Symphony No. 38, K. 503 "Prague."  BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 1, Op. 68.  SMETANA:  Sarka.  SIBELIUS:  Pohojola's Daughter,  Symphony No. 1, Op. 39.  Martinu:  Symphony No. 6 "Fantaisies symphoniques."  DVORAK: Symphonic Variations, Op. 78. Symphony No. 9, Op. 95 "From the New World."  SMETANA:  The Moldau. STRAVINSKY:  The Rite of Spring.  MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL:  Pictures at an Exhibition.  RAVEL:  BolÈro.  SMETANA:  Ma Vlast.  MAHLER: Kindertotenlieder (with Vera Soukupova, alto). JANACEK:  Taras Bulba.  PROKOFIEV:  Romeo and Juliet (Suite No. I). 
TAHRA M7 917 (7 CDs) (F) (ADD)  TT:  8 hours 45:18
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Czech conductor Karel Ancerl (1908-1973) left a considerable recorded legacy with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which he led from 1950 through 1969.  A protÈgÈ of Vaclav Talich, he initially made his mark in contemporary music appearing first with the CPO in June of 1930 conducting one of his own works at a graduation concert given by the Prague Conservatory.  After that he devoted his ambitions to conducting, leading the Prague Radio Symphony and opera in Prague.  He  appeared  many  times with the Czech Philharmonic before his official appointment as director in 1951.  Ancerl brought the Czech Philharmonic to international  fame via world tours and recordings.  He left Czechoslovakia  in 1969 in protest of the Soviet occupation,  settling in Canada where he led the Toronto Symphony until his death July 3, 1973.

The French TAHRA label has countless historic CDs of enormous interest to collectors making available live performances and transfers of older recordings. Most of these focus on Wilhelm Furtwangler and Hermann Scherchen,  however,  they also have issued  performances by Hermann Abendroth,  Eugen Jochum,  Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum and many other conductors. Their transfers almost without exception are first-rate. Tahra  has keen  interest in Karel Ancerl and has issued a number of CDs  of live performances, two with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and a 7-CD set with the Czech Philharmonic, as outlined above. These are of extraordinary interest to collectors as they include many works Ancerl did not record commercially.  Unfortunately the 7-CD set listed above has been discontinued but it is worth seeking out if you can find it anywhere.

Karel Ancerl conducted for the first time in Amsterdam in 1933 as part of the 11th Festival of the Internationale Gesellschaft fur Neue Musik. In January 1966 he conducted only  one concert, in Feb 1969 conducted six concerts, returning in January 1970 for 8 concerts. Fortunately the Dutch Radio recorded these and Tahra was able to secure rights to issue some of them. Often historic reissues suffer from poor sound but that is not the case here. From a sonic standpoint all are superb, beautifully capturing the acoustics of the famed Concertgebouw.  You are right there in the best seat in the house hearing these fine performances. 

TAH 124-125, a 2-CD set, contains Haydn's Symphony No. 92 "Oxford," Franck's Symphony in D Minor, Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 and Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, all recorded live in 1969 and 1970. This is big, bold, spirited Haydn far removed from the original instrument concept prevalent today. Franck's symphony is given a sturdy performance  albeit with a surprisingly subdued third movement finale. The real gem here is Dvorak's Symphony No. 8, as fine a performance as I've ever heard, with the mighty Concertgebouw giving its all. Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony is also a delight. The second CD ends with a 6-minute interview with Ancerl recorded during a Toronto Symphony Orchestra rehearsal in 1968 which includes brief excerpts from a rehearsal of Smetana's Moldau with that orchestra. TAH 155 is a single CD offering other treasures from concerts in 1970:  Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Hermann Krebbers, long-time concertmaster of the Concertgebouw , as soloist, a big-scale, robust performance of great power.  Krebbers was concertmaster of the orchestra for many years (a performance of the Brahms concerto exists with Willem Mengelberg conducting recorded in April 1943).   Krebbers  recorded the Beethoven with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw for Philips in September 1973, three years after this live performance. The CD is filled out with Rachmaninoff's Paganini  Rhapsody  with Dutch pianist Daniel Wayenberg as soloist. This might not be among the most exciting performances of this music, but it is well played and beautifully recorded.

The 7-CD set was issued to commemorate the Centenary of the Czech Philharmonic (1896-1996) as well as to honor Karel Ancerl.  There is much of interest here including five works Ancerl did not record commercially (Dvorak's Symphonic Variations, Mozart's Symphony No. 38, Ravel's BolÈro, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (with Vera Soukupova),  and two works of Sibelius: Pohojola's Daughter and Symphony No. 1. These were all recorded when the CPO was on tour,  two concerts in Helsinki, one in Vienna as well as concerts in Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin,  Paris and Canada. Permission to issue the recordings was obtained from the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, the ORF of Vienna, the WDR of Cologne, INA in Paris, Hessische Rundfunk, Bayerische Rundfunk and the Canadian CBC.

Most are mono recordings.  Mozart's Symphony No. 38, Brahms' Symphony No. 1,  Smetana's ,Sarka, Martinu's Symphony No. 6 and Sibelius's Pohjola's Daughter and Symphony No. 1 were recorded  in June 1962 at the Sibelius Festival in Helsinki. Dvorak's Symphonic Variations  was  recorded in October 1958 in Cologne, and is  coupled with Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 and Smetana's  Moldau, recorded in the same site in June 1956.   The mono sound here is particularly full and satisfying.  Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition were both recorded in November 1964 in Paris. This live Rite is a fine supplement to Ancerl's  1963 Supraphon recording which remains one of the top recordings of the work.  The stereo Supraphon CD (11 0659 or 11 1948, no longer listed in Schwann/Opus) should be in everyone's Sacre collection.  Ravel's BolÈro fills out this CD,  from a March 1961 concert in Frankfurt. 

Another CD contains Smetana's complete Ma Vlast recorded when the CPO was in tour in Toronto in October 1967, two years before Ancerl took over leadership of their local orchestra.  The only stereo recordings in the set are of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Taras Bulba , recorded in Berlin 1966.  The stereo sound is rather dry but very clear.  This CD is filled out with the Suite No. I from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, from the Bavarian Radio concert of November 1958.  The set also includes a CD devoted to a lengthy  interview with Ancerl, a documentary from the Canadian Radio recorded  October 7, 1972, interspersed with brief excerpts from Ancerl live performances. 

This is a valuable set for admirers of Ancerl, and Tahra is to be commended for  issuing it.  Again, as stated above, this 7 CD set has been discontinued, but admirers of Ancerl should be on the lookout for it.  However, the other sets mentioned ARE available and  complement  very nicely Ancerl's  commercial recordings.  There are other TAHRA CDs devoted to Ancerl: TAHRA 117-119 (Music of Schubert, Haydn, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov and Prokofiev).  TAHRA 121 - 123 (Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Beethoven and Smetana).  TAHRA 136-137 (Dvorak). TAHRA 222-223 (Brahms). Those who love this conductor will be glad to know that TAHRA is preparing a 4-CD set of live performances with the Toronto Symphony.  For more information on TAHRA go to their website:  (www.tahra.com)

R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)