|MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in e minor "Song
of the Night"
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Kirill Kondrashin, cond.
TAHRA TAH 451 (F) (ADD) TT: 72:23
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68. Academic Festival
Overture, Op. 80. Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Two treasures for the collector indeed! Kondrashin (spelled here with an extra "l" in his first name) is usually not associated with Mahler but obviously had a great interest (and affinity) for his music. From the mid-'60s to mid-'70s he recorded symphonies 1, 3, 4 and 9 with the Moscow Philharmonic, 5 with the USSR State Orchestra, and 6 and 7 with the Leningrad Philharmonic, all available at one time on BMG Melodiya (BVCX 37008 and 37012). This Amsterdam Seventh from a concert Nov. 29, 1979 is absolutely stunning. With its bizarre atmosphere, mysterious scurrying, and macabre elements, the Symphony No. 7 might be called the X Files of the Mahler symphonies, qualities all emphasized in this magnificent performance. The final's opening is played very fast, brought off superbly by the Concertgebouw's virtuosity. Add to this the outstanding Radio Nederland sound and we have a memorable document. Credits include "B. van Beinum" as recording producer; this is doubtless Bart van Beinum, son of Eduard, who led the Concertgebouw for more than two decades until his untimely death in 1958.
Rafael Kubelik's Symphony No. 5, from a concert June 21, 1951, is of lesser interest. That day the Concertgebouw was not at its best. There are a number of horn mishaps, particularly exposed in the finale, that one doesn't expect from the famed Dutch orchestra which at the time was a world-class ensemble under Eduard van Beinum's stewardship. The sound is well-balanced mono, excellent for its vintage. The disk is issued "with kind permission of Mrs. Kubelik, the orchestra and NCRV" - probably most Concertgebouw collectors will wish to own it as well as admirers of Kubelik. The Czech conductor's DG complete set of Mahler symphonies with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra is no longer available - although a live performance of Symphony No. 5 with that orchestra dating from l981 is available on AUDITE 95465.
Both of the TAHRA CDs can be ordered directly from TAHRA (www.tahra.com).
The second treasure is the Sound Dynamics issue of music of Brahms with Eduard Van Beinum and the Concertgebouw, his first recordings of Academic Festival and Tragic Overtures, for Decca recorded late in 1952, and his second recording of Symphony No. 1, made for the same label Sept. 17, 1951; he had already recorded the latter for Decca in Sept. 1947, issued on 78 rpm disks. He would re-record all three works in stereo for Philips, Sept.-Oct. 1958 just months before his untimely death. Many collectors prefer these leaner earlier versions which have been transferred by Sound Dynamics from pristine London LPs from Ceasar Braga Jr.'s collection, with more than a touch of electronic genius in eliminating low-frequency hum that marred the LPs, and equalization that brings new fullness to strings and body to brass. This is available from Sound Dynamics.
R.E.B. (June 2002)