BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat "Romantic"
London Symphony Orch/Istvan Kertesz, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1298 (F) (ADD) TT: 6120

STRAUSS: Don Quixoxte, Op. 35. Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28.
Paul Tortelier, cellist; Guisto Cappone, violist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1249 (F) (ADD) TT
: 57:09

Testament continues to delve into archives of major companies releasing recordings those companies have neglected for CD release. Hungarian conductor István Kertész, who drowned while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in April 1973, doubtless would have been a major figure in today's conducting scene. Already he had achieved international stature in a wide range of symphonic and operatic repertory and had been appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony. He made many superb recordings with that orchestra, notably the complete symphonies of Dvorák, including the symphonic poems and overtures. He also recorded the complete symphonies of Brahms and Schubert, and works of Kodály the most important of which is the complete Háry János. All of the conductor's Decca/London recordings have magnificent sound, including this Testament issue of Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 recorded October 1965 in the rich acoustics of Kingsway Hall. Ray Minshull was the producer, Kenneth Wilkinson the engineer–a guarantee of sonic excellence. This is a young conductor's Bruckner (he was 35 when this recording was made); don't expect the insights of Furtwangler, Jochum or Haitink

Rudolf Kempe's Strauss is well known through his many recordings, particularly the complete survey of the composer's orchestral works recorded over a period of six years beginning in 1970, all with the Dresden State Orchestra, recently reissued in an EMI 9-CD budget set (REVIEW). I have always found the sound on these recordings rathe disappointing, lacking bass and with overly-intense high frequencies. Zarathustra and Alpine Symphony were issued on DVD Audio, a format that exposes even more their sonic deficiencies. Performances on the new Testament issue were recorded in June 1958 in the warm acoustics of Grünewaldkirche, Berlin. Sound is appropriately warm and well-balanced—I prefer this to what is heard in the complete Strauss set recorded several years later. Alan Sanders' brief history of Strauss recordings in the CD notes is a plus.

Both of these are important issues—but it is unfortunate these are full price. It is commendable for Testament to be releasing these recordings and doubtless they must pay hefty royalty fees to their sources, which might justify the premium price. For true collectors interested in repertory/performers perhaps the price won't matter.

R.E.B. (May 2003)