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