BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73
Violinist Ossy Renardy's career was short; he died in a car accident in 1953 when he was only 33. He was born in Vienna in 1920, became interested in the violin while very young, and remarkably was largely self-taught. His concert manager felt that his birth name, Oskar Reiss, wasn't appropriate for a concert career and he took the name Ossy Renardy. He played extensively in Europe, was championed by Victor de Sabata, and in 1937 toured the U.S., recording for both Columbia and RCA. When America entered World War II Renady enlisted in the Army, and became an American citizen in 1943. After the war, his career resumed and he switched to the Decca label, recording the Brahms concerto June 27, 1948. His performance of the Brahms concerto is musically solid, expressive rather than exciting; this recording at the time was considered to be highly competitive with rival versions by Szigeti and Heifetz.
Furtw”ngler's recording of the Symphony No. 2 is infamous. As outlined in his book, Putting the Record Straight, John Culshaw relates manifold troubles at the sessions which took place in Kingsway Hall February 22/24, 1948. Furtw”ngler was nervous and edgy; this apparently was brought about by the multiple microphones set up by the engineers. The conductor insisted that all but one be removed before he would continue. Culshaw states this is why the sound is not up to Decca's high standard. I have no problem with the sound quality. There is no over-emphasis on solo instruments or instrumental groups -- orchestral sound is quite natural. The fact that the recording took at least three full sessions indicates there were many problems and retakes; however, the end result is a Brahms Second that is one of Furtw”ngler's finest recorded performances.
Transfers of both are superb. Surface noise from original sources is virtually non-existent. Highly recommended for those interested in historic recordings.
R.E.B. (Oct. 2000)