WILLEM MENGELBERG - The Live Radio Recordings
WEBER:  Oberon Overture (Oct. 13, 1940).  BEETHOVEN:  Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat "Emperor" (Cor de Groot; May 9, 1942).  MAHLER:  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Hermann Schey, November 23, 1939). "Adagietto" from Symphony No. 5 (Columbia rec. May 1926).  BACH:  Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202 (To van der Sluys; April 17, 1939 "studio recording"). SCHUBERT:  "Liebe schw”rmt auf allen Wegen" from Claudine von Villa Bella; "St”ndchen" from Rosamunde (Betty van den Bosch-Schmidt/Ladies Amsterdams Toonkunstkoor, December 19, 1940).  BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 3, Op. 90 (February 27, 1944). MOZART:  Die Zauberfl–te Overture (March 5, 1942.  Flute Concerto No. 2 in D, K. 314 (Hubert Barwahser, March 5, 1942).  Bella mia fiamma, KV 528 (Ria Ginster, March 5, 1942).  BRUCH:  Violin Concerto No. 1 G Minor (Giula Bustabo, October 27, 1940).  PUCCINI:  "Un bel di vedremo" from Madama Butterfly.  PESTALOZZA:  Ciribiribin (Grace Moore, June 6, 1936).  WAGENAAR:  De getemde feeks Overture (October 10, 1940).  CHOPIN:  Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21 (Theo van der Pas, April 9, 1943).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 (November 26, 1939).  BACH:  Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056 (Agi Jambor, April 17, 1939 "studio recording").  KODÁLY:  Háry János Suite (December 12, 1940).  BRAHMS:  Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (Hermann Krebbers, April 13, 1943).  BEETHOVEN:  Egmont Overture (April 29, 1943).  BARTÓK:  Violin Concerto No. 2 (Zoltán SzÈkely, March 23, 1939). KODÁLY:  Peacock Variations (Nov. 23, 1939).  WAGNER:  Tannh”user Overture (August 10, 1940).  DEBUSSY:  Fantaisie (Walter Gieseking, October 6, 1938).  RAVEL: Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 (October 6, 1938).  BERLIOZ:  Excerpts from The Damnation of Faust (March 21, 1943). GRIEG: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (April 15, 1943).  BLOCH:  Violin Concerto (Joseph Szigeti, November 9, 1939).  STRAUSS:  Death & Transfiguration, Op. 24 (Telefunken rec. April 1942). BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral" (To van der Sluys, Suze Luger, Louis van Tulder, Willem Ravelli/Amsterdam Toonkunstkoor, May 31, 1938).  MAHLER:  Symphony No. 4 in G (Jo Vincent, November 9, 1939).

DVD:  Mengelberg conducting Weber's Oberon Overture, the "Adagietto" from Bizet's L'arlÈsienne and "Hungarian March"  from Berlioz' Damnation of Faust.

Q DISC 97016 (10 CDs plus DVD) (M)
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Here is fascinating set "issued by Radio Nederland and realized with the generous cooperation of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the AVRO broadcasting corporation house and the publishing house of Cultuur en Media Hilversum ....released to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary, March 22, 2001 of Willem Mengelberg's death."  Many of these performances were issued previously on CD, particularly in the Archive Documents "Mengelberg Edition," the Japanese King  Record "Mengelberg Legacy" series or on Music & Arts,  mostly premium-priced CDs.  Now right from the source we have many of these in the best possible sound, and it is a collection to treasure, especially for the invaluable DVD of Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw. None of the17-minute DVD material is new; all is taken from videos already available -- and what a thrill it is to watch this master conductor before our eyes achieving such miraculous results.  There is a bit of confusion in the DVD presentation.  A Teldec Laser disk (The Art of Conducting), includes the same repertory on this DVD with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw.  It's explained on the laser that Mengelberg was very popular in France and they wished to make a video -- but for some reason could not do it in Amsterdam.  To accommodate the conductor and orchestra, the French reconstructed the Concertgebouw Hall in one of their largest studios, copying details to the extreme. Tests and filming took about three days and later applause and audience views were added.  The DVD in this  set shows the outside of the Concertgebouw, Mengelberg walking down the rear steps to the podium and there are many shots of an audience that looks very much as if it were Dutch.  On the DVD liner it says "Epinay-sur-Siene, France, 4/1931 (Sonores Tobis)" so obviously these are the films from France, although it is never so stated.

A major plus on the new Q DISC set is that most of the time producers have elected not to edit out Mengelberg's distinctive double-taps on the podium before every performance.  They have even left them in for individual movements of works.  These little "attention calls" add much to the sense of occasion.

There are endless treasures here including the glowing account of Wagner's Tannh”user Overture, which matches the incandescence of his 1932 Columbia recording, as well as astonishing performances of many works Mengelberg never recorded commercially, in particular violin concertos of Bloch and Bartók with Joseph Szigeti, the latter the world premiere performance.  Every Mahler collection must include Mengelberg's Symphony No. 4, unlike any other interpretation and a direct link to the composer. We can only bemoan the fact that more Mahler wasn't recorded by Mengelberg.   It was once rumored that in the late '30s Victor was going to record Das Lied von der Erde with Mengelberg and the New York Philharmonic, but it never worked out.  What a tragedy!

Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto is regally played by Dutch pianist Cor de Groot, with the kind of accompaniment we would expect from Mengelberg. It seems some of the acetates were in poor shape, and on occasion low frequency "bumps" are heard.  The only other issue of this performance is on Volume 8 in Hubert Wendel's fine Mengelberg series (see below) (coupled with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 19 with Willem Andriessen as soloist, recorded Oct. 13, 1940).  In his notes, Wendel states the "Emperor" acetates were too bad to use in four sections and he artfully solved the problem by editing in de Groot's Philips recording of the work with the Residency Orchestra/Van Otterloo -- if you weren't listening for it you would never know; it's a total of a bit more than three minutes.  The Q Disc engineers obviously had access to original acetates, albeit sometimes they were indeed in poor condition.  The same applies to the live performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, which is quite distorted in the second movement -- all other CD issues of  this recording seem to have the same affliction.

CD jackets identify the Bach F Minor concerto with Agi Jambor and the Bach Cantata BWV 202 as being "studio recordings" but do not explain what this means.  For sure, the concerto was a concert performance, not a "studio recording," according to Dr. Joseph Stevens, Baltimore psychiatrist and musicologist who was a close friend of the Hungarian pianist for the last ten years of her life (she died in Baltimore in 1997 at the age of 87). Jambor described  to Dr. Stephens rehearsals in 1939 with Mengelberg for the Bach concerto and how surprised she was at the performance when Mengelberg used tempi different from what they rehearsed!  

Of great interest is Grace Moore's singing of "Un bel di vedremo" and Mengelberg's portamento-laden accompaniment. As an encore, Moore sings Ciribiribin, with piano accompaniment, rather strange to be included in this orchestral set.  Also we have an opportunity to hear the distinctive voice of forgotten Dutch soprano Betty van den Bosch-Schmidt in music of Schubert.  There are two commercial recordings included in the set:  the 1942 Telefunken Strauss Tod und Verkl”rung, which up until now is available on CD only in the Wendel French series, and the 1926 Columbia recording of  the "Adagietto" from Mahler's Symphony No. 5.  The Strauss is particularly welcome; it is one of Mengelberg's Olympian interpretations, reaching a climax of stunning power.This is an important set -- two world premieres (Bartók Concerto, Kodály Peacock Variations), Mengelberg's only complete Mahler symphony recording, Gieseking's only recorded performance of Debussy's Fantasie, the Brahms violin concerto with Herman Krebbers, concertmaster of the Concertgebouw, recorded April 13, 1943, just about a half century after Mengelberg had conducted the work with Joseph Joachim, to whom the concerto is dedicated.  Lengthy notes, in five languages, in a separate booklet.

Needless to say, the album is highly recommended..

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R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)