LIVE AND CONCERT RECORDINGS
is the supreme idealistic Romantic. He
believes music should "sing" and expects scores to
have a "rebirth" in performance, that interpreters should
"awake dead notes lying on the paper." It is logical that he
would have great admiration for masters of music who show individuality,
understanding of the music and imagination. He champions Willem
Mengelberg, Wilhelm Furtw”ngler, Edwin Fischer, Wanda Landowska,
Alexander Brailowsky and Karl Münchinger. Now living in Alsace,
Wendel first heard of Mengelberg from his organ teacher, Pierre
Vidal, whose ideas of interpretation matched those of his young student's. At
one time Wendel hosted a series of French radio broadcasts of historic
Mengelberg performances. He now teaches organ and piano in a music school
as well as giving several organ concerts each year.
Wendel's aim "is to make available the greatest part of Mengelberg's recordings in optimal sound quality." He doesn't divulge his sources but from the quality of the result it is obvious he has access to master discs/tapes, "the best possible sound source" as he put it. Wendel says that no filtering was used in these transfers (although it would seem there must be some to eliminate the sound of the needle in the groove heard on just about all 78rpm disks). A de-clicking process was utilized "to eliminate those noises that were disturbing for the ear" and "dynamics were restored whenever we found it necessary." The end result sonically is equal to most other transfers of these historic performances. Some collectors don't object to a bit of surface noise --it sort of makes it sound more "natural" considering the source. Wendel's transfers have little of this, yet there is no loss of brilliance in orchestral sound. Most Mengelberg admirers probably will already have many of these performances. However, there is no question that these would be a worthy addition to any collection.
There is an awkward problem in packaging. None of the CDs has program notes, just a listing of the works, soloists and timings for each track along with recording dates. Each CD jewel box cover has a different photograph of Mengelberg. The disks themselves have no content information, only a photo of Mengelberg, the same one used on the cover -- so, if you are playing more than one, you'll have to "match the picture" to make sure you get them back in the correct jewel cases. There are many fine photos of Mengelberg, some informal, to be seen in this series.
Most of the CDs have generous playing time, but not all. The 3 CDs devoted to St. Matthew Passion also could easily have included the two Bach cantatas instead of a separate disk for the latter. It would have been logical to have Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer on the same disk as Symphony No. 4. Vol. 8 is particularly valuable as it contains Beethoven's Emperor with pianist Cor de Groot recorded during a concert Nov. 9, 1942. Wendel's initial release of this included a few minutes taken from de Groot's early Philips Hague recording with Van Otterloo conducting, explaining that acetates for three sections were too damaged to use. He had very skillfully edited in similar parts from the commercial recording. The Emperor in Vol. 8 now is totally the live performance. Vol. 15 also is fascinating, with both conductor and soloist (Gieseking) in unusual repertory, Rachmaninoff's Second and Third Concertos. Concerto No. 2 is music-making on the grandest scale, a performance in which Gieseking impetuously tosses in an upward glissando at the end of the final cadenza. His Concerto No. 3 is a wild performance, far from note-perfect, but tremendously exciting.
These CDs are not inexpensive. However, considering quality and content, they are worth their price. A single CD costs about US $14 with reasonable shipping charges; if you order more than seven there is no shipping charge. Complete order information is on Wendel's site: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/mengelberg/
Here is a complete list of what currently is available (as of June 2001) all with the Concertgebouw Orchestra unless otherwise indicated:
Volume I (57:43)
The 1940 Beethoven symphonies were previously issued years ago on Philips LPs and CDs, as well as in a Music & Arts set (CD 1005) -- except the latter included a performance of No. 9 from May 2, 1940 instead of the May 31, 1938 performance in the Wendel series. When Philips first issued Mengelberg's Beethoven series they also included the 1940 performance.
We are fortunate to have a wealth of Mengelberg CDs available. Check out ClassicalCDReviews:
Mengelberg Telefunken Beethoven Recordings