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Brahms: Variations, Op. 56; Mozart, Wolf-ferrari / Leitner, Haas

Release Date: 09/20/2005 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 4063   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsWolfgang Amadeus MozartErmanno Wolf-Ferrari
Performer:  Monique Haas
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Württemberg State OrchestraBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These are historical recordings from the late 1940s to early 1950s. They are from the collection of Dr. Jens-Uwe Völmecke with restoration and re-mastering by THS Studio Holger Siedler, Dormagen, Germany. Profil has brought us several recordings from the Völmecke collection with similar restoration. The source of at least one of these three selections (the Mozart Piano Concerto) is a phonograph record; some faint surface noise, an occasional pop, and some inner-groove distortion are audible. Overall, the sound is pretty good.

It is an eclectic mix of materials. Although Brahms gets top billing, especially on the album cover, where his name is in huge, script letters, it is Mozart that occupies almost half of the
Read more album’s 52 minutes. The unifying factor is conductor Ferdinand Leitner.

Leitner was a well-respected conductor. Ironically, he does not merit a listing in either the Harvard or Oxford music dictionaries, but he had a good reputation, conducted many of the world’s premier orchestras, and made a respectable number of recordings—several of which are still available on a variety of labels. He was at home in both the orchestral and operatic repertoires, championed 20th-century German opera, and conducted the world premieres of several operas. In spite of his credentials, his name has not become as familiar as many of his contemporaries. Gunther Hänssler and his new label, Profil, may help to bring Leitner some recognition, or at least keep his name from languishing in the musical dead-storage files.

These are good performances. The Mozart may not entirely please the folks who prefer more “historically informed” interpretations on period instruments, but it is, nevertheless, a compelling document of how Mozart was performed and appreciated in the mid 20th century. Monique Haas does not play Mozart with a delicate touch, but she plays with passion and conviction. The Brahms Variations receive a good, solid reading, very musical with tempos similar to those adopted by Christoph von Dohnányi. If you like a swifter reading of the variations, try Bernstein or Slatkin.

The two Jewels of the Madonna excerpts were probably tacked on as filler material, but should not be dismissed as inconsequential. Wolf-Ferrari has a style, a sound, that is uniquely his own. His charming music is a pleasant dessert to the two entrees that comprise the majority of this album.

The sound of these disparate recordings has been matched with admirable congeniality. There is no jarring dissimilarity between the selections, and if it cannot match newer recordings in clarity, it does serve as a reminder about how good monophonic recordings could sound. I wouldn’t part with any of my stereo recordings of this material, but this Profil album brought much pleasure, not only with the first, but also with repeated playing.

David L. Kirk, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Variations in B flat major on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a "St. Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Württemberg State Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
Concerto for Piano no 23 in A major, K 488 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Monique Haas (Piano)
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
I gioielli della Madonna: Act 1 Intermezzo by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1911 
I gioielli della Madonna: Act 2 Intermezzo by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari
Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1911 

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