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Archive - Bruch, Bach, Fortner, Pfitzner / Taschner

Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 6421443   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Wolfgang FortnerMax BruchHans Pfitzner
Performer:  Gerhard Taschner
Conductor:  Hans RosbaudHans Müller-KrayRudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony OrchestraStuttgart SW German Radio Symphony OrchestraBerlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1. 1 PFITZNER Violin Concerto. 2 FORTNER Violin Concerto 3 Gerhard Taschner (vn); Hans Müller-Kray, cond; 1 Rudolf Kempe, cond; 2 Hans Rosbaud, cond; 3 South German RSO Stuttgart; Read more class="SUPER12">1 Rudolf Kempe, cond; 2 RIAS-SO Berlin; 2 Southwest RO Baden-Baden 3 MDG 642 1443, mono (75:14) Broadcast: Berlin 4/17/1955 2

MDG’s “Archive” series has assembled three performances by Gerard Taschner, who had served as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1941 to 1945, when he fled Berlin for Bayreuth: a ripely romantic one of Bruch’s popular First Concerto from September 29, 1954; a live one of Hans Pfitzner’s late-Romantic work from April 17, 1955; and, finally, one from 1950 of Wolfgang Fortner’s Violin Concerto, which he had recorded earlier on December 18, 1949, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Wilhelm Furtwängler, now available on MDG 642 1113. (Burkhard Braach relates that Furtwängler had been so nervous that he gave the downbeat for the first movement before the soloist had put his violin under his chin. In general Furtwängler’s tempos produce longer timings for the movements as a whole; while the relaxation produces less edgy woodwind polyphony at the beginning of the second movement, the last movement’s figuration spins like a whirlwind.) Taschner plays the first movement of Bruch’s Concerto with a freedom that blossoms into affecting romantic rhetoric in the slow movement that follows. In the expressive passages, Taschner tends to “scoop” in a way that might make more modern violinists wince—but they needn’t, so effectively does it personalize Taschner’s magisterial playing. Taschner and the orchestra play with an unusually crisp—almost brusque—energy in the finale. His statement of the main theme, for example, so often soggy, hisses and spits; his passagework in the following section provides a rush of adrenaline; and the slow central theme at this tempo soars with additional urgency. Burkhard Braach’s notes don’t identify Taschner’s violin, but it possesses a steely though reedy quality in this Concerto—and in this recording (the recorded sound is clear and detailed, if a bit two-dimensional).

Hans Pfitzner’s has been described as a violin concerto for Mahler aficionados. The large orchestral forces upon which it calls for its flamboyant effects—solemn brass intonations and skittish string passages—do recall Mahler, but Pfitzner’s work hails from a later era, and its idiomatic, virtuosic solo part (Pfitzner had written a violin sonata five years before he attempted the Concerto) stands far removed from Mahler’s symphonic universe. Braach mentions a possible reference to Elgar’s Concerto, but similar references to Prokofiev might be equally valid—all, in their diversity, suggesting the wide range the Concerto’s style encompasses. Again according to Braach, Pfitzner once chided Taschner for not playing his Concerto, although the violinist had played Fortner’s. Pfitzner’s widow (the composer himself didn’t survive to hear Taschner play the work) mentioned hearing a performance by Taschner, and the broadcast represented in this collection appears to be the one to which she had referred. Some questionable wind intonation in the slow middle section during this live performance hardly ruins the work’s impression, even though the violinist steps aside during the first half of the slow movement, shifting the spotlight solely on the orchestra. The first movement and the finale, on the other hand, sound alternately imposing and effectively virtuosic. Taschner possesses the formidable technique the Concerto requires, and he hardly lingers indulgently over the slow middle section or the finale’s reflective passages; and in the finale he generates an excitement similar in voltage to his delivery of Bruch’s finale. Pfitzner’s Violin Concerto may receive occasional performances (Braach cites one in New York by Alexander Markov in 2004) and occasional recordings, but it hasn’t penetrated so far into the mainstream as its ingratiating melodic material suggests that it might.

Fortner’s Concerto, intended for violin and “large chamber orchestra,” by contrast, sounds wryly acerbic, though it possesses considerable kinetic appeal. Braach tells how Fortner and Taschner worked together on the Concerto at the home of Rüdesheim “vintner and music patron” Carl Jung, and how, during the work, Fortner’s student, Hans Werner Henze, preferred pillow fights with Jung’s children and Taschner himself preferred playing with the family’s toy railroad. Yet the idiomatic solo passages apparently resulted from a fruitful collaboration, in spite of the distractions. In a style hardly more harmonically adventurous than that of Hindemith, Fortner contributed to the literature a Concerto that, while it may not indulge in virtuosity for its own sake, nevertheless provides startlingly phosphorescent passages for the soloist—in fact, this soloist in particular. Taschner, to whom Fortner dedicated the Concerto (the title page with the gewidmet inked in during the course of an inscription), plays it as though it were his own. The recorded sound, somewhat edgy, remains vivid enough to communicate the work’s own striking profile and that of its stunning soloist. For its three dynamic performances by a violinist and of two concertos too seldom heard, MDG’s collection deserves a hearty recommendation.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin by Wolfgang Fortner
Performer:  Gerhard Taschner (Violin)
Conductor:  Hans Rosbaud
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/19/1950 
Venue:  Kurhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 21 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin no 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch
Performer:  Gerhard Taschner (Violin)
Conductor:  Hans Müller-Kray
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart SW German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/29/1954 
Venue:  Villa Berg, Stuttgart, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin in B minor, Op. 34 by Hans Pfitzner
Performer:  Gerhard Taschner (Violin)
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/17/1955 
Venue:  Live  Kurhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 31 Minutes 35 Secs. 

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