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A Forgotten Conductor Vol 3 - Beethoven, Etc / Oskar Fried

Release Date: 08/21/2007 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1198   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenFranz LisztIgor StravinskyCarl Maria von Weber
Conductor:  Oscar Fried
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra membersBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

OSKAR FRIED: A FORGOTTEN CONDUCTOR, Vol. III Oskar Fried, cond; Berlin PO; Berlin St Op O MUSIC & ARTS 1198, mono (69:09)

WEBER Euryanthe: Overture. 1 BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2. 2 LISZT Les préludes. 1 Read more class="COMPOSER12">STRAVINSKY The Firebird: Suite (1919) 2

The first CD in this series of reissues devoted to Oskar Fried (1871–1941) was released in 2006 and reviewed in Fanfare 29:2 by James Miller; I reviewed the second, issued a year later, in 30:3. We owe Music & Arts and its German associates, transfer engineer Gert Fischer and Wolfgang Georgy of the Oskar-Fried-Archiv in Hamburg, a debt of gratitude not only for bringing these landmark recordings back to light, but for continuing to follow through in their efforts, rather than let the project die an early and natural death the way so many archival series do.

Rather than start from the beginning, I refer the reader to Mr. Miller’s and my reviews of the earlier volumes for detailed background information on the conductor, who was one of the principal disciples of Gustav Mahler and an important musical figure in Berlin during the 1920s. The producers have more than compensated for the lost opportunity I mentioned in my earlier review of the “Eroica” Symphony by making the 1925 late acoustic of Beethoven’s Second the centerpiece of this volume. A pattern is emerging: each volume includes one of Fried’s pioneering major projects (Volume I featured the premiere recording of Strauss’s Alpensinfonie ) combined with a number of shorter works, mixing acoustic and electric originals. (The Firebird Suite, recorded the same year as the Beethoven but remade electrically in 1928, is the other acoustic here.)

One of the most notable aspects of this Beethoven Second is the surprising immediacy of its sound, which has led some collectors to suspect it may actually be an early, experimental electric recording. One can still hear, though, particularly in the second movement, the doubling of the basses by a wind instrument, likely a sarrusophone, as typically was used in acoustic orchestral recordings. The reading itself shares many characteristics with the “Eroica” of the same year: the outer movements are vigorous but not rushed (although the abrupt change in tempo at the side break in the finale is disconcerting); its approach has more in common with that of the early, healthy Klemperer—listen, if you can, to his astonishingly energetic 1927 Academic Festival Overture —than with those of Mahler’s two other best-known disciples, Walter and Mengelberg. The rousing Weber Overture is much along the same lines.

The 1928 Les préludes is more expansive and expressive; on the other hand, the development section and the buildup to the coda/apotheosis take off like a bat out of hell. It makes for an exciting listening experience, one that makes even the volatile Bernstein (1963) sound tame. The late-acoustic Firebird Suite is again notable for its rapid tempos in the fast movements.

I had a mixed reaction to the sound quality. The Liszt was available for a while on a Koch CD in a Ward Marston transfer that brought out far more fullness in the orchestral sound without incorporating lots of garbage along with it; the Beethoven, once issued on Leo Mack’s Past Masters LP label, sounds less tinny here (and less noisy in the upper frequencies), but suffers from more lower-frequency groove noise that detracts from the clarity of the sound. My own copy of the 78s, played with the correct equalization curve and minimal filtering, sounded more natural. Also, I suspect the transfers were made at too fast a playback speed: they sound noticeably sharp, and the Liszt, for example, takes 15:07 compared with Marston’s 15:24.

One could go on with such quibbles, but the fact is that Music & Arts is issuing these recordings and no one else is. Fodder for future releases is plentiful: landmark acoustic recordings of the Brahms First, the Bruckner Seventh, and perhaps the rarest of Fried’s Polydors, the Symphonie fantastique (the famous Mahler Second is available on Naxos Historical in a Marston transfer), as well as lots of shorter works and another series of symphonic-scale pieces in electric recordings. None of Fried’s super-rare German Vox recordings from the early 1920s has yet been included in this series.

Let’s hope for the appearance of further volumes in this series devoted to a “forgotten” yet memorable conductor. They’re well worth hearing.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Oscar Fried
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra members
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: ?1925 
Venue:  Berlin 
Les préludes, S 97 by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Oscar Fried
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848/1854; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Venue:  Berlin 
Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Oscar Fried
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin State Opera Orchestra members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919/1945;   
Date of Recording: ?1925 
Venue:  Berlin 
Euryanthe, J 291/Op. 81: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor:  Oscar Fried
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1822-1823; Dresden, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1928 
Venue:  Berlin 

Sound Samples

Euryanthe, J. 291: Overture
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: I. Adagio molto - Allegro con brio
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: II. Larghetto
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: III. Scherzo
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36: IV. Allegro molto
Les Preludes, S97/R414
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): I. Introduction
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): II. The Firebird and its Dance
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): IV. Ring dance of the Princesses
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): V. Infernal Dance of King Kashchey
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): VI. Lullaby
The Firebird Suite (1919 version): VII. Finale

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