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Friedrich Wuhrer Plays Beethoven, Vol. 1: Back From The Shadows

Beethoven / Wuhrer
Release Date: 08/10/2010 
Label:  Tahra   Catalog #: 704   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich WuhrerBronislaw GimpelJoseph Schuster
Conductor:  Hans SwarowskyWalther DavissonJonel PerleaHeinrich Hollreiser
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 4 Hours 26 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

An outstanding historic set. A major achievement. Full marks.

Friedrich Wührer (1900-75) is indeed ’Back from the Shadows’ in a number of respects, the main one being the re-establishment of a healthy number of his studio performances in the current catalogue. I’ve already written about him in the context of another disc, noting in brief that he was an associate of Franz Schmidt, whose music he programmed frequently, and he was also closely allied with the Second Viennese School in the 1920s. He performed Schoenberg at a time when most didn’t, and he was also sympathetic to Hindemith and Stravinsky, and later on,
Read more Pfitzner. Maybe his greatest legacy on disc is his vast series of Schubert recordings for Vox, but his Beethoven discs are also an important component of that legacy. And here Tahra has come to our aid in timely fashion.

He recorded the concerto cycle but not in a way we would necessarily recognise – one orchestra, one conductor, a concentrated period of recording. No, for Wührer it was three orchestras and four conductors. This haphazard-seeming conjunction may seem an impediment to a single collaborative view, but it’s not necessarily the case that this parcelling out of duties is in any real sense a limitation. In some ways it’s a strength, given that a particular conductor may show a greater sense of insight in a particular concerto.

The first two concertos were with Hans Swarowsky (No.1) and Walter Davisson (No.2). Both were experienced and practical musicians, used to studio recordings; Swarowsky is now the better remembered. My own preference is for him, too, for his approach better fits Wührer’s biting fluency, his highly accomplished articulation and choice of the most difficult and formidable of Beethoven’s three cadenzas for the first movement. Nevertheless Davisson provides adept in No.2, if not quite as insightful as his colleague in Vienna. But he scores well in the C minor, again with the Stuttgart Pro Musica. There’s a lot of detail here, and quite a good sound spectrum for Vox. The first movement cadenza is characteristically powerful, Wuhrer driving into it as he invariably did. He isn’t averse to coarsening his tone in the interests of differentiation and serving the musical argument. He was, in any case, not one to float or parade the beauty of his tone; he preferred a gaunter, terser attack, almost brittle. And yet he could relax, without over-emoting or over-pedalling, as he does in the slow movement of this concerto. He’s also not particularly emotive in the Fourth Concerto with Jonel Perlea in Bamberg. Dynamics are strong, the music-making selfless and never Olympian in character, rather directed toward a just balance between the two poles of the music’s character. The Emperor Concerto has tonal variety, grandeur, powerful chording, dignity and – one moment of rhythmic retardation aside – straightforward. This disc also contains the Tripe Concerto, with violinist Bronislaw Gimpel, cellist Joseph Schuster and conducted again by Davisson. This has always received a bit of a mixed critical reception and whilst acknowledging its inferiority to the stellar trios who have espoused it on disc, I rather enjoy its personable music-making, anchored with great security and intelligence by Wührer.

This leaves the last disc, number four, which contains the three last piano sonatas. I’ve played Op.109 many times since receiving the disc for review purposes, and find it consistently laudable. It’s reserved, sinewy, and possesses a degree of objective clarity. It is wholly different from, say, Schnabel’s more obviously warm and communicative approach. But I do find it cumulatively intensely satisfying, intellectually cogent, rigorous and eloquently and perceptively performed. The same goes for the two companion sonatas, though not to quite the same degree. Wührer’s relative tonal gauntness, and his refusal to caress and linger may be off-putting to some, but it is an excellent corrective to more self-conscious performances, and a fine contribution to the history of the sonatas (and concertos) on disc.

This is thus an outstanding historic set. None of the concerto performances can really be considered epochal as recordings, but to have the set of five, with the Triple, available in this way is a major achievement. Full marks to Tahra for this and for its French/English booklet and restoration work.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Hans Swarowsky
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 36 Minutes 38 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Walther Davisson
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 29 Minutes 37 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Walther Davisson
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 32 Minutes 42 Secs. 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Jonel Perlea
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 33 Minutes 23 Secs. 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Heinrich Hollreiser
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 37 Minutes 20 Secs. 
6.
Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello in C major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Bronislaw Gimpel (Violin), Joseph Schuster (Cello), Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Conductor:  Walther Davisson
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 33 Minutes 10 Secs. 
7.
Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 17 Minutes 19 Secs. 
8.
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 8 Minutes 14 Secs. 
9.
Sonata for Piano no 32 in C minor, Op. 111 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Friedrich Wuhrer (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1953-58 
Venue:  Europe 
Length: 24 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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