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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century - Ferenc Fricsay


Release Date: 06/04/2002 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 75109   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Paul DukasZoltán KodályDmitri ShostakovichPaul Hindemith,   ... 
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony OrchestraVienna Philharmonic OrchestraBerlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono & Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 37 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The 'Great Composers of the 20th Century' series is a joint project between IMG Artists and EMI Classics. If the first issues are anything to go by, the enterprise is well worthwhile, and this two disc set of Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963) conducting orchestras with whom he was closely associated contains some performances of real merit.

Fricsay left a treasury of fine recordings, some of them captured here, but his career was cut tragically short. His concerts were notable for their enterprising fusion of established classics with repertoire beyond the norm, and these trends are captured here. For example there is a 1954 performance of Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony (1945), which was then classified as 'new music', and it bristles
Read more with vitality and commitment. The recording is acceptable, better than some of the others from the early years of the fifties which are found here.

The programme begins on CD1 with an excellent rendition of Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, keenly judged and full of colourful drama. Dating from 1961, this performance also benefits from pretty good sound. The same might be said of the direct and engaging recording of Kodály's Dances of Galánta which follows. This splendid work, which finds the composer at his most inspired, gains enormously from the keen edged vitality of Fricsay's interpretation.

However, it is with the recordings of a decade before, just after 1950, that problems arise. It is here that the prospective purchaser will take his chance. Not that there is anything wrong with the performances or the playing. Fricsay was a master of his trade and he worked with talented musicians, though one does wonder what conditions in post-war Berlin were really like. Hindemith's brilliantly entertaining Symphonic Metamorphoses fails to make an impression here, since the recording is too dim to capture the spirit of the music. This is a pity, because the rhythmic incisiveness of Fricsay's conducting clearly has the measure of what is required. The same might be said also of the encore item which concludes the first disc, Strauss's waltz, The Artist's Life.

Much the same might be said of the Beethoven performances which dominate CD2. The Overture Leonore No. 3 is nothing if not exciting, beautifully judged in the balancing of tension and relaxation, with phrasing which is as sensitive to mood as one might find. Yet this music surely benefits from the added tonal lustre of more recent recordings.

The largest work, the great Eroica Symphony, actually gets off to an inauspicious start when the very first chord sounds scrappy, though things do improve pretty quickly. More recent recordings have tended to prefer quicker tempi, to the music's advantage, on the whole, though there is no denying that Fricsay accumulates much symphonic weight. The great slow movement funeral march drags a little (according to taste), but the second phase does have much tragic grandeur. The playing has commendable energy in the final two movements, and all credit to the Berlin horns for their virtuoso rendition of the scherzo.

By way of encore there is a short Mozart item, the Overture to Cosí fan tutte, nicely shaped if a little lacking in tonal focus in this 1951 recording. With excellent documentation and production standards, the issue with these performances tends to come back to the quality of the recorded sound, which, as I have tried to explain, is variable.

-- Terry Barfoot, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
L'apprenti sorcier by Paul Dukas
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; France 
Date of Recording: 11/14/1961 
Venue:  Live  Great Hall, Radio Free Berlin, Germany 
Length: 10 Minutes 33 Secs. 
2.
Dances of Galánta by Zoltán Kodály
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 08/1961 
Venue:  Live  Salzburg Festival, Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 17 Minutes 39 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 9 in E flat major, Op. 70 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Venue:  Live  Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 21 Minutes 50 Secs. 
4.
Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1952 
Venue:  Live  Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 19 Minutes 4 Secs. 
5.
Künstlerleben, Op. 316 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/06/1950 
Venue:  Live  Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 49 Secs. 
6.
Leonore Overture no 3 in C major, Op. 72a by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1805-1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/05/1961 
Venue:  Live  Great Hall, Radio Free Berlin, Germany 
Length: 16 Minutes 14 Secs. 
7.
Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/05/1961 
Venue:  Live  Great Hall, Radio Free Berlin, Germany 
Length: 56 Minutes 33 Secs. 
8.
Così fan tutte, K 588: Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/18/1951 
Venue:  Live  Christ Church, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 

Sound Samples

L'Apprenti sorcier (2002 Digital Remaster)
Dances of Galanta (2002 Digital Remaster)
Symphony No. 9 in E flat Op. 70 (2002 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro
Symphony No. 9 in E flat Op. 70 (2002 Digital Remaster): II. Moderato
Symphony No. 9 in E flat Op. 70 (2002 Digital Remaster): III. Presto
Symphony No. 9 in E flat Op. 70 (2002 Digital Remaster): IV. Largo
Symphony No. 9 in E flat Op. 70 (2002 Digital Remaster): V. Allegretto
Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (2002 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro
Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (2002 Digital Remaster): II. 'Turandot' , Scherzo (Moderato/Lebhaft)
Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (2002 Digital Remaster): III . Andantino
Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (2002 Digital Remaster): IV. Marsch
Künstlerleben - Walzer Op. 316 (2002 Digital Remaster)
Leonore Overture No.3 Op.72 (2002 Digital Remaster): Adagio - Allegro
Symphony No. 3 in E flat 'Eroica' Op. 55 (2002 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro con brio
Symphony No. 3 in E flat 'Eroica' Op. 55 (2002 Digital Remaster): II. Marcia funebre (Adagio assai)
Symphony No. 3 in E flat 'Eroica' Op. 55 (2002 Digital Remaster): III. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
Symphony No. 3 in E flat 'Eroica' Op. 55 (2002 Digital Remaster): IV. Allegro molto - Poco andante - Presto
Così fan tutte K588 (2002 Digital Remaster): Overture

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