Notes and Editorial Reviews
Inquisitive, visually minded souls should seek out these films.
Lovers of historic performances on film have had an increasingly good time of it in the last decade. Various archives and television companies have been opening up their heirlooms and culture-minded satellite broadcasters – German as often or not – have shown an exceptional amount of rare film. So we live in fortunate times, even if what remains reminds us of the vast amount that was lost or never recorded in the first place.
Cembal d’amour has had the savvy idea to collate some famous films. I last saw the Feuermann on a Cello Classics release. The Hofmann Rachmaninoff was on the Art of Piano DVD though I’ve never before seen the abridged
Emperor Concerto with Voorhees, though doubtless it’s done the rounds. The Weingartner was on the Art of Conducting and I saw the Bruno Walter-Weber last on Bel Canto’s Great Conductors Volume 1. The very brief excerpts of Marian Anderson, George Gershwin and Art Tatum have made appearances on television over the years – you can never forget Gershwin’s swaggering grin as he dismounts after I Got Rhythm. Which leaves the big rarity, though of a musician of a much later generation; Mindru Katz. This was taped as late as 1978.
Feuermann is shown in Popper and Dvo?ák. As ever he is imperturbable, impassive, amazing. The camera angles are rather tricksy – close-ups of the fingerboard for example - and directly over the cellist’s left shoulder. One watches the bewildering left hand work raptly and – little miracle – in the Rondo Feuermann even, just slightly, raises his left heel in excitement! His accompanist – and the word is appropriate here – is the distant, semi audible Theodore Saidenberg in this 1941 performance. A year later Feuermann was dead.
Hofmann is captured during his years of decline. The first piece is a Voorhees sanctioned abridgement of the finale of the E flat major Beethoven concerto. Shots here are sometimes overhead, looking down, a startling bird’s eye view of the keyboard as we watch Hofmann’s stubby fingers course across it. Rather fascinating to watch the great man in collaboration with the Bell Telephone Hour maestro. The applause at the end of what I assume was a studio film, sounds dubbed in to me. The Rachmaninoff moves disconcertingly from the orchestral backing in the Beethoven to a solo performance – so presumably to give the impression of an encore after the concerto. It doesn’t work – but never mind.
There is a brace of conductors in well-loved performances. Weingartner is his usual self-effacing self in Paris in 1932 but he is a master of economy and efficiency with a baton technique that reveals all that’s necessary to cue entries, enforce the rhythmic basis of the music making and bring out expressive moments. Bruno Walter is heard in less than optimum sound and vision but this 1931 Berlin film offers compensations. Walter is on splendid form encouraging some suavely sensitive phrasing from the band, amongst whose serried ranks must be Szymon Goldberg – then just about ready to supplant Henry Holst as concertmaster. Not easy to make out individual faces though.
Mindu Katz was taped in Istanbul in 1978 playing the Moonlight Sonata and the Op.10 No.3 Chopin Etude. Like the companion films this is in black and white and there are blips and drop outs on the audio tracks, which is also “noisy” rather as if there was inherent rumble. He is seated in an empty concert hall in tie and tails. Despite the rather imperfect nature of the recording we can still appreciate the level of artistry, the profound sensitivity to production and layering of sound, evinced by Katz. It’s playing of rare sensitivity and insight, confirmed by his Chopin, which is highly reflective. Only a few hours later Katz died of a heart attack during the evening’s recital in Istanbul. He was fifty-three.
The trio of other items are pleasurable extras, even if they’re very brief.
There’s a helpful booklet and DVD navigation is perfectly straightforward. Inquisitive, visually minded souls should seek out these films.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
* POPPER: Spinning Song; DVORAK: Rondo in G minor, Op. 94
Emanuel Feuermann, cello; Theodore Saidenberg, piano (Filmed 1941)
* WEBER: Der Freischütz Overture
Paris Symphony Orchestra/Felix Weingartner (Filmed 1932)
* WEBER: Oberon Overture
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Bruno Walter (Filmed 1931)
* RACHMANINOFF: Prelude, Op. 3 No. 2; BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 “Emperor”: Allegro ma non troppo (abbreviated)
Josef Hofmann, piano
The Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees (Filmed 1945)
* BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 “Moonlight”; CHOPIN: Etude in E major, Op. 10 No. 3
Mindru Katz, piano (Filmed 1978)
* SPIRITUAL: “I Hope I’ll Join The Band” (segment)
Marian Anderson, contralto; Franz Rupp, piano (Filmed 1943) * GRIMES & HAYES: “Tiny’s Exercise” (segment)
Art Tatum, piano (Filmed 1943)
* GEORGE GERSHWIN: “I Got Rhythm” (segment)
George Gershwin, piano (Filmed 1931)
NTSC All Region; Color 4:3; Approx. 59 mins
Featuring never-before available and rare film footage of some of the greatest musicians in history.
Works on This Recording
Spinning Song, Op. 55 no 1 by David Popper
Theodore Saidenberg (Piano),
Emanuel Feuermann (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1941
Der Freischütz, J 277: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Paris Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1817-1821; Dresden, Germany
Date of Recording: 1932
Oberon, J 306: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1825-1826; Dresden, Germany
Date of Recording: 1931
Tiny's Exercise by Tiny Grimes
Art Tatum (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 1943
Girl Crazy: I got rhythm by George Gershwin
George Gershwin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1930; USA
Date of Recording: 1931
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