Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concerto No. 4.
Walter Barylli (vn); Paul Doktor (va);
Clemens Krauss, cond; Felix Prohaska, cond;
Vienna P; Vienna St Op O
PREISER 90760, mono (57:54)
A forward by Vienna Philharmonic Chairman Dr. Clemens Hellsberg to the booklet notes for Preiser’s release of historic performances of Mozart violin concertos discusses discovering this recording of the Fourth Concerto by
Walter Barylli, one of the youngest players ever admitted to the Orchestra. Performances of Mozart’s Fourth Concerto took place on April 21 and 22, 1944 (along with Haydn’s “Military” Symphony and Beethoven’s Fifth). According to the booklet, however, the same forces recorded the Concerto on April 23. The engineers came very, very close to Barylli; the orchestra sounds a bit pinched, though vibrant. Barylli seems to have possessed a strong and reedy, if not particularly lush, tone and a technique that’s for the most part reliable, though not brilliant. Still, his ringing double-stops and chords in the big cadenza leave no doubt about his authority as a soloist. Soloist and conductor push and pull the first movement’s tempos in a way that might raise an eyebrow or two at a competition. Barylli’s reading of the second movement contains several scooping portamentos, but his playing doesn’t sound old-fashioned as much for devices of that kind as for his manner of tone production. He takes the finale (which Ruggiero Ricci thought to be the hardest of all movements to bring off well on account of its awkward bowings) at a tempo that may shear the movement of some of its difficulties, but also dulls some of its sparkle. The performance has little of Stern’s ruddy glow (in Mozart), nor of Francescatti’s sparkle, nor of Heifetz’s high tensile strength. Too genial to be truly arch, and too arch to be truly genial, it’s still a strongly individual period performance—but not one of Mozart’s period, nor, in fact, of ours; and those who champion one approach or another to Mozart should hear it before contemplating blanket statements about historically informed performance.
, with Barylli and Paul Doktor as soloists and Felix Prohaska conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, recorded in 1951 and formerly available on Westminster WI 5107, suggests more of the “roundness” that’s been associated with the Orchestra. Doktor plays the viola part with considerable geniality and warmth; and though Barylli’s tone doesn’t sound quite as cutting as it did in the 1944 recording, it’s still identifiable as his. If the soloists seem mismatched, they respond to each other and to the orchestra with a liveliness that sinks their differences. In the leisurely walk through the slow movement, elevated conversation between soloists and orchestra provides an elusive hint of timelessness that provides insights in almost every measure (something that happens in the middle section of the finale).
Urgently recommended for its value as a historical document no less than for its exuberant—occasionally transcendent—readings, especially of the
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
This is a fascinating retrieval. The broadcast recording of K218 turned up in 2006, secreted in the archives of Wiesbaden and Potsdam Babelsberg and it was pinpointed as a performance given by the young concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic with Clemens Krauss in April 1944. Walter Barylli was born in Vienna in 1921 and is still alive at the time of writing. He is best known for his eponymous quartet, originally founded during the War but re-established in 1945, and which left behind so many estimable recordings. But he was also an occasional soloist of repute and this 1944 performance gives one an opportunity to assess him, allied as it is here to a commercial 1951 recording of the Sinfonia Concertante.
The sound for 1944 is good, as is typical for German and Austrian sources of this period. Krauss brings out the antiphonal string writing very cogently, and he marshals the forces throughout with familiar authority. Barylli’s tone, as captured by the microphone at least, is very bright and forward. He employs a fair amount of portamento - some it has to be said fairly lavish, a device he’d largely begun to eschew by the time he came to record K364. There’s plenty of personalised phrasing as well as tempo fluctuations, and all this ensures that whilst it’s certainly not the most rectitudinous of performances it’s never dull. This is especially true in the hotly vibrated slow movement - slow and rapt - and in the unhurried ease of the finale. Criticisms? A touch laissez faire in the finale, perhaps, and some vapid turns of phrase in the central movement. A touch of wow once or twice on the tape, as well.
Barylli was teamed with Paul Doktor and conductor Felix Prohaska for the 1951 Sinfonia concertante. This is a fine traversal which the old Record Guide wrote off peremptorily. That book preferred the heavenly length of the Stern-Primrose-Casals performance, which I find turgid. Barylli and Doktor are tonally well matched. Their playing is thoughtful and temperate, not too ‘operatic’ in flourishes, the violist proving a touch more overtly expressive than his violin colleague. Thing are phrasally pliant throughout, though the ultimate depths of the slow movement are not fully plumbed. It’s altogether a pleasing reading, with a relaxed approach to the finale, and a good sense of definition and characterisation. It’s good to have it back in this attractive transfer and makes a splendid disc-mate for that rare K218.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International