BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (Hermann Krebbers,
'KAREL ANCERL LIVE RECORDINGS'
Czech conductor Karel Ancerl (1908-1973) left a considerable recorded legacy with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which he led from 1950 through 1969. A protÈgÈ of Vaclav Talich, he initially made his mark in contemporary music appearing first with the CPO in June of 1930 conducting one of his own works at a graduation concert given by the Prague Conservatory. After that he devoted his ambitions to conducting, leading the Prague Radio Symphony and opera in Prague. He appeared many times with the Czech Philharmonic before his official appointment as director in 1951. Ancerl brought the Czech Philharmonic to international fame via world tours and recordings. He left Czechoslovakia in 1969 in protest of the Soviet occupation, settling in Canada where he led the Toronto Symphony until his death July 3, 1973.
The French TAHRA label has countless historic CDs of enormous interest
to collectors making available live performances and transfers of older
recordings. Most of these focus on Wilhelm Furtwangler and Hermann
Scherchen, however, they also have issued performances by Hermann Abendroth,
Eugen Jochum, Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum and many other
conductors. Their transfers almost without exception are first-rate.
Tahra has keen interest in Karel Ancerl and has issued a number of
live performances, two with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and a 7-CD set
with the Czech Philharmonic, as outlined above. These are of extraordinary interest to
collectors as they include many works Ancerl did not record
commercially. Unfortunately the 7-CD set listed above has been
discontinued but it is worth seeking out if you can find it anywhere.
TAH 124-125, a 2-CD set, contains Haydn's Symphony No. 92 "Oxford," Franck's Symphony in D Minor, Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 and Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, all recorded live in 1969 and 1970. This is big, bold, spirited Haydn far removed from the original instrument concept prevalent today. Franck's symphony is given a sturdy performance albeit with a surprisingly subdued third movement finale. The real gem here is Dvorak's Symphony No. 8, as fine a performance as I've ever heard, with the mighty Concertgebouw giving its all. Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony is also a delight. The second CD ends with a 6-minute interview with Ancerl recorded during a Toronto Symphony Orchestra rehearsal in 1968 which includes brief excerpts from a rehearsal of Smetana's Moldau with that orchestra. TAH 155 is a single CD offering other treasures from concerts in 1970: Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Hermann Krebbers, long-time concertmaster of the Concertgebouw , as soloist, a big-scale, robust performance of great power. Krebbers was concertmaster of the orchestra for many years (a performance of the Brahms concerto exists with Willem Mengelberg conducting recorded in April 1943). Krebbers recorded the Beethoven with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw for Philips in September 1973, three years after this live performance. The CD is filled out with Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody with Dutch pianist Daniel Wayenberg as soloist. This might not be among the most exciting performances of this music, but it is well played and beautifully recorded.
The 7-CD set was issued to commemorate the Centenary of the Czech
Philharmonic (1896-1996) as well as to honor Karel Ancerl. There
is much of interest here including five works Ancerl did not record
commercially (Dvorak's Symphonic Variations, Mozart's Symphony No. 38,
Ravel's BolÈro, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (with Vera Soukupova),
and two works of Sibelius: Pohojola's Daughter and Symphony No. 1. These
were all recorded when the CPO was on tour, two concerts in Helsinki, one
in Vienna as well as concerts in Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris
and Canada. Permission to issue the recordings was obtained from the
Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, the ORF of Vienna, the WDR of Cologne,
INA in Paris, Hessische Rundfunk, Bayerische Rundfunk and the Canadian
Another CD contains Smetana's complete
Ma Vlast recorded when the CPO
was in tour in Toronto in October 1967, two years before Ancerl took
over leadership of their local orchestra. The only stereo
recordings in the set are of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Taras Bulba
, recorded in Berlin 1966.
The stereo sound is rather dry but very clear. This CD is filled
out with the Suite No. I from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, from the
Bavarian Radio concert of November 1958. The set also includes a
CD devoted to a lengthy interview with Ancerl, a documentary from
the Canadian Radio recorded October 7, 1972, interspersed with
brief excerpts from Ancerl live performances.
R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)