CARL SCHURICHT:  Unissued Broadcast Recordings
WAGNER:  Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.  MENDELSSOHN: Athalia Overture. (April 29, 1950).  REGER:  Variations on a theme of Mozart. HAYDN:  Cello Concerto in D (E. Mainardi). (Nov. 5, 1950).  SCHUBERT:  Symphony No. 8 (Feb. 29, 1952).  BRUCKNER:  Symphony No. 9 (Nov. 2, 1951).  (Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orch)  WAGNER:  Siegfried's Death from G–tterdämmerung (June 19, 1942). BEETHOVEN:  Funeral March from Symphony No. 3 (June 19, 1942) (with Large Berlin Radio Symphony Orch).   J. C. BACH:  Sinfonia in D (April 9, 1937).  BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 7 in A (February 26, 1937) (with Berlin Reichsenders Orch).

MUSIC & ARTS 1094 (4 CDs) (M) TT: 59:49 / 50:45 / 56:03 / 69:17

Carl Schuricht was born in 1880, in what then was the East Prussian seaport of Danzig (today Gdansk, Poland), and lived beyond his 86th birthday. His activities were concentrated in Northern and Western Europe but especially in Germany, although Mark W. Kluge's comprehensive annotation says that he shared the podium in 1956 with AndrČ Cluytens when the Vienna Philharmonic made its debut tour of the U.S., and conducted at Ravinia and Tanglewood in 1957. I was criticking in Chicago then (and for almost two decades more). Cluytens occupied the podium for a VPO concert although not very memorably. But I have no recollection of Schuricht at Ravinia, and corroborative files have been packed away for years -- inaccessibly, short of excavation for a memoir.

What I do remember, indeed vividly, is a London/Decca LP of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra that was neither Toscaninian nor Furtw”nglerian (the main gravitational fields back then). It was fleet, impassioned, and had a moment of rhythmic Član in the slow-movement variations that I've never heard since from anyone else (including Reiner or the two Kleibers). Kluge mentions several other London recordings, and Concert Halls later on, but these left no more imprint than Schuricht's alleged appearance at Ravinia (usually, in those years, a week apiece for six-to-seven guest-conductors, with three concerts and one 2˝-hour rehearsal per concert for each). Webmeister Benson kindly loaned me Schuricht conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in October 1939 (by then Poland had been overrun), at which a woman called out 'Deutschland Über Alles, Herr Schuricht' during the final movement. Apart from that, however, the performance left no impression pro or con.

Schuricht remained in Wiesbaden during the "Thousand-Year Reich" (where he first conducted in 1912, became General Musikdirektor in 1923, and kept as home base until 1944). He guest-conducted in Germany and Austria, however, and was named music director of the Dresden Philharmonic in 1944 (not, please note, the Staatskapelle, which was and remains that storied city's principal orchestra). The first three discs in this set were recorded between 29 April 1950 and 29 February 1952 with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony -- hardly one of postwar Germany's major orchestras. But (excluding Reger's fatted-calf Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, which I cannot abide, and haven't heard entirely since leaving daily-journalism) there is one superb performance -- Schubert's "Unfinished," of such expressive grandeur that Beethoven might have written it. The Bruckner Ninth comes near as a reading, but the SRF orchestra lacks the tonal density and lung-power to do either the composer or Schuricht justice.

Otherwise, the Prelude and "Liebestod" (concert version) from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, seems to last as long here as Act I elsewhere, and Mendelssohn's mediocre Athalie Overture from the same 29 April 1950 concert is flat-out tub-thumping. The Haydn D-major Cello Concerto uses FranÁois Gaevert's leaden, bloated 19th-century arrangement, with Enrico Mainardi as soloist, whose reputation was inexplicable in the post-Casals era of Fournier et alii, before Starker and Rostropovich (talk about gravitational fields) came to to the forefront. His tone was thin, even whiney, and of modest size; his musicianship was likewise modest.

Apart from the searing "Unfinished" - Schubert could, Schuricht seems to be saying, shake his fist at God - the most fascinating disc in this collection is the fourth one, from 1937 (J.C.Bach's Op. 18/4 Sinfonia in D, and a thrilling Beethoven's Seventh despite horns biffs and some scrambled ensemble at the end, by the "Orchester der Reichsender" in Berlin), and 1942 (Siegfried's Death from G–tterd”mmerung followed by the Eroica Funeral March, using what by then was called the "Berlin Large Radio Orchestra"). Schuricht's Bach predates the postwar Baroque revival, but everything reveals a sanguine conductor in his prime -- age 56 in the 1937 performances; two weeks from his 62nd birthday in 1942. Despite minor surface-noise, mono-sound is as vivid as the 1950-52 Stuttgart material -- in fact I prefer it -- and the music-making deserves a separate release. I mean, we have performances by Furtw”ngler and the Berlin Philharmonic from the same Hitler period -- including a commercial Beethoven Fifth recorded by EMI -- that are sanctified, deserve it or not (which some do, some don't). If only there were room for the "Unfinished" - which there could be, by dropping J.C. Bach and pushing the limit to 79 minutes - M-&-A would have a thoroughly recommendable historic document.

R.D. (October 2001)