-- Previously Unissued Historic Recordings"
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op. 55 Eroica (Mar. 5, 1942?). Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36 (Mar. 21, 1943). Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93 (May 13, 1943). BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (April 13, 1943).
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Willem Mengelberg, cond.
TAHRA TAH 391-393 (3 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT: 49:28 / 67:16 / 47:23
Mengelberg -- Archives inÈdites II"
TAHRA is to be congratulated for these important issues. The 3-CD set of Mengelberg live performances never before available features superb transfers from original acetates. Because of inadequate documentation there is a question on the date of this Eroica; Tahra feels it is from the concert March 5, 1942, although there is a possibility it could be the conductor's last performance of the work in Amsterdam May 8, 1944. When Philips first issued Mengelberg's 1940" live" Eroica on LP, later on CD, because of defective acetates they substituted the Telefunken recording made in November 1940. Tahra feels it is important that a complete 'live" Mengelberg Eroica be available, and here it is. The Wendel issue of the Eroica is the April 14, 1940 live recording minus the first movement. Mengelberg recorded the Eroica first in 1930 for Victor with the "Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York," available in a superb Mark Obert-Thorn transfer on Biddulph (WHL 020). His other commercial recording was for Telefunken November 11/13, 1940 issued in the U.S. on a long-out-of print Capitol LP, now available in a magnificent MOT transfer on Pearl (GEMS 0074).
Mengelberg never recorded the entire Brahms First commercially; he did record the third movement May 31, 1930 for Columbia/Odeon. Philips issued a live performance of Symphony No.1 from a concert in December 1940 (CD 416 210, nla). The new Tahra Brahms First is from a concert April 13, 1943, an even more excitingif perverseinterpretation, with greatly improved sound. Wendel's recording is from a concert Oct. 13, 1940. Tahra's Beethoven Second is dated March 21, 1943; both the Wendel and Philips issues use the performance of April 14, 1940. Beethoven's Eighth on Tahra is from a concert May 13, 1943; both Wendel and Philips use the April 18, 1940 performance. Wendel's transfers are in all cases superior to the Philips issues; for more information see commentary. The only minus on the TAHRA set is that playing time is not maximum (see listing above) and price is. However this won't matter much to admirers of Mengelberg.
Even more fascinating is the deluxe 2-CD set Archives inÈdites II. Beethoven's Egmont Overture and Weber's Euryanthe Overture are heard from Salzburg concerts in August 1942 with the Vienna Philharmonicand they are stunning. Sound is acceptable although more than a touch steely. Beethoven's Second is from a performance October 27, 1940; both Wendel and Philips use the performance from April 1940. Alexander Voormolen's (1895-1980) Concerto for Two Oboes with Jaap and Hakon Stotyjn as magnificent soloists from a concert February 26, 1944 also makes its first appearance. The existing three movements of Beethoven's Eroica from the concert of May 14, 1940 are also included. In addition to Euryanthe, CD 2 offers Mozart's Resta o cara...Bella mia fiamma, K. 528 with soprano Ria Ginster from a concert March 5, 1942 and Max Trapp's Piano Concerto in D with Walter Gieseking from a concert October 13, 1935 both already issued on CD. Trapp's concerto, composed in 1931, was championed by Gieseking (as was his orchestral music by Bruno Walter and Wilhelm Furtw”ngler), but it now, perhaps rightfully, has fallen into oblivion. The Tahra issue is missing a small section of the central movement; the work can be heard complete on the Audiophile Classics issue. This is the earliest known live recording of a Mengelberg concert performance; the sound is remarkably good for its age, better on Tahra than on Audiophile Classics.
This is a remarkable set with profuse notes in English and French. They state with great authority that the performance of Dvorák's Cello Concerto supposedly recorded January 16, 1944 in Paris with Maurice Gendron is not as advertised. Fine performance though it is, they say it is not Mengelberg on the podium and the soloist probably is Paul Tortelier. Of enormous value is a comprehensive up-to-date chronological discography of Mengelberg live and recorded performances authoritatively assembled by Michael Gray, complete up to the last few months. The booklet is attached to the hard outer jacket of the set which is only slightly taller than two CDs and might create a storage problem for some. There is a separate 12-page booklet called La Chasa Mengelberg which consisting of many color photographs of Mengelberg's home in the Swiss Alps of Engadine, built in 1911-1912, which he shared with his wife for many years, along with distinguished guests including Richard Strauss. His wife died in 1943 and Mengelberg spent his last years in oblivion in this magnificent Casa, not permitted to give concerts as his passport had been confiscated by the Swiss government and he was unable to travel. He died March 22, 1951 six days before his 80th birthday and was buried in Lucerne. He had spent much time in the beautiful chapel of his Casa and wrote music for the carillon it contained. One of the CDs in Volume II contains about 3 minutes of the sound of this instrument. It is not mentioned if any of the music was written by the conductor.
TAH 391-393 devotes much time to the question of Mengelberg's association with the Nazis, bringing out both sides of the case. Was he so naive politically he didn't realize the ramifications of his actions? Many of his activities were obviously misinterpreted and there is no question that he was hyper-critically examined. It surely seems unfair that Mengelberg was ostracized so severely when others of the time who had played even a greater part in the Third Reich's musical life, including Furtw”ngler, Karajan, Gieseking and Schwarzkopf had been excused.
R.E.B. (Aug. 2002)