Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 10 (1931-07)

Record Details:

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290 The Phonograph Monthly Review Reviews of New Records Special reviews of larger works j~ classified reviews of domestic releases lists of new European releases s current importations Brandenburg Concerto Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, in G (3 sides), played by the Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwaengler. (On the fourth side Furtwaengler conducts Schu- bert: <( Rosamunde” Entr’acte in B flat.) Bruns- wick 90161-2 (2 D12s, $1.50 each). While amateur Philo Vances still struggle for the solution of that most celebrated of all phonographic mysteries—The British Brunswick Brandenburg Al- bum Dissappearance—individual recordings appear sporadically. Three of the six concertos are now available: No. 2 conducted by Stokowski, No. 6 by Wood, and the present No. 3. This particular work is perhaps the most popular of the set. Unlike the others it consists of only two movements (unless the two chords which Bach separated the two Allegros may be considered a rudimentary movement). The acoustical Polydor recording and perhaps the old H. M. V. set scrupulously retained Phrygian cadence of these two chords, whose only purpose would seem to be the momentary suggestion of a contrasting key. Furtwangler omits them; an academic sin per- haps, but hardly one that detracts much from our musical enjoyment. The music is pure Bach, and Bach in his more glowing and exuberant mood, staunch and vigorous in the first movement, more delicately merry in the second. Small wonder that after writing two such gloriously free-hearted pieces he could not find an Adagio that might fittingly be placed with them. Unlike a good many other composers he philosophic- ally accepted the impasse and let the work stand as it was. Furtwangler plays the music up to the hilt. His performance is typical of his matchlessly drilled orchestral playing, but it is considerably more than a superb bit of string choir virtuosity. Like Dr. Muck in his great days Furtwangler gets not only a machine-like precision from his men, an un- canny mastery of dynamic niceties, but through these externals he penetrates the very core of the music itself. Even and exact as the performance is, the reading might almost be called rollicking. At any rate in its very perfection of order it attains an unbounded freedom. A paradox'? No more than the paradox of Bach’s music itself, or the Empire State Building. The contrast that Bach wisely neglected to supply is of necessity provided by the odd side. The Rosamunde Entr’acte is as good a choice as any, but I do not suggest its being played in close juxtaposition to the concerto. Heard separately and after some interval of time it gives a great deal of pleasure by its ineffably delicate nuances and the cool purity of the orchestral tone coloring. (I be- lieve this same recording we released about a year ago by Brunswick, when it was coupled with Furtwangler’s recording of the Air from Bach’s suite in D. Strictly speaking it is the third Entr’acte in the incidental music of Rosamunde , not the second as labelled.) Franck and Schubert Sonatas Franck: Sonata in A , played by Alfred Dubois (violin) and Marcel Maas (piano). Columbia Masterworks Set 158 (4 D12s, Alb., $6.00). The international Columbia companies have been very liberal with recordings of the Franck sonata. Within a few months the present set was issued in Belgium, and another by Joan Massia and Blanche Selva in France. The British Columbia chose the latter for re-pressing, but American Columbia has selected the former. I can compare the Dubois-Maas version only with that played by Thibaud and Cortot for Victor as I have not yet heard the Massia-Selva or Suzuki-Gurlitt (Polydor) sets. Dubois and Maas are members of the “Court of Belgium” Trio which has lately given us a number of ably handled en- semble recordings; Dubois has also been heard in Belgian Columbia’s recording of a Vieuxtemps violin concerto. He is a dependable man—musician first and violinist second. His tone is neither unduly thin and intense nor ultra-luscious. His vibrato never degenerates into tremolo, and his interpreta- tions are invariably intelligently conceived and worked out with a minimum of external display. Maas gives him sensitive, modest collaboration. From the point of view of musicianship, then, the present set is quite irreproachable, and the recording itself is of very pleasing quality. The interpretative style is open to some question, however; a favorable reaction depends on the listen- er’s individual approach to Franck’s music. Dubois and Maas see only Franck’s sweetness and light. Their reading is poetically tender and the animation and gaiety that others find in the sonata falls beyond their delicately drawn interpretative scheme. Even the indubitable brilliance and rush of the Allegro is tempered to fit harmoniously into this scheme. The rippling piano passages are exquisitely limpid, the two instruments are blended graciously together, but there is none of rich sonority, crispness, and verve of the Thibaud-Cortot reading. According to one’s mood then the Dubois-Maas version may seem profoundly poetic or a bit languid and enervating, and the Thibaud-Cortot set in turn will seem some- what hard and flashy or vigorously brilliant. Both have the solid merit of consistency of mood and interpretative sincerity. Remembering the acoustical Columbia version, which this by Dubois and Maas displaces, it seems to me that Catterall and Murdoch combined the gravity and compassion of the Belgians