Beethoven, Dukas, Hindemith, Kodály, Mozart, Shostakovich, Johann Strauss II
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75109 2 (2 CDs) Duration: Reviewed: August 2002
Great Conductors - Ferenc Fricsay
Reviewed by Bill Newman
This is by far the most impressive in the GC first issues. The entire programme consists of live performances of recognisable Fricsay repertoire, given new musical treatments compared to the studio recordings.
Dukass Sorcerers Apprentice (1961) shows clearly that Toscaninis very fast approach is not always the favoured one. Fricsay is just as exciting, with some wonderful pictorial touches that make even Stokowski sound slightly amateurish. Kodálys Dances of Galánta (1961, Vienna Philharmonic) is absolutely stupendous. The rubato sounds typically Hungarian, mind-boggling in its sensuous suggestiveness, with pregnant pauses that make one sense what will follow next.
Shostakovichs Symphony 9 (1954) rivals Mravinsky. The piquancy of phrasing builds up to stretches of huge hilarity a send-up of Stalin and all his nasty gang. There are many wondrous touches. Hindemiths Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber is gigantic, almost monolithic when it builds to an overwhelming climax in the Scherzo (1952). Only one other performance is as commandingly obsessive: Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt and the NDR Symphony Orchestra.
Beethovens Leonore III Overture and Eroica Symphony (1961) sweep the listener up in a maelstrom of endless excitement and passionate commitment. Both are unconventional in their approach because the slowings have little to do with the faster episodes yet sound connected by a common feeling of loving devotion and symbolic belief. By the end ones senses have been strung out to screaming pitch and the body made quite limp.
Some relief is brought by lighter fare: Johann Strausss Artists Life and Mozarts Cosi overture (1950/1), yet even these have something unusual to offer, in the sense of fresh discoveries.