Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic on DG

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93
Violin Concerto in D*

Wolfgang Schneiderhan (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra*
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karel Ancerl

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2002
CD No: DG 463 666-2

It will be the 1955 mono recording of Shostakovich 10 that collectors will want. The stereo Stravinsky from 1962, beautifully recorded and naturally balanced, is let down by a soloist who is rather anonymous, and questionable in rhythmic impropriety, phrasal stress and intonation. Ancerl and the Berliners certainly provide an interesting and disciplined accompaniment, one that draws attention away from Schneiderhan.

Ancerl’s view of the Shostakovich, composed in 1953, is contemporary with the recordings of Dmitri Mitropoulos (Sony) and Efrem Kurtz (Testament). Ancerl’s is perhaps the most focussed as an interpretation, less subjective than Mitropoulos, more intense than Kurtz. The flowing tempo for the opening ’Moderato’ is nicely judged, the tripartite exposition seen whole, swathes of emotion integrated into the overall design. The playing is superb in terms of ensemble and characterful in the many solos. Shostakovich’s personal idiom of introspection, despair and white-hot energy seem second nature to the Czech Philharmonic and its then Chief Conductor.

Following the arch-like first movement, its burning climax unflinching and encompassed in a single sweep, the ’Scherzo’, whether portrait of Stalin or not, is among the fastest ever recorded. In itself it’s thrilling, a testimony to Ancerl and his Orchestra’s abilities, yet the terror of the music is diminished. The ambiguities of the ’Allegretto’ are well conveyed; the joy (forced or otherwise) of the finale offers liberation from earlier darkness.

The recording (made in Munich’s Herkulessaal) sounds slightly older than 1955 – the brass is well captured, the strings less so, double basses being a little murky. The ’Finale’ seems texturally more vivid. All the details are there to be heard. As I said, this is a collector’s item.

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