Symphony No.39 in E flat, K543 conducted by Erich Kleiber (1927), Felix Weingartner (1928) & Josef Krips (1947)
Symphony No.40 in G minor, K550 Sir Thomas Beecham (1937), Wilhelm Furtwängler (1948/9) & Richard Strauss (1927)
Symphony No.41 in C, K551 (Jupiter) Arturo Toscanini (1945) & Bruno Walter (1938)
Die Zauberflöte, K620 Overture Toscanini (1938) & Walter (1928)
Reviewed by: Bill Newman
Reviewed: February 2003
CD No: ANDANTE 1982 (3 CDs)
The violent viewpoints among classical conductors from different countries and training grounds may provide startling food for thought, yet it clearly shows that eight challenging outlooks do not clarify anyone’s choice of interpretation in such purity of inspiration.
Felix Weingartner, in Symphony No.39, must surely have been trying to get results from the Royal Philharmonic Society musicians (not the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, founded 1946, as Andante has it) but it all sounds rather dull and prosaic, too correct for the betterment of Mozart’s understanding with record collectors. Erich Kleiber, on the other hand is far more classically persuasive, with a nice degree of balance between sections and great sensitivity to the refined scoring. Josef Krips arrived promptly on the scene to boost the depleted confidence of the London Symphony Orchestra, making it – almost overnight – an international brigade to be reckoned with. Decca’s advanced range recording, and Krips’s esteemed Mozartean approach (vis-à-vis his Vienna State Opera connections) did the rest.
Symphony 40’s masterly visions and tighter construction pose even greater threats to conductors. Sir Thomas Beecham with the LPO sees it as an expression of dramatic cogency, with important signposts for winds, brass and strings. Richard Strauss, with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, has an aura of age-old aristocracy firmly in mind, but leaving Mozart’s masterly score in embryo doesn’t always give credence to his brilliant, volatile personality. Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Vienna Philharmonic possess the mystery of the occult fused with the unexpected outcome. Inspired overall, adjusting wandering pitch fluctuations caused by an irregular, sporadic electrical mains supply in Electrola’s studios, required literally hours of correction by myself and transfer engineer David Martin at Abbey Record Studios, whereby subsequent transfers could be made from the copy tape.
Bruno Walter’s Mozart is famed and highly praised. I have no arguments whatsoever with his view of the Die Zauberflöte overture (with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra) or the Vienna recording of the Jupiter. The latter expresses his relaxed yet passionate feelings for Vienna in her greatest years, with the Vienna Philharmonic’s ’white’-sounding (little vibrato) strings in perfect accord, merging with wind harmonies that are out of this world. Arturo Toscanini’s stricter phrasings and purer classical approach for both works have their supporters – but at the expense of bonhomie.