Great Conductors – Ferenc Fricsay

0 of 5 stars

Ferenc Fricsay
Beethoven, Dukas, Hindemith, Kodály, Mozart, Shostakovich, Johann Strauss II
Recorded 1950-61

Reviewed by: Bill Newman

Reviewed: August 2002
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75109 2 (2 CDs)

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.

Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1961) shows clearly that Toscanini’s 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. Kodály’s 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.

Shostakovich’s 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. Hindemith’s 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.

Beethoven’s 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 one’s senses have been strung out to screaming pitch and the body made quite limp.

Some relief is brought by ’lighter’ fare: Johann Strauss’s Artist’s Life and Mozart’s Cosi overture (1950/1), yet even these have something unusual to offer, in the sense of fresh discoveries.

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