Brahms • Saint-Saëns • R Strauss
R Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel; Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1; Brahms: Violin Concerto
Endre Wolf (violin); Paul Tortelier (cello); LSO/Norman Del Mar, Walter Goehr; Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert Menges
First Hand Records FHR 058 74:19 mins
The early stereo era of the mid-1950s seems to have reaped a rich harvest of recordings that for various reasons were either not commercially released at the time, or appeared on very obscure labels in mono sound. Their first appearance on CD therefore is of considerable historical interest, and it’s particularly pleasing to report that most of the transfers have great immediacy and warmth.
There seems to be no obvious reason why a July 1954 recording of Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel with the LSO under Norman Del Mar never made it to the record shops. It’s possible that it was rejected because there was no time to correct a slightly fluffed horn entry at 9:11. Yet in all other respects, the performance is exciting and strongly characterised, Del Mar negotiating the twists and turns in Till’s risky adventures with great aplomb. The sound too has considerable presence, the only snag being a slight flutter when flutes and clarinets sustain quiet chords.
Even more compelling is Paul Tortelier’s 1955 recording of the Saint-Saëns First Cello Concerto which appears for the first time here in stereo. Little need be said about Tortelier’s masterful interpretation, which must rank amongst the most satisfying of this much-recorded work. The sound, however, hardly betrays its age, achieving tremendous breadth and depth, with an ideal balance between the soloist and the hugely responsive Philharmonia Orchestra under Herbert Menges.
Sound quality, unfortunately, is more of an issue in Endre Wolf’s warmly delivered 1954 recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto, the main problem being the rather recessed bass line in the orchestral accompaniment.