Ferenc Fricsay in Rehearsal

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: TDK
WORKS: Vltava
PERFORMER: South German RSO
CATALOGUE NO: DV-DOCFF

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Looking gaunt and haggard after a major operation, and not a little like the older Furtwängler, Ferenc Fricsay sculpts a fiery, if surprisingly Germanic reading of Smetana’s tricky tone poem. He talks a great deal and sings even more by way of demonstration, rehearsing fast and concentratedly with a manner more affable than his reputation suggests.

There’s even a joke about a rainbow flirting with its own tail to explain the wind duets at the start of the piece. Only talking among the players is pounced on instantly (‘kindly don’t interrupting my working tempo’). We get about 40 minutes’ worth of rehearsal, concentrating on the opening, the rustic wedding dance and the reappearance of the VyŽehrad motif at the work’s climax.

Fricsay uses some visual images to point up sections of the music, but mostly his comments are allied to notes and playing technique. The detail is fascinating, bears repeating and makes you want to seek out instant comparisons. The concert performance at the end achieves all we have seen Fricsay ask for, although it’s a shame that its two most successful parts, the ‘night’ scene and the storm, have not been seen in rehearsal.

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This is black-and-white 1960 TV in grainy mono sound, with some intrusive knob twiddling at loud climaxes during the concert. The biographical note in the booklet is quite good, but since the DVD runs for less than an hour, the lack of supporting material is even more regrettable than usual. Mike Ashman