KNAPPERTSBUSCH - Complete RIAS Recordings 1950-52

KNAPPERTSBUSCH - Complete RIAS Recordings 1950-52
HANS KNAPPERTSBUSCH - The Complete RIAS Recordings 1950-52 - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - 5 CD Box-Set - 4022143214058 - Released: November 2010 - Audite 21405

Haydn: Symphony No. 94
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 (live and studio recordings)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8, Symphony No. 9 (live and studio recordings)
Nicolai: The Merry Wives of Windsor Overture
Johan Strauss II: One Thousand and One Nights Intermezzo, Die Fledermaus Overture, Pizzicato Polka
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite
Komzak: Bad'ner Mad'In (abridged)

Most collectors of vintage fare will be unable to resist this very special box. In 2009 Audite created a sensation with a 12 CD collection of Wilhelm Furtwängler's broadcasts with the BPO for RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) between 1947 and 1954. This, (and the present set) were the first recordings made from the original master tapes. The resulting audio quality is far better than we have any right to expect. Compare the same Knappertsbusch performances of Bruckner 8 and 9 previously issued by Music and Arts (in an all-Bruckner box of 3, 4, 5, 7-9) to appreciate the difference that access to master tapes can make.

Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was a grand original; a conductor of unique and persistent insight. Truly beloved by the great orchestras of Germany and the Vienna Philharmonic, his rugged appearance was matched by earthy wit. He once referred to a hostile critic as a, 'Kathedralehundpisser' (dog that urinates on the cathedral). He never joined the National Socialist Workers Party and survived the personal enmity of Adolf Hitler. Because he conducted the BPO on wartime international tours, Knappertsbusch was still subject to de-Nazification hearings after 1945. He never performed in America. Knappertsbusch was a renowned conductor of Wagner. His 1962 live recording of Parsifal from Bayreuth is still considered by many critics to be the finest on disc. The RIAS recordings present the enigmatic element of this conductor. A great Knappertsbusch performance was not necessarily a great performance per se. But our appreciation of the music can be enhanced by a defiantly original interpretation and he was originality personified. These recordings are invaluable because there is little enough to be had from this source.

Knappertsbusch was notoriously averse to rehearsal and preferred orchestras of long acquaintance that knew what he expected. It might be said that he was, like Anton Bruckner, 'a glorious primitive'. A distinguished Brucknerian, he never warmed to Symphonies 1, 2 or 6 and insisted, to the end of his days, in conducting the truncated Schalk edition of the Fifth. It is not possible to ascertain exactly what edition Knappertsbusch was using in the present performance of the Eighth. Like the Schubert pair of Eighths included here, the performance must yield to Furtwängler's RIAS accounts. Knappertsbusch makes amends with handsome versions of Bruckner's Ninth. His Haydn and Beethoven are entirely predictable for the time and place. But Kna could also be a fun guy as the light music here attests. In all respects this is a successful collection because he was Hans Knappertsbusch and this is the way he did things and aren't we lucky to be able to hear it now?

Stephen Habington - January 2011