C0005. KARL BOHM Cond. Vienna Phil.: Symphony #4 in B (Beethoven); Symphony #4 in d (Schumann); w.CHRISTA LUDWIG: Liedereines fahrenden gesellen (Mahler). (Austria) Orfeo stereo C 522 991, Live Performance, 17 Aug., 1969, Salzburg Festival. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy!
“A Böhm Schumann performance was always a rare event. When John Hunt published his Böhm discography in 1992 (in Mid-Century Conductors) there were just two entries under Schumann: a 1942 Dresden recording of the Piano Concerto, with Walter Gieseking as soloist, and the wonderfully gaunt and imposing account of the Fourth Symphony which Bohm made with the Vienna Philharmonic for DG in November 1978. Reviewing the LP in these columns in November 1980, I noted: 'Dr Böhm, in his 86th year, does not so much defy time as marvellously order and propel it'.
Alas, the performance has never appeared on CD. As one world-weary DG executive put it to me, with more than a touch of Schadenfreude, 'Karl Böhm died the day after his death’. Commercially, this may have been true, but my goodness how this 1969 Salzburg Schumann Fourth lives, moves, and continues to be.
The occasion of the recording was a concert in honour of Böhm's 75th birthday. (With a birthday in late August, he always had the Salzburg Festival at his disposal; the more cynically minded noted that he even contrived to die during the festival.)….the typically ascetic 1960s Austrian Radio recording robbing the Vienna violins of whatever bloom they currently possessed. That said, the tinder-dry sound is strangely apt to Böhm's Schumann Fourth, enabling it to burn quicker, and with an even fiercer heat.”
- Richard Osborne, GRAMOPHONE
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm débuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss's favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss's DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He débuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Following an apprenticeship in his native Austria, Karl Böhm was appointed, at the recommendation of Karl Muck, to be assistant to Walter at the Munich State Opera in 1921. He went on to become music director in Darmstadt in 1927, in Hamburg in 1931 and, with Hitler's approval, in Dresden, as successor to Fritz Busch in 1934. During his decade-long tenure he maintained Dresden's reputation for imaginative repertory, with performances of new works that included the premieres of DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU, 1935, and DAPHNE, 1938, an opera dedicated by Strauss to the conductor. From 1943 to the end of the war, he was director of the Vienna State Opera.
Privately no less than publicly, Böhm was a strong supporter of Hitler and National Socialism from 1933 on and gave the Nazi salute at the beginning of a concert. He subsequently not only was unrepentant but defiant, even, claiming that while other conductors took the easy course and fled, he stayed behind to suffer and be bombed with other Germans. After a two-year ban by occupation authorities, Böhm became conductor of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic.”
- Frederic Spotts, Great Conductors of the Third Reich
“There are great singers, and there are great artists. A great singer needs an exceptional voice, a masterful technique and the musicianship to conquer the most challenging repertoire. A true artist, of course, possesses these attributes, but there is something more - a soul-deep connection to the expressive content of the music; a sort of telepathic sympathy with the composer and a yearning to communicate that fire of inspiration to anyone who will listen. Christa Ludwig was blessed with all these things, and the opera world has been blessed in turn by her unerring ability to understand the characters she played, and to carry their joys and sorrows to the audience with such humanity and tenderness that we could not help taking her into our hearts. The beauty, warmth and radiance of her instrument seem inseparable from the beauty, warmth and radiance of the human spirit that breathes forth that wondrous sound. She made thrilling forays into dramatic-soprano territory, singing the Marschallin as well as Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER and giving performances of Leonore in FIDELIO that are now the stuff of legend. Perhaps most famously, she partnered her then-husband Walter Berry as the Dyer's Wife in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN.
Her Met début in 1959, as Cherubino, was not a great triumph, but by the time she bade farewell to the house, as Fricka in 1993 - her 119 performances of fifteen roles had made her one of the most beloved artists in the company's history.”
- Louise T. Guinther, OPERA NEWS, April 2014