C0126. OSVALD KABASTA Cond. Münchner Phil.: Coriolan Overture; Eroica Symphony #3 in Eb; Symphony #8 in F
(all Beethoven); Jupiter Symphony #41 in C, K.551 (Mozart); Symphony #3 in D; Symphony #5 in B-flat (both Schubert); 'New World' Symphony #9 in e (Dvorák); Symphonische Minutten (von Dohnányi); Impressioni Brasiliane (Respighi); Romantic Symphony #4 in E-flat; Symphony #7 in E; Symphony #9 in d (all Bruckner); Die Legende vom Prinzen Eugen (Berger); Forza – Overture; w.Rudolf Schöne (Vln): Serenata Notturna #6 in D, K.239 (Mozart); Albumblatt in C; Wesendonck Lieder - Träume (both Wagner); OSVALD KABASTA Cond. Vienna S.O.: Österreichisches Bundeshymne (Haydn). (France) 6-Dante LYS 419/24, recorded 1939-44. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 3421710464192
"As if the rediscovery of Hermann Abendroth weren't enough, yet another – a conductor whose background and artistry were strikingly similar. Born in 1896, Oswald Kabasta, too, rose through the ranks of the Austro-German musical order, emerging as the head of the Munich Philharmonic where he remained throughout World War II. But there, unfortunately, the parallels between their careers ended abruptly – Kabasta, accused of collaboration but unable to face the threatened ban on performing, killed himself in February 1946 at the tender age (for a conductor) of 51. Since then, he has sunk into obscurity.
Through a curious event, many of us knew Kabasta's art long before we had ever heard of him. In the late 'seventies, a sensational performance emerged on LP of the Dvorak 'New World' Symphony, boldly reconceived as deep melodrama and astounding in its drive and iconoclastic vision. At the time, it was attributed by several experts as a Furtwängler/Berlin Philharmonic concert from November 1941, and indeed it seemed to fit well with the blazing intensity of that conductor's other wartime work, fully reflecting his desperate agony in trying to preserve an oasis of German culture amid the horrors of Nazism. Along with many other devotees, I eagerly embraced the performance as not only the finest of all New Worlds but one of Furtwängler's greatest achievements. More recent research, though, disclosed the true source of the performance to have been a July 1944 broadcast by Kabasta and the Munich Philharmonic. (It's indeed odd, and perhaps highly revealing, that the Nazis, so precise in tracking grimmer matters, seem to have kept such shoddy records of their culture.)
I was astounded. If a virtual unknown could have unleashed such a staggering interpretation, what else had he done? Only recently has the answer emerged through a wonderful Dante LYS set that collects all of Kabasta's known recordings. Beyond that stunning 'New World', there are four other 1943 Kabasta/Munich tapings for radio broadcast – the Schubert Fifth, Beethoven 'Eroica' and Bruckner Fourth and Ninth Symphonies. All are magnificent and prove that the Dvorak was no fluke. The Schubert pulses with an undercurrent of dark emotion rarely heard in this light and fluffy score – the opening allegro is brisk but shadowed, the andante con moto shimmers with deceptive calm, the menuetto leaps out with sharp accents, and the final allegretto vivace hard-driven to the point of anguish. Kabasta's 'Eroica' brilliantly reflects the tension of Beethoven's struggle to inject his boiling emotions into the conservative structural roots of the symphonic genre, teasing us with an understated and dutiful allegro con brio, a thoroughly serious and hushed funeral march and a somewhat reticent scherzo, which then explodes into a stunning finale. LYS' 6-CD set of the complete recordings of Osvald Kabasta in which he creates a hugely dramatic contrast between the sections of repose and incisive vigor; it's as if Kabasta (and Beethoven) first had to trace and muster their sources and only then could open up with explosive creativity.
But the greatest find is Kabasta's Bruckner. Beyond that fine studio Seventh Symphony, we have stunning broadcasts of the Fourth and Ninth in which Kabasta brilliantly illuminates the totality of Bruckner's vision, adding his deeply personal impulse and insight while fully respecting the underlying structural design; the wondrous result is highly emotional, but thoroughly cohesive. Thus, in the Fourth, propulsive yet sensitive outer movements sandwich a resolute andante, whose calm is broken by huge dramatic thrusts that herald a breathless, sharp, fiercely-driven scherzo. For his Ninth he draws strength from the fragmentation of the materials, especially in the sprawling opening movement and a vicious, exhausting scherzo, fully reflecting the torment of its composer, who struggled over his final work for a decade as fear and illness placed its completion increasingly beyond his grasp. Indeed, the highest compliment I can possibly pay is to compare Kabasta's hyper-emotional conception to Furtwangler's own astounding 1943 performance, to which it is strikingly similar, and only marginally less inspired.
Other CD sets with some of these readings are available on Music & Arts and Tahra, but the full scope of this amazing artist's achievement (or as much as can be inferred from his few recordings) emerges best from the full LYS set. What a shame he couldn't have held on to overcome his despair; as we now know from the Teflon experiences of Bohm, Karajan and other Axis amoralists, Kabasta's career surely would have survived post-war inquiry. As it is, we can only infer from the gleanings of the little he left us the glorious concerts and recordings he would have bestowed over the decades to come."
- Peter Gutmann