C0662. RUDOLF KEMPE Cond. RIAS S.O.: Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune (Debussy); Symphony #33 in B-flat, K.319 (Mozart); w.Gerhard Taschner: Violin Concerto in b (Pfitzner). (Germany) Archipel 0400, Live Performance, 17 April, 1955. 4035122404005
“One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique. He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting début came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHÜTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at Covent Garden (1953), and at the Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth début until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf. Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of LOHENGRIN, DIE MEISTERSINGER, and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs.”
- James Reel, Rovi
“Taschner was born in Krnov, Czechoslovakia, of Moravian origins. After studying with his grandfather, he played Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto at his début in Prague, when aged only 7. He studied with Jenő Hubay in Budapest 1930-32, and with Bronisław Huberman and Adolf Bak in Vienna. At age 10, he played three concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Felix Weingartner. By age 17, having undertaken tours in the United States and Germany, he was concertmaster at the City Theatre of Brno. In 1941, still aged only 19, he was chosen by Wilhelm Furtwängler as Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, while also forging a solo career. He attracted immediate attention, and his portrait was used on advertisements for the orchestra's upcoming programs. In the dying days of the Second World War, the sacked German munitions minister Albert Speer devised a plan to protect the players of the Berlin Philharmonic from the invading Soviet forces. They would play a concert under Robert Heger and then be whisked away to a safe location out of Berlin. Gerhard Taschner played the Beethoven Violin Concerto. At the end of the concert, however, the players voted to remain in Berlin, in solidarity with their patrons, who were unable to escape. However, Taschner left in a car driven by Speer's chauffeur, taking with him his wife, two children, and the daughter of another musician. They took refuge in Thurnau. From 1946 to 1950 he lived in Rüdesheim am Rhein.
After the War he joined the pianist Walter Gieseking and the cellist Ludwig Hoelscher in a celebrated piano trio. He also played the violin-piano repertoire with Gieseking and Edith Fernadi and the concerto repertoire under conductors such as Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, Joseph Keilberth and Carl Schuricht. He was mainly responsible for making Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D minor known in Germany, having had the score made available to him by the Soviets. In 1947 he made only the third recording of the work, after its dedicatée David Oistrakh in 1944 and Louis Kaufman in 1946. Wolfgang Fortner dedicated his Violin Concerto to Gerhard Taschner. He premièred it in 1947 and went on to become its greatest champion. Fortner also dedicated his Violin Sonata to Taschner. In 1948 Taschner played the Dvořák Violin Concerto in Vienna under Leonard Bernstein, who declined to invite him to the United States at that time.
His personal nature was difficult and uncompromising, often leading to irreparable rifts with students, peers and others. He had very strong and inflexible ideas which sometimes put him at odds with conductors and composers. In 1944 he suggested to Jean Sibelius that the final movement of his Violin Concerto in d be played more slowly than the composer had indicated; a suggestion not taken up by Sibelius. During a rehearsal in the late 1940s, he and the conductor Herbert von Karajan were unable to agree on some matters of artistic interpretation, which led to Taschner storming out of the rehearsal and refusing to play the concert; the two never played together again. In 1950 Taschner was appointed a professor at the Musikhochschule in Berlin. He also concertised internationally; in South America he was dubbed ‘the Manolete of the violin’. In Europe, he was seen as the successor to Adolf Busch, Huberman and Fritz Kreisler.
A back condition caused his withdrawal from the concert platform in the early 1960s when still aged only 40. He continued to teach and play chamber music, and served on various competition juries such as the 1957 Henryk Wieniawski Competition in Poznan; the 1957 and 1959 Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris, the 1960 Paganini Competition in Genoa and the 1963 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Gerhard Taschner died in Berlin in 1976, aged 54.”
- Zillah D. Akron