C0980. FERENC FRICSAY Cond. RIAS S.O., w.Tibor Varga, Géza Anda, Louis Kentner, Andor Foldes, Helmut Krebs, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, etc.: Ferenc Fricsay Cond Béla Bartók. (Germany) 3-Audite 21.407, recorded 1950-53, Berlin, partially Live Performances. Specially priced. - 4022143214072
“This set contains all the surviving RIAS recordings by Ferenc Fricsay of Bartók’s music (a 1958 recording of BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE was woefully destroyed). All the works listed above were recorded commercially by Fricsay and his orchestra for DG except the Cantata profana. The 1951 radio recording of this work has been issued before as part of a 1994 DG Fricsay Bartók collection in its 'Portrait' series. The sound in Audite’s transfer is a little clearer, though this strange, complex composition does need more modern, stereo sound. Fricsay evokes a pungently dark, heavy atmosphere in a performance whose only defect is that it is sung in German instead of the original Hungarian.
Though the radio recordings of the remaining works all date from 1950-53 they are all more than adequate in sound – sometimes they are startlingly good. Varga’s live recording of the Second Violin Concerto is the only failure in Audite’s set. The soloist’s playing is frankly very poor, since it is technically fallible, with bad intonation and an unpleasantly insistent, rapid vibrato, and as recorded Varga’s tone quality is squally and scratchy. (In their 'Portrait' issue DG offered Varga’s commercial recording, made some months earlier. Here the playing is more accurate, but the unpleasant vibrato and undernourished tone are again in evidence). It is a relief to hear Rudolf Schulz’s solo violin performance in the First Portrait, for he plays most beautifully.
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, with its separate instrumental groups, does really need stereo recording, but Fricsay’s lithe, intense performance is superlative. In common with the Violin Concerto the Divertimento performance derives from a concert performance, rather than one prepared in the radio studio. Fricsay uses a big string group and neither intonation nor ensemble are accurate, but the performance is characterful – strong, poetic and full of energy. In the Dance Suite Fricsay, as opposed to Doráti in his equally authoritative but very different performances, is more flexible, less insistent rhythmically, and his tempi tend to be a bit faster. Two equally valid views of this appealing work.
Audite’s third disc comprises works for piano and orchestra played by three pianists famous for their Bartók. Andor Foldes is given a forward balance in the Rhapsody, but not even his advocacy can convince me that this early, derivative work is an important item in the composer’s output. Géza Anda’s commercial stereo recording of the Second Concerto with Fricsay is familiar to Bartók admirers. In his 1953 performance the younger Anda chooses quite fast tempi in the outer movements, but Fricsay follows willingly, and the result is a fine combination of virtuoso playing and conducting. Both the poetic sections of the middle movement and its quicksilver elements come to life vividly. It’s good to have such an important souvenir of Kentner’s Bartók in the Third Concerto. He brings a satisfyingly tougher than usual approach to the work as a whole – nothing is ‘prettified’, and his performance and that of the orchestra are quite brilliant."
- Alan Sanders, CLASSICAL RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011
“This anthology of Ferenc Fricsay’s Bartók recordings for the RIAS Berlin documents, in a three CD series, a summit meeting of famous Hungarian soloists: the pianists Géza Anda, Andor Foldes, Louis Kentner and the violinist Tibor Varga. Fricsay’s time-tested and congenial vocal soloist, once again, is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
The project of a representative, possibly even complete, recording of Bartók’s oeuvre formed a part of Fricsay’s work from the beginning of his time in Berlin. These RIAS recordings feature almost exclusively Hungarian artists for the solo parts: a novelty at the time. In Fricsay’s view, Hungarian soloists were best suited to realising his precise concept of the close relationship between, on the one hand, Hungarian language and culture and, on the other, interpreting Hungarian music authentically. The only exception is Fischer-Dieskau, whom Fricsay much admired. This compilation from 1951 until 1953 includes all surviving Bartók recordings from the RIAS archives with Fricsay. It begins with Op 1, the Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (1904) and conceived in an entirely Hungarian idiom, and goes via the expressionist, agitated Deux Portraits, Op 5 (1907-08) and the powerfully optimistic Dance Suite (1921) up to the masterworks of the 1930s: the neo-baroque influenced Second Piano Concerto (1930-31), the archaic, fairytale-like and darkly coloured CANTATA PROFANA (1932), the splendid Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1935), the lucid Second Violin Concerto (1937-38) and the mysterious Divertimento of 1939 with which Bartók marked the beginning of his inner farewell to Europe. Even today, more than 60 years after these recordings were made, Fricsay’s intensity is perceptible for the listener as an existential experience – both in the impetus and the positive power of the rhythm, and also in the mysteriously resigned and ironically contorted moments in this music which is so rich in nuances. This was made possible by the cooperation with other world-famous alumni of the Budapest Music Academy where Fricsay had himself studied: the pianists Géza Anda, Andor Foldes and Louis Kentner, as well as the violinist Tibor Varga. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau joined Fricsay as a soloist in the opera BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE and the CANTATA PROFANA. His singing (albeit in German) congenially corresponded to Fricsay’s ideal of dramatically thrilling and passionately precise Bartók interpretation.”
“Audite's historic archive releases enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide. The high quality of their content is due to their long-term cooperation with radio archives, permitting a continuous exploration of archive collections. The high sound quality of the releases is achieved by using only original tapes from these archives. Audite acquires licenses from the broadcasting companies even for public domain archive recordings. In addition, there is the process of re-mastering using numerous new technological post-production possibilities to achieve optimal sound quality while, at all times, remaining faithful to the principles of historical documentation. Only those productions which fulfil all these criteria are labelled with Audite's seal of quality, ‘1st Master Release - Original Tapes’. Audite is, in every aspect, oriented towards high quality.”
- Zillah D. Akron