Julian von Karolyi;   Leo Blech     (Audite 95.640)
Item# P0872
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Julian von Karolyi;   Leo Blech     (Audite 95.640)
P0872. JULIAN von KÁROLYI, w.Leo Blech Cond. RIAS S.O.: Concerto #2 in e (Chopin); Leo Blech Cond. RIAS S.O.: The Great Symphony #9 in C (Schubert), Live Performance, 4 June, 1950, Titania-Palast, Berlin. (Germany) Audite 95.640. Final Sealed Copy! - 4022143956408

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“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 licences 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 fulfill 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. The conductor Leo Blech and the pianist Julian von Károlyi, whose live performance of the Chopin Second Piano Concerto given at the Berlin Titania Palast in 1950 is documented on this CD, are nowadays ranked amongst the greatest but unjustly forgotten interpreters of the 20th century. Blech, whose sophisticated mature reading of Schubert’s Symphony in C major, 'The Great' can also be admired on this recording, had been a leading German conductor since 1908 until he was pushed out of his post by the Nazis in 1937, due to his Jewish faith, and was forced to emigrate. Károlyi, a leading pianist of his generation in the 1950s, was later accused of being routine-driven. His masterful Chopin interpretation demonstrates, however, that his ability to combine musicianship and virtuosity is exemplary even today.

Julian von Károlyi made his 1926 début in Budapest with great success, gaining the attention of Béla Bartók who introduced him to Margit Varró who led his further education. Later he studied with Joseph Pembaur in Munich, from 1927 to 1930 as Gewandhaus Fellow at Max von Pauer at the Leipzig Conservatory, in 1931 Alfred Cortot in Paris, and finally from 1932 to 1934 with Ernst von Dohnányi at the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest.

His 1929 London début led him to a UK recital tour with Feodor Chaliapin. His international breakthrough was a highly successful recital at the Royal Albert Hall. From 1934 he performed regularly and played with the most prominent conductors and orchestras, including Berlin, Paris, London, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Stockholm, Helsinki, Riga, the USA, South America, the Middle and Far East and in almost all major German cities. In the early 1940's Károlyi settled permanently in Munich.

Julian von Károlyi had a brilliant technique and was one of the greatest virtuosos of his time. He became famous especially with the piano works by Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff, and from 1943 until the early fiftieshe recorded for the German Grammophon and in the years 1958-1960 for Electrola.

Leo Blech was a popular and prolific Victor artist in the 1920's and 30's whose career was wrecked by the Nazis late in life. It was resumed after the war, yet after a 20-year hiatus Blech seems to have attracted little notice outside of Germany, and his abundant shellac recordings were rarely transferred to newer media. These broadcast performances, made in 1950 when the conductor was 79, differ little in manner from records he made in the 1920's, which seems all to the good to those who prefer the grand old style to the desiccated internationalism that followed.

...the RIAS musicians respond to Blech with obvious enthusiasm...an orchestra more accustomed to being told exactly what was required of them struggling to follow the lead of a conductor accustomed to a more fluid working relationship with his players....the interpretations seem a throwback to the earlier times of Nikisch and Mahler, with untethered tempos, free rubato, and much striving for rhetorical effect: hoary old Leo Blech grabs the listener by the collar and never stops shaking. This can be exhausting in the long Schubert performance, which suffers by comparison to Furtwangler who used similar devices with a sense of control lacking here....But there is a poignancy about this late performance not to be gainsaid: it is not merely the survival but the positive assertion of 19th Century musical values in bomb-shattered Berlin. It was a bold thing for a Jewish conductor to return to Germany after the war (the story is well told in the liner notes) and Blech must have felt that he had important things to convey to a younger generation of listeners. In the Chopin concerto he finds a fit companion in the Hungarian pianist Julian von Károlyi who swoops and teeters and soars in the best old-fashioned virtuoso manner.

The broadcast sound is woolly, not much of an improvement on Blech’s early electrics, but the sense of occasion triumphs over all in this moving historical reissue.

- David Radcliffe, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2012