P1034. WALTER GIESEKING, w.Mengelberg Cond. Concertgebouw Orch.: Concerto #2 in c, Live Performance, 31 Oct., 1940; Concerto #3 in d, Live Performance, 28 March, 1940 (both Rachmaninoff). (Germany) Archipel 0104. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 4035122401042
“Willem Mengelberg, like Henry J. Wood, spent half a century with an institution classifiable as a national monument: from 1895 to 1945 he was music director of...the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Like Arthur Nikisch he was an early example of the commuting conductor and regularly departed Holland 1907 to 1920 for concerts in Frankfurt.
Mengelberg remained in Europe after 1930, recording for Columbia until the Depression cut into recording budgets, then for the German firm Telefunken. With the coming of the war Mengelberg accepted the Nazis…to conduct and record – meanwhile saving at least sixteen Jewish members of his orchestra and…defying the ban on playing Mahler.
Dr. Berta Geissmar, Wilhelm Furtwängler’s Jewish secretary, has written in TWO WORLDS OF MUSIC about the kindnesses extended by Mengelberg on her Amsterdam visits in the late Thirties, and there are other examples of his natural non-partisan good-heartedness. Politics bored Mengelberg….He lived, in a sense, on his own special island, a monarch among invaders as well as a prince among friends….his soul was drenched in music. With virtually every performance he was living in the music’s lining and hurling himself at the barricades of interpretation....It’s not surprising that Otto Klemperer, rejected by the Third Reich, conducted a memorial concert for Mengelberg in Amsterdam shortly after his death.
Perhaps a clue to Mengelberg’s wartime indiscretions, sinful and virtuous, may be found in a character summation supplied by one of the wisest ever of conductors’ wives, Doris Monteux. As she writes in IT’S ALL IN THE MUSIC, Mengelberg was ‘one of the most fascinating personalities I ever met; he was at the same time kind and generous, unkind and small, bombastic yet gentle, childishly naïve, foolishly proud and pompous yet ridden with a feeling of unworthiness, religious yet at times positively hedonistic. Truly a more complex character never lived’.”
- Arthur Bloomfield, MORE THAN THE NOTES
“It was with the repertoire of French masters that the German pianist Walter Gieseking became most famous. The impressionistic piano writing of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel required the most sensitive touch and attention to color and nuance, and Gieseking's finger acuity, imaginative pedaling, and above all, preternaturally alert ear made him an ideal interpreter of this music. Nevertheless, his own repertoire ranged widely across eras and national boundaries. Under the tutelage of Karl Leimer, he made his début in 1915. Gieseking was drafted into the German army a year after his first public performance but escaped combat by performing in his regimental band. After the war, he undertook the the life of a working musician, accompanying singers and instrumentalists, playing in chamber music ensembles, and working as an opera coach. He could hardly avoid the heady artistic atmosphere of postwar Germany, and he became an advocate of new music, playing works by Schönberg, Busoni, Hindemith, Szymanowski, and Pfitzner, whose Piano Concerto he premiered under Fritz Busch in 1923. Subsequent débuts in London (1923), the United States (1926, Aeolian Hall, New York), and Paris (1928) were highly acclaimed, with audiences and critics responding enthusiastically to Gieseking's subtle shadings and contrapuntal clarity.
The Second World War brought controversy to Gieseking: like many other artists who remained in Germany during hostilities, he was accused of collaborating with the Nazis. His 1949 Carnegie Hall engagements caused such an uproar that they had to be cancelled; but he was eventually cleared of all charges by an Allied court in Germany. His concert career resumed with the success it had formerly enjoyed. To this activity he added a heavy schedule of recording, committing to disc the complete solo piano music of Mozart and the Beethoven concerti, as well as complete sets of Debussy's and Ravel's piano works. At the time of his death in London (26 October, 1956), Gieseking was engaged on a project to record all the Beethoven piano sonatas. His recordings of Debussy and Ravel are regarded as benchmarks for every subsequent performer.”
- Mark Satola, allmusic.com