C0267. CARL SCHURICHT Cond. London S. O.: Tragic Overture (Brahms); Variations & Fugue on a Theme by Hiller (Reger), Live Performance 31 Jan., 1964, Hornsey Town Hall, London; SIR ADRIAN BOULT Cond. New Philharmonia Orch.: Grosse Fuge in B-flat, Op.133 (Beethoven), Live Performance, 19 Aug., 1968, Royal Albert Hall, London. BBC Legends 4213. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 684911421323
“The Brahms and Reger pieces were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra for the BBC Transcription Service. Although without an audience, these appear to be ‘straight-through’ performances for the microphones. The sympathetic acoustic of Hornsey Town Hall lends an immediacy and clarity to the sound that is faithfully relayed here. Brahms’s Tragic Overture is a given a spacious, trenchant and expressive performance, Schuricht eliciting some concentrated and tonally beautifully playing that doesn’t inhibit the directness of either the music or Schuricht’s purposeful and satisfying view of the score.
Having Schuricht conduct one of Reger’s major works is of considerable importance. Quite why Reger (1873-1916) is so dismissed in some quarters is a mystery. He was a remarkable musician - as composer, pianist, organist and teacher - and packed a great deal into his short life. He was a prolific composer, as the opus number assigned to the Hiller Variations testifies. Fecund imagination and contrapuntal mastery informs Reger’s commentaries on Hiller’s jaunty tune. Reger unleashes much that is virile, beautiful, witty, brilliantly inventive and superbly composed; the culmination is an extensive Fugue to complete a 40-minute masterpiece that is here given a thoroughly convincing performance by a well-drilled LSO playing with confidence, commitment and incision under a conductor who really knew his way through it. The recorded sound complements Reger’s complex but never forbidding invention.
Sir Adrian Boult also studied with Reger and was a devotee of Nikisch. While Boult is, thankfully, no stranger to BBC Legends, it’s good to find him presiding over another fugue, Beethoven’s monumental and ‘contemporary’ (Stravinsky) Grosse Fuge, the original finale of the B flat String Quartet, Opus 130, which of course is often now restored to honour the composer’s intentions. It’s quite a shock to be thrust into the cavernous ambience of the Royal Albert Hall (before the acoustic ‘mushrooms’ were installed!), the orchestra distant but still lucid. The important bass line has foundation and Boult conducts with authority, ensuring clarity of entry, weight of tone and integrity through the work’s sections. In music designed for four players the use of full strings does detract from the ‘struggle’ that a quartet would undergo to sustain the work; that said, conductors such as Furtwängler and Klemperer left us hefty and intense accounts, and Boult’s conducting is equally impressive, fully revealing the music’s ‘madness’ as well as its astonishing construction. This is a very welcome addition to Boult’s discography and the pairing of him and Schuricht in this repertoire adds up to a most desirable release enhanced by excellent stereo sound faithfully restored for compact disc.”
- Colin Anderson