Willem Mengelberg, Vol. I;  Paul Tortelier   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL 78-819)
Item# C1733
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Willem Mengelberg, Vol. I;  Paul Tortelier   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL 78-819)
C1733. WILLEM MENGELBERG Cond. Le Grand Orchestre de Radio-Paris: Anacreon - Overture (Cherubini); Symphony in d (Franck); w.PAUL TORTELIER: Cello Concerto in b (Dvorák). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL 78-819, Broadcast Performance, 16 Jan., 1944, with most enthusiastic applause from the wildly ecstatic audience & Mengelberg’s vaguely audible comments to the Orchestra. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


“…Mengelberg…is the subject…devoted to late wartime French Radio Broadcasts that were discovered in, of all places, a flea market! The[se] 1944 recordings were taken down on acetate-covered aluminium Pyral discs…from 16 January opening with a red-blooded Anacreon Overture, followed a relatively young Paul Tortelier projecting at white heat onto Dvorák’s Concerto – a truly virtuoso account.”

- Rob Cowan, GRAMOPHONE, Awards Issue, 2009

“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

“Paul Tortelier, a French cellist known for his elegant, passionate playing and for his political idealism, spent most of his long career in Europe, where he was a professor at the Paris Conservatory, a busy soloist and an author. His master classes for the British Broadcasting Corporation attracted wide attention in 1964. Among his more notable pupils was the cellist Jacqueline du Pre. Mr. Tortelier, on the other hand, was busy in the United States both at the beginning and at the end of his musical life. In 1937, Serge Koussevitzky engaged him as a cellist for the Boston Symphony. From Boston he began an American solo career, including a 1938 Town Hall recital with the pianist Leonard Shure. A year later, Mr. Tortelier returned to France and remained. Early in the 1980's Mr. Tortelier returned to concerts in the United States, and after a 35-year absence he played in New York again.

Paul Tortelier was born in Paris in 1914 and won a first prize at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 16. His début came a year later at the Concerts Lamoureux. His international career had perhaps its biggest catalyst in 1947, when Sir Thomas Beecham invited him to play DON QUIXOTE for a Richard Strauss festival in London.

Mr. Tortelier acted out his beliefs, retreating temporarily from musical life in 1955 to spend a year on a kibbutz in Israel even though he was not himself Jewish. Mr. Tortelier married one of his pupils, Maud Martin, in 1946. They had three children, all professional musicians.”

- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20 Dec, 1990