P1037. FRIEDRICH GULDA: Beethoven Program (w.Böhm Cond.). (Germany) Archipel 0277, recorded 1953/’54. Final copies! - 4035122402773
“Friedrich Gulda, an iconoclastic Austrian pianist and composer who was as renowned for his jazz performances as for the intellectual clarity of his Bach, Mozart and Beethoven interpretations, rebelled against the formalities of the classical music world in grand and often comical ways. In the 1950s, he began sitting in with jazz bands - sometimes celebrated ones, like Dizzy Gillespie's - while he was touring as a recitalist and concerto soloist. By the mid-1950s he was including jazz improvisations on his recital programs, and by the early 1970s he was refusing to announce his recital programs in advance. He reportedly once performed a concert in the nude.
His eccentricities had a marked effect on the classical side of Mr. Gulda's career: he went from being a pianist once described by Harold C. Schonberg in THE NEW YORK TIMES as ‘a continuation of the great German traditions of piano playing exemplified by Schnabel and Backhaus’ to one with a small but devoted following.
Although it often seemed that he had torpedoed the classical side of his career with misguided antics, Mr. Gulda usually gave the impression that his rebellion was rooted in deeply held principles. Having accepted the Beethoven Bicentennial Ring from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1970, he quickly reconsidered and returned it, citing his objections to the conservativism of classical music education.
Still, listeners who kept tabs on Mr. Gulda through his recordings were rewarded by illuminating performances in which the elucidation of musical structure was prized over virtuosic flashiness. His recording of both books of Bach's ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ on the Philips label is highly regarded among collectors and he was represented by two volumes in the Philips Records ‘Great Pianists of the 20th Century’ compendium. Typically, his installments included George Shearing's ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ alongside the Chopin Ballades and a Beethoven concerto.
His interest in jazz blossomed in the 1950s as well. Although he had performed improvisatory jazz informally during his earlier American tours, in 1956 he made a celebrated debut at Birdland in New York. He also performed at the Newport Jazz Festival. He started several groups of his own, from small combos to a big band, the Eurojazz Orchestra. In 1968 he established the International Musikforum, a school for students who wanted to learn improvisation, in Ossiach, Austria.
He never abandoned classical music, but he insisted that his jazz and classical performing be regarded as equal aspects of his musical personality, with composition often bridging the two. His discography frequently drove home that point.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 29 Jan., 2000
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm débuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss's favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss's DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He débuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com