Emanuel Feuermann - Unexpected Discoveries - The Complete Acoustic Recordings (1921-1926)   (4-WHRA 6042)
Item# S0816
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Emanuel Feuermann - Unexpected Discoveries - The Complete Acoustic Recordings (1921-1926)   (4-WHRA 6042)
S0816. EMANUEL FEUERMANN: Unexpected Discoveries – Rare 78s, Unissued Studio Recordings & Public Performances & Broadcasts, incl. Bach, Haydn, Beethoven,Schumann, Bloch, Bruch, Dvorák, Popper, d’Albert, Chopin, Sarasate, de Falla, Strauss, Cui, Reicha, etc. (E.U.) 4-WHRA 6042, recorded 1921-41. Transfers by Lani Spahr. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 5425008377957

CRITIC REVIEW:

“West Hill has taken a less compendious though strategically astute route in focusing on two specific areas of the cellist’s discography, namely the acoustic recordings of 1921 to 1926 and selected live recordings from 1938 to 1941. This doesn’t mean that other areas are overlooked. Rather between the cracks come some electrically recorded Berlin studio performances from the 1930s.

The most important thing to note is that eighteen pieces are making what West Hill states are CD premiere appearances - I have one small note to add to that in due course. Given that many of Feuermann’s London and American sides are well known and oft reissued – the Brahms Double with Heifetz, the chamber sides for Columbia and numerous others – this more systematic and focused look at his recorded legacy makes sense. Especially important are the acoustics, though not all are especially well recorded or indeed of huge musical worth, artistically speaking.

We open with two abridged movements from Haydn’s Concerto in D, recorded in Berlin in 1921. He was 19 at the time, a youthful prodigy of great promise, but the evidence of some gulped slides and strong rubati points to a transitional stage in his artistic development. Casals’ recordings of around the same time show a cellist in his maturity, and already formed as an artist – not surprising given that Casals was 39 when he first recorded. The Chopin Nocturne – with Max Saal’s harp accompaniment – fits comfortably into the salon bracket, but whilst the cellist’s legato is suave and nonchalant, he can’t muster Casals’ intensity or sentiment. With the addition of Frieder Weissmann at the piano – who’d conducted the Haydn – Feuerman unleashed a fragment (only) of his Zigeunerweisen adaptation. Thrilling – but better encountered in his electrical remake….Back to the acoustics in disc one. Parlophone re-recorded some items. The Mustel organ plus orchestra imparts a lugubrious quality, so the Schumann brace was revisited using just harp and Dominator harmonium – and issued under the same label number as before, as was so often the case, but in completely different (and better) performances….It’s only when one gets to Dvorák that one gets an inkling into the range of Feuermann’s instincts by 1924. The Rondo is abridged but he plays it adroitly, and then we hear an eight-minute abridgement of the slow movement from the Concerto. This was a work he was much associated with, and indeed he made the first recording of it in 1928-29….It’s not included in this box, but then we do have two live performances which should be compensation enough. One of the best things from the first disc is the last item, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, recorded in 1930 at a time of now full maturity. It doesn’t fit the rubric of the set, being neither acoustic nor live, but let’s not quibble. His instincts have tautened; his expressive gestures glint but are now firmly controlled. He refuses to indulge gauche extroversion; he deigns cheap gestures.

The second disc opens with a 1941 live performance of the Dvorák given with the Chicago Symphony under Hans Lange. This live off-air performance is making its first ever CD appearance and will be a central focus of interest for collectors, notwithstanding the other surviving documents that chart the cellist’s association with the work. Lange is rather at odds with his soloist. One senses this from the start where he indulges too much metrical freedom. Nevertheless Feuermann sounds rather freer than he had over a decade earlier in the Berlin studios when making that commercial set with Taube. It’s this lessening of constriction that lends distinction to this reasonably well preserved broadcast. Feuermann is scrupulously clean in his approach – no fake fingerings for him in this work. And though it would easy to be thankful that Toscanini didn’t conduct, which might have accelerated things exponentially in the slow movement, it’s worth pointing out that there were some Czech conductors of the time who shaped a very fast Adagio as well….The same composer’s Silent Woods and the Rondo – complete this time – are caught on the wing with Leon Barzin and the National Orchestral Association at Carnegie Hall in 1940. We also hear Bloch’s Schelomo – shimmeringly intense - with the same forces. Feuermann’s recording of this with Stokowski is rightly revered but it turns out that the cellist didn’t much like the work which caused him endless memory problems….That Barzin-conducted broadcast is a better index of Feuermann’s playing of the Concerto, indeed the best surviving example. It is architecturally powerful, tonally expressive, exciting and sensitive – and once again devoid of gestures that might draw the ear away from the true musical argument.

The third disc gives us yet another slow movement from the Dvorák – you can never have too much of a good thing in my book – this time with the efficient Frank Black and the NBC Symphony from February 1940. It’s followed by the d’Albert Concerto (Barzin, April 1940) which witnesses one of Feuermann’s amazing explorations of timbre and tonal variety, as well as seamless legato in pursuit of a rather uneven work. Another rarity, then as now, is Josef Reicha’s Concerto in A which the cellist encountered in a Philadelphia music library. There are some really tricky cross-string passages in the work and the Haydn contemporary clearly had an outstanding soloist to perform it. There are a few slips in intonation and absolute accuracy, though when one considers that this was a live performance and he was playing from the music, then that’s wholly understandable….Things that have never been available before however end this disc. There’s an excerpt from a live Town Hall broadcast in February 1941 of Beethoven’s Op 102, #2 sonata with Albert Hirsch. This is a very rough home recording but it’s the only surviving evidence of the cellist in this work. Two Kraft Music Hall items follow, live from Hollywood in 1940. Theodore Saidenberg is the well-known pianist. The whole of the on-air scripted banter has survived and is included. We hear Feuermann’s speaking voice too – along with his de Falla and Chopin Nocturne Op.9, #2 (a piece he’d played at his second ever acoustic session).

Along with the Barzin-directed Dvorák, noted above, the final piece in this 4 CD set is Strauss’s Don Quixote in the 1938 traversal with Toscanini. Opinion will doubtless rage between those who prefer it, or the 1940 studio recording with Ormandy….

This is a most impressive set….There is an excellent booklet note by Terry King and full discographic information. Given the availability on CD of much material previously unavailable in that medium, I can’t imagine how any true admirer of the cellist can overlook this box.”

- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWebInternational