In 1942, Wilhelm Furtwängler enthusiastically welcomed Gerhard
Taschner, then aged eighteen, as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.
He arrived on the recommendation of another great German conductor,
Hermann Abendroth. Taschner had already gained a reputation as a brilliant
young violinist and was thus afforded the honour of leading the renowned
Born in 1922, in what is today Krnov in the Czech Republic, Taschner
studied the violin from an early age with his grandfather. He was
regarded as something of a prodigy, performing the Mozart A major
Concerto at only seven years of age. He later went on to study with
Jeno Hubay in Budapest, and then with Adolf Bak at the Vienna Conservatory.
He also had private tuition from Bronislaw Huberman. Running parallel
with his Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster duties, he forged a career
as a soloist and as a chamber musician formed a piano trio with Walter
Gieseking and Ludwig Hoelscher.
After the deaths of Georg Kulenkampff (1948) and Adolf Busch (1952),
Taschner assumed the mantle of Germany’s leading violinist.
He took to the road as a soloist, preferring live music-making to
studio recording. This may account for the fact that he soon disappeared
from the collective memory. Only now, and over the past few years,
is his work being reappraised and promoted by such enterprising labels
as MDG, Tahra and Archipel. He ended his career as professor at the
Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. He died in 1976 at the age of fifty-four.
The two violin concertos presented here showcase the soloist both
in terms of technique and musicianship. In the Mendelssohn concerto
Taschner strikes exactly the right mood. Playing with good tempi,
he emphasizes the lyrical aspects. Aside from a few intonation issues
which, to my ear, tend to err on the sharp side, his technique enables
him to deliver a credible performance. The second movement is marred
somewhat by some pretty ungainly, anachronistic downward slides. These
are probably a legacy of Huberman, one of his teachers. His spiccato
bowing in the third movement is clean and crisp. Fritz Lehmann and
the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra provide admirable support.
Likewise in the Tchaikovsky Concerto, there is no doubting that Taschner’s
technique is up to the job. However, he lacks the tonal opulence of
the likes of Heifetz or Oistrakh. The performance is hindered by the
rather pedestrian and uninspired conducting of Arthur Rother. In the
third movement, Taschner does not employ the Auer cuts which, to my
mind are an improvement on the original, rescuing the movement from
much unnecessary repetition.
It is a bonus to have a 1943 performance of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen
with Michael Raucheisen to add to the 1952 performance with Hubert
Geisen on the piano (MDG 642 0985).
All three works on this CD have been released before in much improved
transfers. The Mendelssohn was issued in 1997 on a two-disc set entitled
‘Gerhard Taschner. Portrait of a Legendary Violinist’
(EMI 7243 5 66524 2). The Sarasate can be found on a two-disc set
from Tahra (TAH 350-351) in better sound. The Tchaikovsky Concerto
was issued on a now deleted and hard-to-find set issued by Archiphon
(ARC-128/129) in 2001. The sound is clearer, sharper and much more
defined. For my money this set offers some of the best of Taschner,
in excellent transfers, for those wishing to explore the legacy of
this fine violinist. If you are lucky enough to find a second-hand
copy, as I did, snap it up, you won’t regret it.
It is commendable to see MDG’s enterprising spirit in continuing
to promote Taschner’s work. Liner notes by Norbert Hornig set
the scene rather well. My reservations about the transfers should
not deter violin buffs from exploring this issue and Taschner’s
take on two of the staples of the concerto repertoire.
Masterwork Index: Mendelssohn
concerto ~~ Tchaikovsky