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Violin Concerto Op.64 [26:21]1
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto Op. 35 [32:38]2
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Gipsy Airs/Zigeunerweisen Op.20 [8:08]3
Gerhard Taschner (violin); Michael Raucheisen3 (piano)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Lehmann 1
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Arthur Rother 2
rec. 21 August 19531 , 11 April 19482, 4 December 19433

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 orchestra.
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.
Stephen Greenbank  

Masterwork Index: Mendelssohn concerto ~~ Tchaikovsky concerto