The IDIS label is oddly erratic; some of its recent issues, such as the
programme “Karajan Spectacular” have been excellent. Far too
others suffer from poor source material, carelessly re-mastered. For
their Barbirolli Elgar disc inexplicably gives us the first track of the
in mono before reverting to stereo. Then there’s the
which contains so many jumps and drop-outs.
This issue is less problematic although there are a few negligible drop-outs
such as at the beginning of the second movement of the Schumann symphony.
The sound overall is very hard and wiry with little depth. Some of that
is due less to the recording quality of the original tape than to the
fact that the VPO is on this occasion suffering from Knappertsbusch’s
notorious reluctance to rehearse. It really needed a warm-up; the strings
are often unpardonably screechy and approximate in intonation. There
isn’t too much distortion but the opening track begins abruptly,
missing any ambient lead-in. This suggests that the recording began
marginally later than the playing, so one wonders whether this is a
flaw in the original tape or yet another example of careless production
by the Milanesi engineering team. Similarly, the conclusion of the Strauss
tone poem is cut short before the final C major chord finishes resonating.
There is some pretty sloppy ensemble here, too, with timpani and strings
out of synch on the opening downbeat of phrases and a general sloppiness
in tutti passages. The lack of precision would no doubt have made Karajan
tut-tut; there is a near train-wreck around 16:00 into the Strauss towards
No; as much as I am a great Knappertsbusch fan this 1962 concert was not
finest hour for all that the audience applause is quite enthusiastic.
is compensating conviction and some powerful moments but for much of the
in the Schumann Kna sounds ponderous and even lumbering; this despite his
swift tempi. For much of the time it sounds to me as though the conductor
on autopilot. The first movement lacks lightness and flexibility of
This serves to accentuate bare patches in the composer’s writing
in less enlightened times exposed him to the accusation of being a poor
Having said that, the conclusion to the Strauss, despite the mess alluded
earlier, is arresting and the music still makes its impact.
There are far finer testaments than this to Knappertsbusch’s best
with the VPO from the 1950s and early 1960s, especially in their Bruckner
Masterwork Index: Schumann