Erich Röhn (1910-1985) was one of the Berlin Philharmonic’s eminent concertmasters, succeeding Siegfried Borries in 1941 when the latter was poached by Karajan to take the similar position with the Preussische Staatskapelle Berlin across town. His broadcast with Furtwängler of the Beethoven Violin Concerto has survived, has been reissued a number of times, and is deservedly admired. I should add that whilst Röhn’s son Andreas was a good violinist, his grandson Daniel is even better and I remember reviewing his Claves CD
with much pleasure.
The broadcasts here were made in Berlin between 1942 and 1944. The main work is the Bruch ‘in G minor’ in which the Grosses Berliner Rundfunkorchester is directed by Hanns Steinkopf. Fortunately this is yet another sophisticated broadcast recording in which the soloist is placed quite close to the microphone. This ensures that his slightly nasal tone, chiselled and razory, can be heard to its full extent. The orchestra is rather lumpy, occasionally lurching when accompanying, but recovering for the tuttis. Röhn has few technical problems but his endemically fast vibrato limits breadth of tone, vital in the slow movement, and together with the non-committal conducting, lends the performance a very uneven impression. Still, it is good to hear the violinist in another major concerto.
Beethoven’s Romances are difficult pieces to bring off, but the Op.50 goes well in this performance from the same forces, given a few days later. The orchestral basses are certainly more audible now, and whilst there are a few ungainly, gulped slides from the soloist, this is a very effective traversal. Vivaldi’s Concerto for three violins is one of those friendship concertos that inspires colleagues to play together. Here Röhn is joined by Rudolf Schultz and Georg Kniestadt with the support of leading accompanist Michael Raucheisen. His piano sounds a touch muddy and it’s undeniable that the ensemble between the three fiddlers is sometimes a bit hit and miss in the ensemble passages, but there’s real esprit here. Especially nice are the ‘orchestral’ pizzicati behind the solo line in the central movement. Kniestadt, born in 1895, had a well-known quartet with whom he recorded and he also made solo discs on 78 for Polydor and Grammophon. Schulz, born in 1911, made post-war recordings for Urania, as well as discs for Odeon and Clangor on 78.
Schubert’s Rondo for violin and strings is given with colleagues from the Kammermusikalische Vereinigung der Berliner Philharmoniker – the chamber wing of the orchestra – and they display style and stylistic awareness of this little-performed piece. Raucheisen’s piano can be heard at its best in Beethoven’s Rondo in G major where he and Röhn – still astringent as ever – offer a slightly acerbic reading.
The notes are good, and the re-mastering highly sympathetic to the source material. This is a well-conceived and executed disc, revealing the variety to be heard on German radio stations of the time, and broadening one’s perception of Erich Röhn as soloist and chamber player.
Previous review: Stephen Greenbank
Masterwork Index: Bruch violin concerto 1