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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28, TrV171 (1894-95) [14:30]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op.33 (1872) [18:33]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.77 (1878) [40:35]
Paul Tortelier (cello), Endre Wolf (violin)
London SO/Norman Del Mar (Strauss), Walter Goehr (Brahms)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert Menges (Saint-Saëns)
rec. 23 July 1954, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London; 25 & 28 August 1954, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London (Brahms); 16 September 1955, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
FIRST HAND RECORDS FHR58 [74:19]

The is the first of a projected series of early stereo recordings. It presents the first ever release of Norman Del Mar’s July 1954 Till Eulenspiegel with the LSO, the first stereo release of Paul Tortelier’s Saint-Saëns A minor concerto and the first stereo release (with a small caveat, noted below) of Endre Wolf’s recording with Walter Goehr of the Brahms Concerto.

Made for Music-Appreciation Records, an American concern, Del Mar’s Strauss recording was not issued, unlike the contemporaneous Beethoven Fifth that he recorded. A separately tracked buzzer alert is followed by two baton raps on the desk by Del Mar and orchestral tuning, itself cut off by somewhat annoyed-sounding raps from the conductor. The performance is heard to great benefit. The visceral immediacy of brass and percussion, in particular, is noteworthy and Del Mar, whose credentials as a Strauss interpreter, as well as a biographer, are high – he had conducted at Beecham’s Strauss Festival in London in 1947, with Strauss attending – directs with telling imagination and flair.

Tortelier had already recorded the Saint-Saëns a couple of years earlier in Zurich with the Tonhalle conducted by Goehr (there’s a CD transfer on Forgotten Records FR347) when he was asked to record it for HMV in London with the Philharmonia and Herbert Menges. The mono has been reissued before and can best be found on EMI 4768682. The difference in spatial balance between the mono and stereo incarnations is notable – the producer here was David Bicknell, the stereo balance engineer Christopher Parker (Douglas Larter dealt with the mono) - with the stereo being, as Tully Potter notes in the booklet, sympathetically drawn into the orchestral fabric and not spotlit, as was the case in the mono issue. If you know Tortelier’s later recording with Louis Frémaux and the City of Birmingham Orchestra in 1974 – it’s part of the vast Tortelier box on EMI 519444822 – you will know that there Tortelier rather tightened his approach to the Allegretto and pressed less hard in the finale.

The Brahms Concerto was one of two that Hungarian soloist Endre Wolf left behind. I reviewed the 1958 version with Anthony Collins some time ago. This Abbey Road recording was made, like Del Mar’s, for Music-Appreciation Records MAR15. I noted in the first paragraph a small caveat and it’s this: the last two movements are heard in stereo but the first movement, of which a stereo tape could not be found, is taken from the mono LP recording with the sound matched as far as possible with the stereo recordings.

There are few real differences between the two readings made just a few years apart – though Goehr is rather tighter in the first movement than Collins. As a footnote, it’s Collins who brings out orchestral counter-themes more audaciously. As with the Collins recording, Wolf reserves greatest vibrato intensity for the slow movement and he is appositely fiery in the finale. The matching of mono and stereo has been carried out impressively.

The excellent booklet notes include an essay by Tully Potter and original research by Peter Bromley with a listing of EMI binaural/stereo recordings and unreleased 1955 stereos.

Future releases are listed in the very full discographic sheets in the booklet and I won’t spoil your anticipation as to what they may be but the names of Hans Hotter, Harry Blech and Reginald Jacques appear.

Jonathan Woolf




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