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Eugen Jochum (conductor)
The Orchestral Recordings on Philips
rec. 1951-69
ELOQUENCE 484 0600 [15 CDs: 16 hours]

It hasn’t been possible to release a ‘complete’ Jochum Philips set, given that his operatic and choral recordings have already been issued on DG in their conjoined DG-Philips 38-CD box on 4798237, which is itself a sibling to the DG Orchestral Works box. But the next best thing is this 15-CD box from Eloquence that focuses on orchestral recordings, the vast majority of which document the conductor’s illustrious association with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

At the core sits the Beethoven symphonic cycle of 1967-69, the second of his three complete cycles and the midway point between the earlier Berlin Philharmonic-Bavarian Radio cycle of 1952-61 (DG 4740182) and the LSO cycle that can be found on the Jochum ‘Icon’ box (464 0042). This Amsterdam set is, by common consent, the most beautifully played and in many ways the most beautifully recorded – which is to say more beautifully recorded than the LSO, given that much in the DG set is in mono. What predominates in Amsterdam is radiant lyricism, each single movement throughout evolving at its own unforced but never sluggish tempo. The playing is the definition of eloquence, orchestral choirs are rich and rounded, and inner parts are superbly well-balanced (try the Larghetto of No.2). The Eroica reading is commanding but not pungent, and in terms of sheer fervour it loses something to the later LSO recording – indeed Jochum’s last cycle is consistently more dramatic than this one. The Eighth is, therefore, something of a surprise in its serious-minded authority.

The unexaggerated refinement of No.4 contrasts with the Seventh, which adopts Furtwängler’s tempi but without his phrasal elasticities or displacements; a much more equitable reading. The Fifth is consistently well paced and can be contrasted with the 1951 Berlin Philharmonic recording contained in CD 11 whose slow movement is significantly more relaxed than the tighter Amsterdam remake of 17 years later. The Pastoral is leisurely but characterful – the Concertgebouw winds could hardly be anything but – and the storm , whilst measured, is not timid. That said, I’d prefer Walter in Philadelphia, Weingartner, Toscanini or a number of others in interpretative terms to this Jochum reading. This leaves the Ninth, recorded over four days in 1969, with good soloists and straightforward, uncontentious direction.

CD 6 houses overtures and note that Leonore No.3 reappears in its 1969 remake on CD 7. Apart from marginal gains in recording quality what impresses is Jochum’s consistency of approach. The Consecration of the House overture gets a feisty, exciting performance and Egmont is compelling, so too Coriolan. Jochum’s daughter Veronica plays the First Concerto very adeptly, and classically, with the Bamberg Symphony in very good stereo. Together they also perform Mozart’s Concerto No.14, K449, touch-conscious and precise. The ‘named’ Mozart symphonies follow, back in Amsterdam in 1960-61, and here one finds the kernel of Jochum’s art; resilient, sensitive, phrasally ardent, but never exaggerated.

Two Fourths share disc space on CD 10; Schubert’s Tragic symphony and Schumann’s Fourth, as originally issued on LP and heard here in its first international CD release on Decca. This is something of an overlooked coupling, and well worth getting to know. Schubert’s Unfinished (coupled with the Berlin Beethoven 5 already noted) is rich and resonant and not granitic; my preference remains with Jochum’s Boston recording, which is special. The twelfth disc offers a veritable riot of Straussian duplication. For devotees of Don Juan and Till you have the 1952 and 1960 recordings of both. Note the timings; seconds apart; note the phrasing – nothing in it. Obviously, the stereo recorded sound favours the later recordings but I have a slight preference for the 1952 Don Juan; it’s just a touch more visceral and Jochum shows that you don’t have to be called Reiner, Kempe or Böhm to do these superbly well. The two sequences of Rosenkavalier dances complete this satisfying disc.

In December 1957 Jochum recorded a slew of Wagner in Munich with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He had staffed the front desks of the strings with members of the Koeckert Quartet, wonderful players all, and raised the level of the strings noticeably as a consequence. These buoyant, resilient and marvellously conceived overtures and Preludes pay high testament to the conductor’s collegial relationship with the orchestra. Jochum admirers and Bruckner collectors will know all about the recording of Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony made live in the Benedictine Abbey of Ottobeuren in Bavaria in May 1964. The recording marked the 1200th anniversary of the abbey and a photograph of the performance is reproduced in the booklet. The conductor knew the abbey well and had played the abbey organ when he was only twelve years old. He and the recording engineers did their best to mitigate the vast abbey acoustic and the work’s lyricism – remember, Jochum more than once said ‘Bruckner seemed to come naturally to me’ - emerges all the more affectingly. The fourth side of the LP contained performances by the abbey’s organist Adalbert Meier and these – Bruhns, Daquin, Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV541 - are faithfully included here too. This final disc ends with a final Jochum performance. This is of Rudolf Mengelberg’s Magnificat. He was a distant relation of Willem Mengelberg and by 1940 was director of the Concertgebow, the long-term conducting property of Willem. Between 1941 and 1943 Jochum came to know Rudolf Mengelberg well and first conducted the orchestra at this time. In fact, Jochum had first conducted the Magnificat in 1943 and so his 1952 recording is all the more authoritative. Annie Woud is the alto soloist in this spiritually charged miniature, where elements of Mahler and Puccini can be heard peeking through the musical curtains.

This is a marvellously conceived and executed box set. LP jacket miniatures house the CDs, and the box is sturdy and attractive. Niek Nelissen writes with his accustomed poise, balancing biography and analytic detail well. That he quotes so liberally from contemporary reviews in The Gramophone and The Penguin Guide is sure to enrage those Americans who get themselves into a lather about this kind of thing.

Clearly you can find the Beethoven cycle in a Philips box on 475 8147, a 6-CD affair that also contains some, but certainly not all, the overture recordings here. But pay a little more and you have access to a wealth of orchestral music that reveals once again – as if it were needed - just what a cultured, refined and eloquent musician Jochum was.

Jonathan Woolf

Bach, Johann Sebastian
Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV541
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Consecration of the House (Die Weihe des Hauses) Overture, op.124
Coriolan Overture, op.62
Egmont Overture, op.84
Fidelio Overture, op.72
Leonore Overture no.1, op.138
Leonore Overture no.2, op.72a
Leonore Overture no.3 in C major, op.72b
Piano Concerto no.1 in C major, op.15
Symphonies 1-9 (complete)
Symphony no.5 in C minor, op.67
Zur Namensfeier Overture, op.115
Bruckner, Anton
Symphony no.5 in B flat major
Bruhns, Nikolaus
Praeludium in E minor
Daquin, Louis-Claude
Noel no.10 'Grand jeu et Duo'
Mengelberg, Rudolf
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Piano Concerto no.14 in E flat major, K449
Symphony no.35 in D major, K385 'Haffner'
Symphony no.36 in C major, K425 'Linz'
Symphony no.38 in D major, K504 'Prague'
Symphony no.41 in C major, K551 'Jupiter'
Schubert, Franz
Symphony no.4 in C minor, D417 'Tragic'
Symphony no.8 in B minor, D759 'Unfinished'
Schumann, Robert
Symphony no.4 in D minor, op.120
Strauss, Richard
Der Rosenkavalier: Suite
Don Juan, op.20
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, op.28
Wagner, Richard
Der fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) Overture
Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg
» Prelude to Act 1
» Prelude to Act 3
Tannhauser Overture
Tristan und Isolde
» Prelude and Liebestod

Veronica Jochum von Moltke (piano)
Adalbert Meier (organ)
Annie Woud (alto)
Liselotte Rebmann (soprano)
Anna Reynolds (mezzo-soprano)
Anton de Ridder (tenor)
Gerd Feldhoff (bass)
Netherlands Radio Chorus
Bamberger Symphoniker
Berliner Philharmoniker
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

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