Magazine article Czech Music

Wolfgang Sawallisch in Prague

Magazine article Czech Music

Wolfgang Sawallisch in Prague

Article excerpt

L. van Beethoven, A. Dvorak, P. Eben, L. Janadek, B. Martina, F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, W. A. Mozart

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Choir (choir master Josef Veselka), Milan 'lechta (organ), Josef Suk (violin), An nabella Bernard, Jana JoniAova, Renate Frank-Reinecke (soprano), Vera Soukupova (alto), Vojtech Schrenkel, Ivo Zidek (tenor), Jinchich Jindrak (baritone), Eduard Haken (bass), Wolfgang Sawallisch (conductor).

Text: English, German, French, Czech. Recorded: 1970, Smetana Hall, Municipal House; 1972-1987, Dvorak Hall, Rudollinum, Prague Released: 2013. IT: 339:40. 5 C:Ds Supraphon SU 4140-2.

Two decades will soon have passed since the German conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch (1923-2013) last performed with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he worked from May 1958 for no fewer than 38 years, at the time when he concurrently led the renowned orchestras in Philadelphia (1993-2003), Munich (1971-1992, Bayerische Staatsoper), Vienna (1960-1970, Wiener Symphoniker) and Geneva (1973-1980, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande). When years ago I read in Harmonie magazine an interview with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who praised Macker-ras for his erudite interpretation of Czech music, I immediately imagined Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sir Charles's older peer, to whose memory shortly after his death last year Supraphon dedicated a five-part anthology of live recordings from the Czech Radio archives. Besides Mackerras, Sawal-lisch was the only other holder of a "Czech passport". A listener, musician or critic may be an ardent champion of Czech interpretation of Czech music or an intolerant adherent of performance of early music on period instruments, yet they would be hard pressed to find words to reject or raise major objections to Sawallisch's approach to performing music spanning from Classicism to the middle of the 20th century. Perhaps his take on the slow movements of Mozart's and Beethoven's symphonies alone may remind us of the times of absolute dominion of infinite legato, yet otherwise the recordings, most of them released for the first time, are imbued with a noble sound (and in extremely high-quality recording). Now and then I hear criticism voiced of the Czech Philharmonic's interpretational habits during the Neumann era, yet when listening to the CDs I forget about it--so solid and, in places, highly inspired was the orchestra's playing under Sawal-lisch. With the exception of the recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 made at the Smetana Hall of Prague's Municipal House, all the other tracks came to life at the Rudolfinum, the Czech Philharmonic's home hall, whose acoustic qualities made the anthology even more timeless. The set is dominated by pieces from the Czech repertoire, as well as Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. The oldest recording, that of Beethoven's First (6/1970), oscillates between cantability and ceremoniousness, far removed from the bristly provocative performance of "conductors/ authenticists". As for Beethoven, the anthology also contains the Pastoral Symphony (10/1975), one of the reviewed album's apices, with repetitions in the first movement, legato in the second, a hymnic finale, precise phrasing, fine dynamics, a recording the Czech Philharmonic can still pride itself on today, one far eclipsing the older recording made under Kletzki (1965). December 1972 saw the coming to light of two live recordings which invite direct comparison with Mackerras's later studio recordings: Jangek's Glagolitic Mass and Martini's Field Mass. …

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