NEWSLETTER, No. 41                       APRIL, 1990

& CONTINUED IN Nos. 37, 39, & 40.

MAX BRUCH (1838-1920)
   Violin Concerto #1, Op. 26. Sunday, October 27, 1940 (Guila Bustabo, violin). FMB cites date of Nov. 27, 1940, which Steffen corrects to Oct. 27. EP).

   Anacréon, Overture. Monday, April 19, 1943. Performed in a radio broadcasting studio. Steffen states that previously assigned date of April 15, 1943, is incorrect. FMB.

   Piano Concerto #1, Op. 11. About 1935 (Emil von Sauer, piano). Not listed FMB. Existence doubtful.

   Piano Concerto #2, Op. 21. FMB cites different dates on different pages for the same recording: Friday, April 9, & Monday, April 19, 1943. The first date was always cited in the past. (Theo van der Pas, piano).

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
   Fantaisie, 1889 (Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra). Thursday, October 6, 1938 (Walter Gieseking, piano). FMB. [P].

   Ciaconna gotica (Gothic Chaconne). Thursday, March 25, 1943. FMB.

   S. #7 (De Zuiderzee/"Zuider Zee Symphony"). Sunday, December 8, 1940. FMB. [P]. Mengelberg introduced this symphony to the world, Amsterdam, season of 1917/1918.

ANTONIN DVORAK (1841-1904)
   Concerto for Cello, Op. 104. Sunday, January 16, 1944, radio concert, Paris, France. Paris Radio Orchestra (Maurice Gendron, cello). Not listed FMB. [P]. This recording does exist, contrary to doubts.

   Concerto for Violin, Op. 53. Thursday, March 25, 1943 (Maria Neuss, violin). FMB. [P].

   S. #9 ("From the New World"), Op. 95. Thursday, April 3, 1941. Hubert Wendel states that this "concert performance" is actually dubbed from the recording that Mengelberg, about April, 1941, made for Telefunken (SK-3190/4). Not listed FMB.

CESAR FRANCK (1822-1890)
   Variations symphoniques (Symphonic Variations). Thursday, October 31, 1940 (Walter Gieseking, piano). Previously assigned date of Oct. 13, 1940, is incorrect, states Steffen. FMB. [P].

   S. in D Minor. Thursday, October 3, 1940. FMB. [PP].

EDVARD GRIEG (1843-1907)
   Peer Gynt, Suite #1, Op. 46. Monday, April 19, 1943. Performed in a radio broadcasting studio. Steffen states that previously quoted date of April 15, 1943, is incorrect. FMB. [P]. Can Philips be persuaded to publish it?

   Peer Gynt, Suite #2, Op. 55. Sometime in 1938. Not listed FMB. I have from NOS a letter, August, 1986, which states that it does not hold this recording. [P]. Genuine?

   Messiah: "Hallelujah Chorus." Saturday, May 7, 1938 (Toonkunstkoor). FMB. This midday concert celebrated 50 years of the Concertgebouw (the concert hall, not the orchestra). Other pieces were played; but of the Messiah, apparently only this was performed. [P].

PAUL HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
   Violin Concerto, C sharp Major. Thursday, March 14, 1940 (Ferdinand Helmann, one of the two First Concertmasters of the COA). FMB.


     HYPERION KNIGHT (1720 E. 116th Place, No. 12; Cleveland, Ohio 44106) gives combination lecture-recitals on "The Lost Art of Interpretation," reviews records for the magazine The Absolute Sound, & seeks to expand his collection of Mengelberg’s recordings.  He writes, "It might be worthwhile adding that I would welcome correspondence from anyone in raising Mengelberg’s public profile."

     W. R. SCHELTEMA. "In fact, I have all Mengelberg CDs known to me, including Violin Concerto with Szekely.  A most ungenerous CD -- no additional works.  Still, valuable document nevertheless, & the transfer is as good as I have heard."

     IN NEWSLETTER, #35, p. 4, I remarked that Bryan Crimp’s notes for the five disc set of concert performances conducted by W. M. (Curtain Call, No. 234) contain errors.  These are the two in the fifth paragraph of the notes.
     (A) Mengelberg did not conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1920.  He first conducted it on November 10 & 11, 1905; & not again until January 31, 1922.
     (B) Mengelberg was never Musical Director of the New York Philharmonic (-Symphony) Orchestra.  For the nine seasons that he conducted the orchestra, he was called either “guest conductor" (season of 1921/1922) or "conductor" (the remaining eight seasons).

     D.  S. QUACKENBUSH. "Last night I listened with a fresh pair of ears (through my headset-AKG) to Leo Mack’s P. M. 4 [Dvorak’s S. #9: NEWSLETTER, #24, p. 6].  As you know, with a headset, all the minute imperfections--attendant surface noise become magnified--especially when I play a record flat, without my equalizer. . . . .  I have not played the record since Leo sent me a copy, so it was a fresh approach.  The contrast between PM-4 & Leo’s first transfer was dramatic.  The first LP of the 'New World’ was dreadful & shocked me.  I tried everything to pull out a treble & it was impossible.  First, I must say that the Mengelberg interpretation is the very finest 'New World’ I have ever heard.  The English horn obbligato brought tears to my eyes.  When Leo generated a new tape, he insisted that the heavy filtering must not be used.  The Telefunken hiss & swish are there.  I sat in Leo's living room & listened to three playings of the 'New World’ & a side-by-side comparison with the first trial (test) pressing.  To my ears, Leo captured all of the sonic qualities of the Telefunken 78 rpms.  He did a superb job of joining sides & the pitch was exacting.  (I sounded the Steinway for a test.)  Leo was happy with the second 'go’ at the New World,  but it took powerful exercise of persuasion to effect the change & I know he worked long & hard on the second tape.  At this point of time I can only say I’m thankful to have a copy: I know I’ll never see a copy of the original 78 rpm shellacs." (Mr. Quackenbush’s interesting description & comments contradict my complaint, made in the aforesaid issue of NEWSLETTER, that Mr. Mack’s second transfer also lacks treble.)

     H.  KERSHAW, writing of Olin Downes (a music critic of The New York Times, 1924 to 1955, for most of those years that newspaper’s chief critic), remarks that Downes "had no right to call Mengelberg 'an animal.’"  (Does anyone know when he said this, in what circumstances?)  Miss Kershaw writes that another sufferer at Downes’s "hand was Henry Hadley .. . ," the American composer, who from 1920 to 1927 was an Associate Conductor of the NYPO.
     YES, Mengelberg was "an animal."  We all have within us an animal; any person of notable achievement will harbor no little animal, the sole question being does it eventuate in something worthwhile.  When Downes in 1930 expressed his hatred of Furtwängler, telling Suzanne Bloch, the composer’s daughter, "Take that swine’s picture away from there!",* did not Downes show us his animal?  (*Daniel Gulls, Furtwängler & America, p. 27, Footnote 3.  Furtwängler’s photograph stood on Miss Bloch’s piano.)

     S.  BUSH. "My friend did extremely well in Amsterdam. A good copy of 'Over Willem Mengelberg’ by Miss Heemskerk plus a 1931 biography by Edna Sollitt.  Lot of translating ahead!  Is Edna Richolson Sollitt’s book the Dutch translation, entitled Mengelberg, of her Mengelberg & the Symphonic Epoch, published New York City, 1930?]
     "I spent a very interesting & enjoyable two weeks in the German Democratic Republic in February [1988], sponsored by the British Council.  There wasn’t a lot of time but I did manage to get some time to look in music shops.  No sign of W. M. but I did buy an interesting new biography of Furtwängler published in Leipzig recently.  There are production problems with records & tapes [which will soon be solved, what with the reunification of Germany].  The quality ('Eterna’) is excellent but demand far outstrips supply.  There was a very interesting second hand record shop in East Berlin but I couldn’t carry 78s so didn’t want to torture myself!  I was taken to two excellent concerts, in Rostock (with the local Philharmonic) & E. Berlin Schauspielhaus) . . . .
     "I also spent a week in Stuttgart with my wife’s folks.  Two visits to the Staatsoper there also.  So I did very well.
     "Have you come across the young conductor Simon Rattle?  He reminds me of M.  Took over the Birmingham S. O. at 25 & has turned it into one of the best orchestras Europe.  He has been in the States with them recently."

     T. VARLEY writes of the differences in sound between the Philips Mengelberg Compact Discs (NEWSLETTER, #35, p. 4) & of the preceding long playing issues.  “I wouldn’t call the difference between the Philips CDs 'great’ but it is appreciable.  More detail be heard, especially in quieter passages.  This, of course, could be attributed quality of the cartridge used on the LPs.  I do think the equalization is better on the CDs.  I’d had the Turnabout pressing of the Mahler 4th & the slow movement (on CD) is much more expressive.  Every inflection, every pizzicato stands out.
     "The Rachmaninoff 2 & 3 [Curtain Call CD-250: NEWSLETTER, #37, p. 4] finally arrived shortly before I moved, to mixed reviews.  There seemed to be more dropouts in the first movement of #3 than I recollected & there were more clunkers in the final pages of the last movement.  No. 2, on the other hand, is much superior to the LP transfer Discocorp issued about 2 years ago.  Again, as on the Philips series, the CD reveals much greater detail (including a lot of coughing, etc.)--a wonderful performance.  #3 is, as you know, one of the most exciting performances of the work you’ll ever hear but the flaws stand out more than I remembered.  Maybe the CD reveals things too clearly & it sounded better under a hissy, click filled haze."
     THE Philips series on CD, of which Mr. Varley has just written, first published in Japan, (NEWSLETTER, #35, p. 4), was also issued in the Federal Rep. of Germany, France, The Netherlands, Great Britain, & presumably elsewhere in Europe.  PETER DeVERE sends the enthusiastic review--more correctly, essay--of André Tubeuf (Diapason=Harmonie, May, 1986, pp. 105-107).  Monsieur Tubeuf writes on p. 106 that the composer Alfredo Casella "bestowed on Mengelberg this exceedingly rare praise of a creator for an interpreter: in his time he was the only one who had this creative imagination, which raises the interpreter to the level of the author, & makes good any deficiencies of the latter."  The French critic quotes (p. 107) the late Dutch soprano Jo Vincent, born March 8, 1898, lived in retirement in the South of France, & died November 27, 1989.  Mengelberg "had me take the train to rejoin him in Switzerland on New Year’s Day.  Scarcely off the train, I had to sing Schubert for him for hour on end . . . .  And how he accompanied [at the piano]!  I almost fled in the wee hours of the morning.  My fiancé was waiting for me in Holland! . . . .  Mengelberg believed.  And everyone about him, musicians & audience, was impelled to believe as he did.  This fervor, this faith.  Do we have any of it today?"

     R. W. HAYDEN sends David Hall’s favorable comments, Stereo Review, Nov., 1987, p. 183, on Claudio Abbado’s recording, Deutsche Grammophon, of Beethoven’s 3rd & Coriolan O., in the course of which he writes, "The real high point of the disc, however, is a stunningly powerful reading of the great Coriolan Overture, as stirring a reading as I have heard since legendary Mengelbery of the early 1930s."
     DR. HAYDEN also sends Richard Taruskin’s lively essay on authenticity in musical perfomance, printed in Opus, Oct., 1987, pp. 31 43 & 63.  On p. 40 he sympathetically analyzes, as an example of what is the antithesis of performances of that piece today, the marked changes of tempo in Mengelberg’s Telefunken recording of Beethoven’s S. #1.  On p. 39 he draws this conclusion. "A Karajan performance, or a Solti (or to go back a bit, a Reiner or a Szell) is far more like a Toscanini than anyone’s is like a Mengelberg.  The latter’s tradition is dead (& undoubtedly due for an 'authentic’ revival)."

     H.   KERSHAW. "I did want to mention one other thing. 'Ovation’ magazine, Dec. 1986 issue, featured a long article & interview with Leonard Bernstein.  I’ll quote a paragraph.  "'Restudying Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony early this summer Bernstein erased all the marks he had previously learned from Serge Koussevitzky & others -in search of something personal, honest & new.  In subsequent performances of the piece with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood & a cross-country tour with the [New York] Philharmonic he polarized critics. . . . .  But not since Mengelberg has a conductor had such a personal musical vision & the courage to carry it out. "

     BILL ZAKARIASEN, writing High Fidelity*, Dec., 1986, p. 77, reviews 5 of the 14 CDs of Mengelberg's concert performances that Philips published: BEETHOVEN'S S. #7 & 8 (416 204-2) $ #9 (416205-2); FRANCK’S S. in d & STRAUSS’S Don Juan (416 214-2); MAHLER’S S. #4 (416 211-1); SCHUBERT'S S. #8 & 9 (416 212-2).  "Listeners who are partial to the unique Mengelberg style (& even those who emphatically are not) need no introduction to these performances.  Mengelberg was a law unto himself, & there was scarcely a score that emerged from his scrutiny without cutting or revisions to tempo, phrasing, & orchestration.  He was definitely not a conductor for purists, but the purists themselves had to admit that he was one of the great podium geniuses of all time.  Moreover, he hewed the Concertgebouw into an instrument of rare perfection of response (. . .).
     ". . . . Included are definitive readings of the Beethoven Eighth & Don Juan (notably superior to their studio counterparts), a most illuminating Franck Symphony, & a classically inimitable Mahler Fourth.  On the debit side are some infuriating idiosyncrasies, mainly the patently absurd treatment of the last few chords of the Beethoven Ninth.  Never mind- these performances remain compulsory listening. . . . .  Philips CD processing [the analog to digital transfers done in Japan] hasn’t removed the surface noise of the original discs, but otherwise the sound quality is markedly improved, especially with regard to the defective dynamics that plagued the original issues. . . ."  (*High Fidelity ended publication with the issue for July, 1989.)

     RICHARD OSBORNE, in the English monthly Gramophone, July, 1984, p. 120, writes of M.‘s recording of Mahler’s 4th.   "Nowadays, Mengelberg’s performance sounds immensely daring: daring in its unabashed control of every germinal strand of the music, daring in its wide tempo variations, many of them in the score, others there by implication; daring in the use of rubato & in the unusually refined use of string portamento.  No modern recording, not even Karajan’s (DG) or Abbado’s (also DG), has string playing with the superfine silken sheen of the Concertgebouw players on the 1939 recording . . . ."

     Advertisement of Philips in Gramophone, Feb., 1990, p. 1486: Bartok’s Violin Concerto #2 (Székely, for whom it was written), CD 426 104-2; & Mahler’s 4th, CD 426 108-2.

     NEWSLETTER, #40, p. 3, I wrote that Fanfare prints two "opposing reviews" of the same recording. JAMES NORTH, who contributes to Fanfare, corrects me.  " Fanfare of ten publishes multiple reviews of important items, but not necessarily 'opposing’ reviews. . . . . Just two different reviews."

     THE Illinois radio stations WNIB, Chicago, & WNIZ, Zion, on the program "Past Masters," July 27, 1985, played Beethoven’s 1st, recorded by the N. Y. Phil .-Symph. O./Mengelberg.  The same program broadcast M.’s recording of Brahms’s Academic Festival O., with attractive commentary of Fred Heft, Aug. 17, 1985.


     NEWSLETTER, #28/29R, p. 3, line 1, should read “Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5" (not #4).
     NEWSLETTER, #32, p. 3: paragraph 4, "Three days before the concert" should read "Four days . . . .” & in paragraph 5 the vote is not "89 for & 49 against" but 82 for & 49 against.
     NEWSLETTER, #40, p. 2, gave an example of a polemicist (Professor Egon Gartenberg) whose polemics so beguiled their author that he fell victim to a false story: namely, that at the same concert, Oct. 23, 1904, first Mahler & then Mengelberg conducted the former’s 4th S.  The captivating story owes to Alma Mahler Werfel! who tells it in her Gustav Mahler: Memories & Letters (N. Y. City: Viking Press, 1946), pp. 67 & 68.  I was recently astonished to discover that I had quoted from it in NEWSLETTER, #2, p. 2 (published in 1971).  The correct account appeared in NEWSLETTER, #34, p. 4.  By 1972 I was suspicious of Alma Mahler’s recollection, which suspicions were strengthened when I questioned that year the late Miss Heemskerk, who answered that if the story is true the printed program for that concert will not confirm it.  In the following years I collected enough reviews of that concert to conclude that Alma Mahler Werfel's memory had played her false.
     NEWSLETTER, #40, p. 2, raised the question as to the genuineness of the recording, attributed to Backhaus & W. M., of Liszt’s Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Tunes.  Michael G. Thomas, in his notes accompanying his publication of the performance (NEWSLETTER, #40, p. 3), writes that the recording "derives from a tape in the archives of Polish Radio.  Its date is c. 1942/43.  Dr. Weber, the archivist, tells me that the tape box bears the inscription 'Backhaus/Mengelberg’ & the orchestra is assumed to be that of Radio Breslau."  The German city Breslau is today in Poland, & called Wroclaw.  Since Mengelberg last conducted in Germany in 1942 (Heemskerk: Over Willem Mengelberg, p. 132), the performance, if genuine, cannot be later than that year.


     Pleasant listening & a promising Spring wished to Members.

Ronald Klett, March 27, 1990

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