London Office lOa Soho Square

London, W.I

Vol. XV


Edited by


Telephone Gerrard 2136, 2137

Telecrams Parmaxto, Rath, London

MAY 1938

No. 180


THERE was a melancholy appropriateness in the publication last month of Haydn's Military Symphony played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Bruno Walter on three H.M.V. discs and on two H.M.V. discs Wagner's Rienzi Overture, played by the Boston Promenade Orchestra under Fiedler. Had one desired a tragic farewell to Vienna one might have chosen the Funeral March from the Eroica, but most of us will prefer the mood of the Haydn Symphony. This was the music of a century when England and Austria were so often comrades in arms, and i t may a~tually have been written when Haydn was living at I Bury Street, St. James's. Certainly i t had its first performance in London. We can think of the . devoted EIssler copying i t out on bleak March days of 142 years ago, and how little would EIssler and his master have imagined the possibility either of the symphony's being recorded or of the absorption of Austria in Germany. The one eventuality would not have seemed less fantastic than the other. Vienna, the capital of Europe, to rank below'the King of Prussia's Berlin! And when this splendid new recording of the Military Symphony was played the next work was the Rienzi Overture, which, after due apologies have been made to the great tribune, and a word of excuse to Wagner himself, did sound after the Military Symphony a little too like the fanfares of Hitler's voice. I hastily repeat that I am not for a moment suggesting that the Rienzi Overture is as loud or as harsh or as empty as that, but coming on top of the Military Symphony it did seem to possess an uncanny appositeness. Let us hope that the publication of that superb performance of Brahms's Tragic Overture with Toscanini conducting was not an omen of the immediate future.

My conscience smites me now for having thus associated the Rie'nzi Overture with Hitler, and I must make what amends I can by bowing down before the recording of the Prelude and Liebestod played by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Furtwangler, on two H.M.V. discs. We have had many recordings of the Prelude and Liehestod, but this seems to me to be so much the best we have had that there need be no hesitation in saying i t displaces all the others, and i t is safe to prophesy that i t will be a long time before we get another as good. And as much can be said for the Columbia recording of Finlandia played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham, on a light-blue disc. In the days when Finlandia and the Valse Triste were the only music of Sibelius the recording companies thought we could enjoy, we had numerous recordings of Finlandia by orchestras, military bands and organs, the invaluable Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music notes a dozen and then adds " etc." This latest recording to my mind is an easy first. I was delighted too by Weingartner's handling of the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms's Fourth Symphony, on five Columbia discs. I should not care to say positively at present that I prefer it to any other recording of the Fourth Symphony, and at the moment the necessary time is lacking to compare it with the rest. So far as I remember Weingartner has hitherto conducted only the First Symphony for the gramophone, but he has all the qualities for the ideal conductor of Brahms. I suppose readers will consider me a heretic for saying so, but I was disappointed with Toscanini's handling of Brahms until that superb Tragic Overture made me think I must have been wrong.

The first symphony of Brahms we had for the gramophone was the Second. I think i t must have been conducted by Landon Ronald. It was so long ago, gramophonically speaking, that i t is not noted in The Gramophone Shop Encyclopaedia. We thought Brahms very stiff going in those days! By" we," I mean myself and many of our readers. . . . I have just searched through back volumes of THE GRAMOPHONE and it was Landon Ronald. The recording was published in September, 1924. I find myself writing of Brahms, " we need no longer approach his melodies as if we were coming within range of a tiger's claws. It is not to be expected that in the present state of recording a Brahms Symphony is going to be as successful on the gramophone as one of Tchaikovsky's, and no doubt i t was the thickness of the orchestration ' that prevented our having a Brahms Symphony