Superb Late Matacic
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 07/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lovro von Matacic (1899-1985) was a superb conductor in both symphonic and operatic repertoire. Of Yugoslav descent, Matacic was educated in Vienna and was eventually named conductor of the Berlin State Opera (1956-8), general music director at Frankfurt (1961-65), and guest conductor at La Scala. He conducted regularly with the Vienna Symphony, which honored him with its Bruckner Ring in 1981. He also conducted frequently with the Czech Philharmonic (Matacic was reportedly the favorite conductor of nearly everyone in that orchestra). With the latter he made some superb studio recordings for Supraphon: Bruckner's 5th & 7th, Tchaikovsky's 5th & 6th, and a brilliant Beethoven Eroica. Two of his finest live concert recordings with the Czechs were a moving Bruckner 9th (Supraphon) and an utterly brilliant Smetana Ma Vlast (available in Japan on a Sardana CD). Judging from his superlative recording of the Prokofiev 1st Violin Concerto with Kogan (Testament), Matacic was also an adroit accompanist. Among his many great opera recordings is the EMI Pagliacci with Corelli - he also conducted what is arguably the greatest of all Lohengrins with Sandor Konya (Golden Melodram).
Matacic was one of several outstanding conductors who were egregiously overlooked by EMI in its Great Conductors of the 20th Century series of CDs. But then, he had some pretty distinguished company in that omission: Abendroth, Mengelberg, Knappertsbusch and De Sabata weren't included either.
This Orfeo CD contains live performances with the Vienna Symphony from 1983 (Haydn & Schubert) and 1984 (von Einem). The Haydn Drumroll is a bit slow and hefty and is probably the closest thing to what the work might have sounded like under Klemperer (the latter never recorded it). The Schubert 8th is both dramatic and tender - an outstanding account. I was not previously familiar with the Bruckner Dialog by Gottfried von Einem and, unfortunately, the CD notes provide nothing but data on the conductor and the orchestra. It's obviously a modern, rather abstract work - but there are several passages that sound as if Bruckner were being paraphrased, and a theme from the sketches for the finale of Bruckner's Ninth is quoted verbatim. A few moments even suggest what Bruckner himself might have composed had he lived into the 20th century. An abstruse but fascinating work that lasts 16 minutes - it's well worth making an acquaintance.
This CD is a delightful souvenir from an under-rated conductor.