Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, Richard  Strauss|
Karl Böhm Conducts Mozart and Strauss [Box Set]
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Listen to Samples
An Outstanding Böhm Retrospective
Johannes Climacus | Beverly, Massachusetts | 01/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few conductors have enjoyed as prolific and as distinguished a recording career as Karl Böhm. His first recordings--revealing fully mature interpretations of Mozart, Bruckner and Brahms-- appeared in the 1930's, and his final efforts date from the dawn of the digital era. During this long span Böhm went from strength to strength as he explored a broad swath of orchestral repertoire from Haydn through Richard Strauss and a less expansive but formidable series of operas by Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Strauss and Berg. Why, then, is Böhm less appreciated today than his younger contemporary, Herbert von Karajan? The reason may well hinge on Böhm's charcteristic reluctance to create a glamorous, charismatic image or to court publicity in narcissistic fashion. His temperament was reserved, serious, and his attentions were almost always focused on the music he was performing, not on his own talents or public persona.
These virtues (which can also on occasion grade into liabilities) are amply in evidence in this outstanding anthology of Böhm's work with no fewer than five orchestras (the BPO, the Concertgebouw, the VPO, the VSO, and the Dresden Staatskapelle) during the early LP era. That Böhm was at the height of his powers when these recordings were made is evident from the fact that where later versions of the same repertoire exist (e.g., Mozart's *Requiem* and final symphonic trilogy),the ones contained in this set are more consistently satisfying (usually tauter in conception and crisper in execution).
The set commences with a Mozart *Requiem* of extraordinary intensity and grandeur, with disciplined, if overly vibrato-laden singing from a large choir and an outstanding team of soloists that includes the shimmering, silvery soprano of Teresa Stich-Randall. Authentic performance practice this is not, but hugely enjoyable nonetheless. The *Requiem* is followed, somewhat incongruously, with two of Mozart's fluffiest early symphonies (26 & 32) in ebullient performances by the Royal Concertgebouw (lighter and more energetic than his re-recordings of these works with the BPO).
The second and third CDs house a cache of mature Mozart symphonies: 34, 36 and 38 with the VPO (lithe, elegant and vivacious, despite bone-dry sound); 39-41 with the Concertgebouw (magnificent in every respect, and pretty well recorded). The fourth CD combines some delightful Mozart party music, in which Böhm (with the BPO in fine fettle) characteristically brings out the earthy good humor as much as the suave elegance, with a stirring group of Weber Overtures (with the VPO), two of which are rarely heard (but definitely worth getting to know).
Discs 5, 6 & 7 feature works of Richard Struass, another Böhm specialty (he was a personal friend of the ocmposer, who dedicated a number of works to him). Surprisingly, given the conductor's pedigree, these performances are less consistently impressive than the Mozart and Weber. The Four Last Songs with Della Casa are memorable for their unfussy musicianship and unsentimental lyricism--those who find Schwarzkopf's Strauss insufferably arch (not me) will probably appreciate Dela Casa's salutary restraint. *Don Juan*, *Till Eulenspiegel* and *Heldenleben* are treated to splendidly colorful and exuberant performances by that most opulent of German orchestras, the Staatskapelle Dresden. *Alpensinfonie*, *Tod und Verklärung* and *Also Sprach Zarathustra*, however, disappoint in different ways. The Alpine Symphony (with Dresden forces) needs more sharply delineated dramatic contrasts and, at the summit, exaltation, than Böhm's brusque and underplayed account provides (not helped by the thin-sounding recording); Death and Transfiguration (with the Concertgebouw) is also curiously uninspiring--what one can hear of it through the miasma of a cloudy recording; the narrative of Zarathustra (with BPO), too, needs to unfold more vividly, and with a better sense of dramatic timing than Böhm supplies (though in this work at least the sound is pretty good).
My reservations about some of these Strauss recordings, however, should not deter prospective purchasers from what is overall a splendid retrospective of a conductor who managed to integrate head and heart more successfully than many of his contemporaries. As a bonus, you will also get an eighth CD containing some very interesting autobiographical reminiscences by the conductor (interlarded with excerpts from other Böhm recordings). and a well-written, informative booklet (minus texts and translations). Strongly recommended, then, to collectors of historically significant recordings and to Böhm enthusiasts."
Not just for fans?!
Russell Etzenhouser | 10/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am always skeptical of historical reissues. They always remind me of W. S. Gilberts line in the Mikado of the person who likes every country but his own. What could be so wrong with the music being recorded today to justify resurrecting some dusty old recording? Naturally I throw all this logic out when it is from a conductor that has moved me in the past. Boehm provided me with much of my introduction to Mozart and Strauss in my youth. Most of the recordings here are great performances in good sound. Anyone familiar only with his late Vienna Philharmonic recordings will not recognize much of this Mozart. Muscular and quick moving are not usually the adjectives one associates with Dr. Boehm. The sound on the earliest of these recordings from Decca in Vienna is not at all flattering. It has an acidic sheen to the strings that seems out of place with what this company produced in the 60's and 70's. The rest of the recordings seem much younger than they are. What really matters are the performances; they are vital and invigorating with so many of the loving touches that mark the greatest performances. His Strauss is absolutely authentic. How often do we get to savor performances of a composer by one of his chosen interpreters. My only regret is that DG did not choose to include all of the orchestral Struass in its catalog. The Dresden performances posess a special authority regretable only for the sonic limitations of the time. The Berlin recordings are early stereo and very enjoyable. Snap it up and enjoy."