GHCD 2386 – Hans Knappertsbusch – 1957 & 60

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch

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Audiophile Audition – August 3, 2012

Guild reissues an oft-assembled collection of popular favorites as led by Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) for Decca, 1957 and 1960. Beloved by the VPO personnel, Knappertsbusch maintained a repute for leisurely rehearsals, familiar repertoire, and slow tempos. The last becomes quickly apocryphal when we listen to his Nicolai and Tchaikovsky selections, played both for brisk affection and melodic loveliness. The entire collection projects the gemuetliche, warm attachment between conductor, ensemble, and repertoire, with principal Emanuel Brabec’s intoning the cello solo for Weber’s Invitation to the Dance in the Berlioz orchestration. Brabec, along with concertmaster Willi Boskovsky, had performed the Brahms Double Concerto for Furtwaengler.
The Schubert two-piano Marche Militaire, Op. 51, No. 1 has its own arrangement from Leopold Weninger, a brilliantly crisp showpiece for the VPO strings, brass, and battery. Kanppertsbusch, often sumptuous and thickly solemn in the music of Wagner and Bruckner, certifies his credentials in Viennese pastries and light fare. That Knappertsbusch could as easily have conducted the New Year’s Concerts in Vienna as well as he led Parsifal in Bayreuth becomes apparent in such bon-bons as Karel Komzak III’s sentimental waltz “The Girls of Baden,” a somewhat clunky but twinkling, affectionate specialty Knappertsbusch liked to program. The Johann Strauss perennials, the Annen Polka and Tales from the Vienna Woods, have had equally lustrous treatment from Clemens Krauss, but their lightly delicious execution under Knappertsbusch realizes the same echt Vienna alchemy. The 1868 C Major (and later G Major) Vienna Woods, by way of horn and flute, invokes the strains of the zither (Anton Karas?) that accelerate us to the main themes. Knappertsbusch revels in those wonderful luftpausen that add the ineffable lilt that virtually defines the Vienna waltz. Finally, the New Year’s impulses proves too strong for Kna to resist: he lights up the festivities with a rousing Radetzky March by Johann Strauss pere, cymbals, flutes, battery, and brass ablaze. Fun-filled good taste in the finest Viennese tradition, this disc.
Gary Lemco