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Preview Brahms, 1st mvt.:
Krips' Brahms "sensitive, vigorous, and poised to a nicety"
Superb new transfer finally does proper justice to marvellous recordings
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 [notes / score] Recorded 17th, 19th & 20th April, 1950, Kingsway Hall, London
First issued in October 1950 as Decca LXT2517
Transferred from Ace of Clubs ACL.132
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K.543 [notes / score] Recorded 18th December, 1951, Kingsway Hall, London
Transfered from and first issued in the UK in June 1952 as Decca LXT2689
"It has become fashionable in recent years to belittle Brahms's achievement as a symphonist. Some critics have gone so far as to say that Brahms in wasn't really a symphonist, which suggests to me that they aren't really critics...
One might not care for Brahms's idiom, but that is no reason for trying to deny the existence of Brahms's architectural genius. "The defence of his works," says Tovey, "is an infinitely more faithful line of criticism than that of attack; for attacks are easy on superficial grounds, while the defence rests on bedrock." The bedrock of the Fourth Symphony is a masterly display of musical invention and imagination that is demonstrable by analysis. But to the average music-lover musical architecture is a quality that is felt intuitively rather than recognised by analysis. So the fact remains that most people who have ears to hear, nerves to feel, and a sublime ignorance of technical principles find the romantic fervour and sheer musical beauty of the Fourth Symphony a great experience.
And I think they will find the performance of the London Symphony Orchestra under Krips reproduces superbly this great experience. There are no histrionics about Krips's reading, in which everything is beautifully proportioned and carefully calculated. The music moves forward to its natural climaxes, in each of the four movements, with a wonderful feeling of inevitability that leads logically and dramatically to the crowning achievement of the great Finale. The orchestral playing is sensitive, vigorous, and poised to a nicety, and the recording does full justice to it. I look forward to the issue of this recording on 78's"
Excerpt from LP review in The Gramophone, November 1950 by R. H.
One has to smile today at the final sentence in the Gramophone review reproduced above of Decca's 1950 LP issue of this recording - the 78s referred to appeared a few months after the Brahms Symphony's vinyl issue, and it's hard to believe today that many critics seriously felt that 78s had more to offer the music lover than the LP which so swiftly eradicated them after half a century of total dominance.
For sure some of the early LPs could be a bit hit and miss, quality wise, and the same can be said for the recordings, as witnessed here. Analysis of the 1950 Brahms recording shows a true full frequency response heading right up to the maximum available on a modern CD, whereas the 1951 Mozart recording, made by the same company in the same hall with the same producer, orchestra and conductor (the engineer in unknown for the Brahms but the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson was chief knob-twiddler for the Mozart) peters out with an upper limit of 12kHz, something one might have expected from a wartime recording, but not in late 1951.
But it seems that even today these recordings have suffered. Having first heard the quality of the LPs from which these transfers were taken, I was rather surprised to hear the hard-toned, overly-hissy and quite flat-pitched transfers they received in a Decca CD issue a very few short years ago. I had heard the Brahms first, and was delighted by both the performance and the recording, especially after initial investigations (using XR remastering for my own pleasure). When I heard how much improvement I had been able to make over Decca's own CD transfers I decided to press on, later adding the Mozart to the set for this release.
The sound here is clear, clean, full and well-focussed, perhaps more so in the Brahms than the Mozart, with its aforementioned frequency deficiency. Both, however, are a clear improvement on the now apparently-deleted Decca CD box set of 2003.
In 1938, the Nazi annexation of Austria (or Anschluss) forced Krips to leave the country. (Krips was raised a Roman Catholic, but would have been excluded from musical activity because his father was born Jewish). Krips moved to Belgrade, where he worked for a year with the Belgrade Opera and Philharmonic, until Yugoslavia also became involved in World War II. For the remainder of the war he worked in a food factory.
Upon his return to Austria at the end of the war in 1945 Krips was one of the few conductors who were allowed to work, since he had not worked under the Nazi regime. He was the first conductor to lead the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival in the post-war period.
In 1955, Krips made a critically acclaimed recording of Mozart's Don Giovanni with the Vienna State Opera featuring Cesare Siepi, Fernando Corena, Walter Berry, Suzanne Danco, Lisa Della Casa and Hilde Gueden.