Karl Bohm conducts Mozart, Mahler & R Strauss
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Cat No: SBT21489
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 2nd December 2013
Symphony no.40 in G minor, K550
Also sprach Zarathustra, op.30
ArtistsDietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Born in Graz in Austria in 1894, Karl Böhm began his professional career at the Munich Opera working alongside Bruno Walter and Richard Strauss. It was here that he acquired his Mozart style: cogent, balanced and subtly various. Strauss, in particular, was much preoccupied with the ideal pacing of a Mozart score. Learning how to fine-tune the Mozart musical engine, then drive it vividly and exactingly along, was for Böhm an education whose value extended beyond Mozart, to the wider operatic and symphonic repertoire.
In September 1962, Deutsche Grammophon released a recording of Mozart’s Symphony No.40 that Böhm had made in Berlin earlier in the year. ‘Strong, straightforward and enjoyable’ wrote Edward Greenfield in The Gramophone, but possibly ‘a little pale and unmemorable’. As a Salzburg regular and keen Böhmwatcher, Greenfield would have known that ‘pale and unmemorable’ was the last thing Böhm’s Mozart was when he was making music live on home soil. Soloist Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau retained particular memories of the Mozart that evening. The sound, he recalled was very different and ‘more correct’ than the sound that the Berlin Philharmonic had recently produced for ‘another star of the podium’.
Much has been made of Mahler's choice of the subject of the death of children, and his wife Alma's angry response to it. The songs may, indeed, appear to have tempted fate. Mahler’s four-year-old daughter, Maria, later died of diphtheria, just as two of the poet Rückert’s children had. Yet Mahler had no children when he began work on the cycle in 1901. Memories of childhood deaths among his own brothers and sisters are a more likely cue for the settings. Unbearable as the events had been, by 1901 they were now sufficiently distant in time to be distilled by Mahler into music that embodies grief yet does not luxuriate in it.
Strauss was 32 when he completed Also sprach Zarathustra in August 1896. His aim had been to trace in music the idea of the human race from its origins, through its various phases of religious and scientific development, to the idea of the Superman as set out in Nietzsche’s rhapsodic prose-poem. Strauss does not so much paraphrase Nietzsche’s 'Also sprach Zarathustra' as stand at a provocative angle to it. To some it is a garish piece of orchestral kitsch, for others it is far from that. Indeed, it was the release of a recording of Also sprach Zarathustra by Böhm and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1958 that led Strauss aficionado and scholar William Mann to produce a stirring defence of the piece in the columns of The Gramophone.
Recorded live at the Salzburg Festival, August 1962 (previously unpublished).
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