Carl Schuricht conducts Bruckner and Mozart
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Cat No: SBT21498
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 20th October 2014
WorksSymphony no.7 in E major
Symphony no.38 in D major, K504 'Prague'
The Berlin Philharmonic gave five concerts at the 1964 Salzburg Festival: under Karajan, Mehta, Sawallisch, Schuricht and Szell. Of these, it was Schuricht’s which most obviously took listeners back to a nearly forgotten golden age. Much of this was to do with the string playing. As Schuricht himself put it ‘how to acquire the right expression and a perfect legato’ was something for which all the great late-nineteenth and early twentieth century interpreters strove (the only compliment Furtwängler ever paid to Karajan was ‘he knows how to create a true legato, the most difficult thing in all music’.)
Schuricht marked up his own string parts, often making subdivisions within string groups which would be given separate bowings, the better to sustain a long line whilst preserving relevant thematic material within. One has only to hear the orchestra’s shaping of the exposition of the Seventh Symphony’s famous Adagio – in particular the perfectly floated second subject group glorious in F sharp major – to realise what miracles these methods could effect in the hands of master musicians schooled in the old ways of doing things. Spillover from modern ‘period’ practice, with its distrust of anything remotely resembling a ‘legato style’, has turned such playing into a largely forgotten art.
Other qualities which shine out from this end-of-an-era performance is what one Gramophone critic referred to as ‘Schuricht’s panoramic view, his flexibility, his skill in integrating detail and – above all – his sure instinct in tempi’. Schuricht could surrender time or intensify it but always within a consistently held larger pulse: witness his unerring pacing of the Seventh Symphony’s spacious yet at the same time wonderfully concise final movement.
Another of the performance’s distinguishing features is the superbly terraced brass playing. Trumpets and trombones in particular create their own distinctive ‘register’, a point which would surely have delighted the organ-playing Bruckner every bit as much as it would have delighted Schuricht’s organbuilder father.
The performance of Mozart’s Prague Symphony which makes up the first half of this 1964 Salzburg programme must have left the audience wondering what best reflected the 84-year-old conductor’s current form: the characteristically spruce accounts of the symphony’s outer movements or the strangely protracted reading of the slow movement. It is interesting to note that when Schuricht conducted the Prague with the orchestra in Berlin the following October [a concert available on Testament SBT2 1403], he took a rather more forward moving tempo for this central Andante.
Schuricht died at his home in Corseaux-sur-Vevey in Switzerland in January 1967 at the age of 86. In his book 'Conductors: A Record Collector’s Guide', John L Holmes remarks that with Schuricht ‘one was always conscious that the music was passing through the mind of a musician fully aware of its beauty and meaning’. Hearing this unforgettable Bruckner Seventh, one is tempted to ask, was this the last great Bruckner performance whose insight and musical craftsmanship can be traced directly back to the age in which it was created?
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