I didn’t have room for this Reger work in my previous post devoted to his works, but here is Keilberth’s beautiful recording of the Böcklin Suite, which to my ears makes the best case for this score on records, superior to the later Schmidt-Isserstedt (on Acanta) and Bongartz versions that I have heard. When this late work appeared (in 1913), many were surprised that Reger had written a programmatic work, since he had been quite vocal in his dismissal of the tone poems of Richard Strauss, preferring the realm of “absolute” music. In any case, I find it to be an evocative work which, a bit surprisingly, has brevity as a virtue as well. One of the paintings by Arnold Böcklin depicted in this suite, The Isle of the Dead, is the same work which Rachmaninoff based his much more widely known symphonic poem on.
These recordings were issued on 78 rpm by Telefunken, and later on Lp in their Capitol/Telefunken series, but I have used the 45 rpm issues for my transfers. The brief trend in the late 40s and early 50s, to issue classical music on 7″ discs, corresponding to 78 rpm side lengths, did not catch on, but Capitol and RCA Victor issued quite a few titles in this format. RCA also briefly tried sides with somewhat extended running times, but the format war was decisively won by the long playing disc, at least in the classical realm. Despite some inconsistencies and shortcomings in Capitol’s transfer process to these 45s, I feel they are superior to their Lp issues. Sonically, the original Telefunken 78s are better in many respects, but they are often VERY noisy, and since most of their masters were lost in a flood, it’s nice to have these versions, which are probably dubbed from those now lost original masters. There is some unevenness to the sound, and it’s very difficult to compensate for off center pressings on these discs, but I think the results are more than acceptable.
I mentioned Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt above, regarding his version of the Reger Suite, but this Haydn recording is from much earlier in his career, and is a very vital, colorful reading, beautifully played by the BPO. The Menuet, as often for the time, is hardly the indicated “Allegro molto”, but the enthusiasm makes up for the heaviness. Sharp ears may catch at least one instance of the score being retouched, with an octave doubling being added to the violin part.
Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G Major, “Surprise”
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Conductor
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Telefunken E 2864/66
Capitol/Telefunken 45 rpm set KCM 8021
Recorded February 9, 1939, Berlin (Singakademie)
Reger: Four Tone Poems after Arnold Böcklin, Op. 128
Joseph Keilberth, Conductor
German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague
Telefunken SK 3464/66.
Capitol/Telefunken 45 rpm set KCM 8011
Recorded December 20 & 21, 1942, Prague