Paul van Kempen, Pt. 6. Beethoven Symphony No. 8 & Dvořák Violin Concerto (Váša Příhoda), from Polydor 78s

Happy Holidays! I must apologize for the lack of new posts lately. This past fall was one of the busiest for me, and just as I did have some more time, the XP side of my Macbook became buggy, and I’m on the road right now. So, I’m learning how to use a Mac editing program called Wave Editor (a bit tricky to get the hang of), which enables 78 side joins to be done with great ease! Very much recommended! In any case, I will try to pick up the pace of contributions in 2010!

These are recordings made by Paul van Kempen in Berlin, which have been reissued at least once (the Beethoven) and a number of times (the concerto). I can’t claim to have heard every transfer of the Dvořák, but I have one cd version (Melodram?) which purports to be a LIVE performance with these artists, but turns out to be a (poor) transfer of this set! There are also several live performances with Příhoda and other conductors from the 1950s, but I feel he makes his best case in this version. And it IS a wonderfully committed and characterful reading, and one that makes the most of the work’s assets, and seems to make one forget what often seems awkward. Příhoda’s sound is a very individual one: somewhat lean and sporting a varied vibrato, ranging from an almost non-vibrato to a very rapid oscillation. But there is a warmth and appealing character to the sound, but it occupies a middle ground between the warmth and charm of Kreisler, and the brilliance of Heifetz. Van Kempen is right there with Příhoda at all times, but injects his trademark energy and beautifully and interestingly balanced and voiced textures. All due respect to Josef Suk’s magnificent Supraphon recording, but this just might be THE recording of the work for me!

The Beethoven is up against some competition, of course, including van Kempen’s own lp version for Philips, also with the BPO. Tempi and textures are perhaps a bit thick, but I love his ability to clarify inner voices (especially in the middle string register) while maintaining a basically full, warm orchestral sound. There is also good energy and drive, albeit within a more comfortable, easy framework. The recorded sound is more homogenized than in the Dresden recordings from this period, but it’s a pleasing blend.

Many thanks to Ward Marston, who provided the rare sources, and made his wonderfully EQ abilities evident in these dubs, as always…those of us that TRY to match EQ from side endings to new side beginnings appreciate Ward’s effortless expertise in this area! I did the editing and side joins, which were very tricky in the concerto, as often Příhoda holds the last notes of sides, and often makes a crescendo on them, which would stick out terribly without some modern intervention.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Polydor 67662/64 (matr. 1333/35, 1640/42 GE 9)
April 7 and October 4, 1940

Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
Váša Příhoda, Violin

Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Polydor 68201/205S (matr. 2407/14 GE 9)
June 18, 1943

Paul van Kempen, Conductor


This entry was posted in Orchestral, Příhoda, Van Kempen, Violin. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Paul van Kempen, Pt. 6. Beethoven Symphony No. 8 & Dvořák Violin Concerto (Váša Příhoda), from Polydor 78s

  1. Paul says:

    Neal, thanks so much for this magnificient restoration of Prihoda's matchless Dvorak concerto.Regards, Paul Goldstein

  2. Doug Tabony says:

    Příhoda is one of my top 10 favorite violinists. We call him the Alien because he misses nothing. This is not my favorite concerto (really strong 3rd mvt) but he he plays it with great style and mastery. The violin’s a bit forward in the mix and the recording is treble heavy making his playing sound thinner and a bit more strident than usual. Never heard the Suk but this beats the Martzy/Fricsay, a very good recording. This is a great addition to my collection. Thanks!

  3. Doug Tabony says:

    van Kempen’s Beethoven is nice but doesn’t hold a candle to Mengelberg’s live recording. Sorry to be negative, just what I hear and like.

  4. fattoxxon says:

    I heard van Kempen’s Eroica from an LP the other day, and thought the first half wonderful & much of the finale too, but the scherzo & ending rather ponderous and lacking in momentum. Still, plenty good enough to look for more. This 8th is (for me) a good one but again losing momentum towards the end. The BPO also don’t sound as good – perhaps inevitably given the age of the recording – and there are one or two places where the flutes just shrilled a bit too much for me! Still, I enjoyed it & it is a fine performance I will come back to.

    I hope the long silence since the death of Megaupload isn’t a sign of some more permanent absence, your blog has so many exciting performances to hear; I’m still catching up & will be for some time, but I hope you will soon start to give us more of these terrific rarities.

    Now to listen to some of the astonishing amount of other van Kempen here! Thanks for making it all available!


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