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