Hans Knappertsbusch: The Orchestral Edition

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Hans Knappertsbusch: The Orchestral Edition
Wiener Philharmoniker, Münchener Philharmoniker, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Hans Knappertsbusch, with Sir Clifford Curzon (piano)

[ Decca Australian Eloquence / 18 CD Box Set ]

Release Date: Friday 11 February 2022

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Gathered together for the first time on Universal Music labels, including several first CD releases on Decca, is the orchestral legacy of an inimitable genius of the podium: Hans Knappertsbusch.

Even in his own lifetime, Hans Knappertsbusch divided opinion, between listeners affronted by technical slips caused by his notorious aversion to rehearsal and those who saw in him the last representative of a performing tradition dating back to Richard Wagner. Working mostly in the opera houses of Munich and Vienna, he never became music director of a symphony orchestra, but his postwar Decca recordings of central repertoire from Beethoven to Strauss, including three distinguished concerto collaborations with Clifford Curzon, preserve interpretations of a flexibility, sweep and grandeur scarcely imaginable today.

For Decca, Knappertsbusch recorded with the great orchestras of London, Paris, Zurich, Geneva and Vienna. The orchestral discography began with Brahms's Second Symphony with the Suisse Romande, Wagnerian 'bleeding chunks' in the Kingsway Hall in December 1947 and ended in February 1960 in the Sofiensaal of Vienna, conducting Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite with a delicacy and grace that will surprise listeners who think of him only as the high priest of Parsifal at Bayreuth. The box is full of such surprises: an album of Strauss waltzes and polkas that turns on a sixpence; nimble Bruckner scherzos; one of the swiftest versions of Tod und Verklärung on record.

Once introduced to Clifford Curzon, Knappertsbusch was immediately enthusiastic about performing and recording with 'this great English gentleman'; their versions of Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth and Brahms's Second have long been mainstays of the Decca catalogue. Much else here is newly remastered and now widely available on Decca for the first time in many years, such as Wagnerian overtures and preludes with the Zurich Tonhalle (1947) and the London Philharmonic (1948) orchestras.

Bruckner's Symphonies Nos. 3-5 (1954-6) preserve Knappertsbusch's profound working relationship with the VPO at its most harmonious. A magnificently trenchant Brahms album with the VPO in 1957 also features Lucretia West in the Alto Rhapsody. For devotees and sceptics alike, this box offers revelations and the opportunity to reassess the art of a conductor held in the deepest affection by many of the musicians and singers who worked with him.

'This … will please everyone who loves opulent brazen sound. As a Wagnerian, Prof. Knappertsbusch is plainly a great conductor … The Wagner of burlesque - lady wrestlers as Valkyries, heaving on Clydesdales and percherons; winds of two-miles-per-hour in the Dutchman's hurricane … Still, the sound is splendid.' High Fidelity, January 1954 (Wagner Preludes, VPO)

'There is less heaviness, more flexibility and true Viennese spirit in his reading than in any of the others.' High Fidelity, February 1956 (Bruckner, Symphony No. 4)

'There apparently exists a wonderful rapport between the English virtuoso and the German conductor, for this performance is pervaded by a nearly tangible quality of artistic give-and-take.' Stereo Review, April 1958 (Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5)

'If you want a deliberate, large-scale reading of Brahms, Knappertsbusch is your man. He is as unhurried as Gibraltar.' High Fidelity, March 1958 (Brahms: Overtures and Haydn Variations)

'Readings of great power and eloquence - almost of a hypnotic nature. From first to last each work has an inevitability about its unfolding which is akin to the unravelling of a ball of wool.' Stereo Review, April 1958 (Brahms: Overtures and Haydn Variations)

'Knappertsbusch approaches these Strauss favourites in the old world manner conducting the music carefully and easily.' Stereo Review, June 1960 (Johann Strauss: Waltzes & Polkas)

'A wholly absorbing experience … The craggy grandeur of Bruckner's huge Eighth Symphony is illuminated with convincing eloquence.' Stereo Review, April 1964

'This collection of pop-concert miniatures could not be more delightful. The Nutcracker is light and airy ... full of careful attention to instrumental details overlooked in most other versions.' High Fidelity, February 1969


CD 1
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor'
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 2
1-4 Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

CD 3
1-4 Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major Op. 83
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 4
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Variations on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a
Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
Lucretia West, contralto
Wiener Akademie-Chor
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 5
ANTON BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor, WAB 10
1888/89 version, edited by Franz Schalk
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 6
ANTON BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major 'Romantic', WAB 104
1888/89 version, revised by Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried Idyll
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 7
ANTON BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, WAB 105
Edited by Franz Schalk
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
5 Morgendämmerung und Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (Vorspiel)
6 Siegfrieds Trauermarsch (Act III)
Wiener Philharmoniker

CDs 8-9
ANTON BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 8 in C minor
1892 version, edited by Franz Schalk
Münchner Philharmoniker

CD 10
Don Juan, Op. 20
Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris

CD 11
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Preludes to Acts I & III; Dance of the Apprentices
Die Walküre: The Ride of the Valkyries
Parsifal: Transformation Scene (Act I)
Tannhäuser: Venusberg Music (Bacchanale); Entry of the Guests*
Der fliegende Holländer: Overture*
Berliner Philharmoniker

CD 12
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)

1 Rienzi: Overture
2-3 Lohengrin: Preludes to Acts I & III
4-7 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude to Act I; Suite from Act III
8-9 Tannhäuser: Overture; Venusberg Music (Bacchanale)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Tonhalle Orchester Zurich
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

CD 13
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Rienzi: Overture
Siegfried: Forest murmurs
Parsifal: Prelude to Act I; Flower Maidens' Scene; Transformation music (Act I)
Franz Lechleitner, tenor (Siegfried - Forest Murmurs)
Günther Treptow, tenor (Parsifal - Flower Maidens' Scene)
Female voices of the Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 14
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Der fliegende Hollander: Overture
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries
Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 15
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude to Act I
Tannhäuser: Overture
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod
Parsifal: Prelude to Act I
Münchner Philharmoniker

CD 16
RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)
Rienzi: Overture
Der fliegende Holländer: Overture
Siegfried Idyll
Lohengrin: Prelude to Act I
Münchner Philharmoniker

CD 17

JOHANN STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228

KAREL KOMZÁK II (1850-1905)
Bad'ner Mad'ln - Walzer, Op. 257

Annen-Polka, Op. 117
Accelerationen - Walzer, Op. 234
Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka, Op. 214

Wiener Bürger - Walzer, Op. 419

Leichtes Blut - Polka, Op. 319
Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald - Walzer, Op. 325
Wiener Philharmoniker

CD 18

Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Marche Militaire in D major, Op. 51 No. 1 (orch. Weninger)

Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 (orch. Berlioz)

OTTO NICOLAI (1810-1849)
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor - Overture
Wiener Philharmoniker