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CD Review

Carl Schuricht

Decca Recordings 1949-1956

Wilhelm Backhaus, piano
Christian Ferras, violin
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Schuricht
* Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Carl Schuricht
Decca Original Masters 4756074 5CDs 385m ADD
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I have been waiting for the reissues of these four Mendelssohn Overtures for a number of years, actually ever since I played them to death on an old Eclipse LP that was 'processed to provide a stereo effect'. Schuricht still remains my favourite Mendelssohnian, bringing atmosphere and colour to 'Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage' and the equally lovely, 'Fair Melusina'.

Schuricht's Beethoven is also strong and characterful. The First Symphony is quite beautifully poised and the exemplary Vienna recording adds wonderful sound and atmosphere to proceedings. The same goes for the Second Symphony with a lovely Larghetto and an equally involving Finale. The Fifth dates back to 1950 and was recorded in Paris although you can only marvel at the fine sound produced by the Decca engineers in the Maison de la Mutalite although Schuricht's reading is slightly too classical for my tastes.

The three Brahms' works recorded here are also quite familiar to me from old tapes and LPs. I always loved Christian Ferras' recording of the Violin Concerto with its sprightly dotted rhythms whilst the famous recording of the Second Piano Concerto with Wilhelm Backhaus is surely one of Schuricht's finest ever recordings. The Second Symphony is slightly earthbound but is a worthy alternative view nonetheless. A whole disc is dedicated to Schumann and here we have a blistering recording of the Overture, Scherzo and Finale which fairly leaps out of the pages of the score and is comparable to the excellent Sawallisch. The Second Symphony is also given a robust, classically poised reading with no overt emotion whilst the Third is recorded in inferior sound, probably from some LPs as there is a significant drop in the recording quality when compared to the other works.

The final disc is an interesting compilation with fine interpretations of 'Ruy Blas' and 'The Fair Melusina', a deep and brooding rendition of Schubert's 'Unfinished' and rauacous recordings of Tchaikovsky's 'Capriccio Italien' and the Theme and Variations from the Third Suite, these with the Paris orchestra. This is a wonderful memorial to an excellent conductor of the old school that demonstrates great interpretations of the classical repertoire at its very finest.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech