Related Links

Recommended Links

Give the Composers Timeline Poster

Site News

What's New for
Winter 2018/2019?

Site Search

Follow us on
Facebook    Twitter


In association with
Amazon UKAmazon GermanyAmazon CanadaAmazon FranceAmazon Japan

CD Universe



Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale

CD Review

Ančerl in Vienna

Vienna Symphony 8
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Karel Ančerl
Recorded 8-10 February 1958
Wiener Symphoniker WSO-008 49:01
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe Find it at JPC

This is a CD in which the historical merits outweigh the artistic ones. So fine was the art of Karel Ančerl that almost everything he conducted was worth hearing, but his studio versions of both pieces presented here have to be preferred. Yes, we can talk endlessly (as the notes do) about how important it was for Ančerl to be performing in the free West, or how much he enjoyed performing with the Vienna Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic. But the justification for a release must put the music first.

Like Charles Mackerras after him, multiple recordings from this conductor of various works are not a problem because of the genuine commitment to every performance. Ančerl continued a proud tradition of excellence in Czech music while at the helm of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Unfortunately, the orchestra here is the highly variable Vienna Symphony. In 1958, they were hardly anyone's idea of a world-class band. Everyone plays well-enough, but neither the sonic picture nor orchestral contributions strike me as ideal. The strings don't slash as they must in the opening movement, while the brass are shaky here and there. The woodwinds also tend to be sour. The acoustics are slightly over-resonant at climaxes.

Still, a great artist is at work here. Ančerl effectively captures the tragic nature of the piece, while also turning the heat way up at key climaxes. As an interpretation, this leaves little to be desired. I suppose I could ask for more rhythmic "snap" in the outer movements, but there is no questioning the feeling Ančerl brings to the piece. Had he been paired with his Czech forces, or maybe the Concertgebouw, this would be unforgettable as opposed to merely very good.

The Moldau was last seen – by me, anyway – on BMG's "Great Conductors" entry for Ančerl. Coupled with rare gems from Czechoslovakia, that issue is nearly impossible to locate. If you have it, hold on to it! A stunning live Concertgebouw Dvořák Eighth shows exactly what Ančerl could do with a great orchestra. The Smetana is typically fine, if again not matching the conductors' studio version with the Czech Philharmonic. Ančerl fans will want this, but the rest of us should discover this underrated genius elsewhere first.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman