grondahl legacy

The Launy Grøndahl Legacy – Volume 7
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op. 61 (1806)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Mozart and Salieri, Op.48, (1898, adapted Danish by Thyge Thygesen)
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Maskarade overture (1904-06)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 (1874)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Symphony No.9 in C major, D944 ‘The Great’ (1828) Movements 1 and 2 only
Adolf Busch (violin)
Christian Blanke (tenor) – Mozart; Henry Skjaer (baritone) – Salieri
Victor Schiøler (piano)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Launy Grøndahl
rec. 1949-54
No texts
DANACORD DACOCD887 [77 + 64]

The Launy Grøndahl Legacy isn’t proving quite as fecund as Danacord’s contemporaneous series celebrating the art of Thomas Jensen, but it continues to produce exceptionally valuable archive recordings.

In the twofer’s Blurb it mentions that there are three major additions to the conductor’s discography and seems to suggest – I hope I’m reading this correctly – that these are the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Rimsky’s Mozart and Salieri and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto. However, the same recording of the Beethoven, which was given on 17 March 1949,  has already appeared on Guild (review), a review which also contains links to some of my other Busch-Beethoven Concerto recordings. The problem with this 1949 recording, as Tully Potter made clear in his Guild notes, and the reason it had not been issued up to that point, is that it wasn’t quite complete. Danish Radio, Potter related, didn’t have tape and relied instead on a single disc turntable, so that every time a disc was changed a few bars were lost. Therefore, on Potter’s initiative, Guild asked engineer Antony Hodgson to insert patching from Busch’s 1942 performance. Unless Potter was wrong and Danish Radio did have a tape machine, this must be the same performance. In fact, I know it is, because you can hear a few of the joins – the one just after 2 minutes into the finale is the most obvious. The timings are identical too. Guild notes that its source material is tapes from either Potter or the BrüderBusch Archiv, so it’s possible that these are copies of the original discs held in the Danish archives. But this is getting awfully long-winded, and it’s clear you have fallen into a coma, so whatever the ramifications of all this, I’ll move on.

I think it’s the best surviving example of Busch in this work that I’ve heard. His tone remains variegated and its ability to speak, even in passagework, is exalted – and the passagework, rather than figuration to be surmounted, sounds here functional and necessary; such is Busch’s genius. Vibrato speed is varied, and his tempi remain, thankfully, fast, on a par with Grumiaux’s more streamlined live 1961 performance with Kubelík in Paris. He plays his own cadenzas, which aren’t the most enticing I’ve ever heard but which are his own direct response and thus to be valued. His central movement is the highlight of the performance – rapt, with shaded dynamics, he can play very quietly but with an immensely long bow, like Zimbalist, and phrases with true humanity. His finale is agile, employing deft slides, which are never slick – slickness was anathema to Busch – and triumphantly and warmly employed. A truly great performance. 

Mozart and Salieri was taped in November 1954 in a Danish adaptation made by Thyge Thygesen. The role of Mozart is taken by the somewhat reedy tenor Christian Blanke whilst the more successful singer is the baritone Henry Skjaer as Salieri, though no one could claim that he’s Chaliapin. This is strictly speaking a work of ‘dramatic scenes’ as Rimsky designated it, not a chamber opera. The sound is a little boxy but otherwise clear and more than acceptable. The piano interludes and the sections where Mozart’s music is interpolated give the work an intensity and resonance that it might not possess otherwise – a kind of meta quality – and the fugal section shows Rimsky’s accomplished technique to the full. 

Nielsen’s overture to Maskarade is a performance Grøndahl gave in Copenhagen in 1950 and it’s heard in perfectly decent mono though again the acoustic is hardly the most opulent and again rather boxy. The location was the Radio Exhibition in Forum. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto came from a location notable for its own sonic limitations if with a much greater clarity, London’s Royal Festival Hall. The soloist is the much-admired Victor Schiøler to whom Danacord has already devoted a number of volumes. This is a performance where one can profitably play ‘compare and contrast’ (see review ̴̴̴̴ review). The live performance comes from a Danish-made tape of the BBC broadcast of the orchestra’s appearance, at which the conductor was, apparently, exceptionally nervous (he drank a bottle of Tuborg beer before going on, we’re told). The Danish Radio was an early invitee at the hall, which had only opened a matter of months before and their rousing accompaniment is notable. Schiøler is his usual commendable self, passionate but not overdone, and a touch smudgy before he settles. In the second half they played Nielsen’s Fourth.

The final piece is a torso, unfortunately, as the first two movements of Schubert’s Great prove to be phrasally lofty and beautifully proportioned.  At some point the rest has disappeared or it’s possible that the final two movements were not recorded in the first place. In any case, it’s a tantalising memento of his Schubert.       

This well annotated set, silent as to the origins of the Beethoven, is priced at two-for-one, which makes it the more attractive for followers of the series so far, or for enthusiasts alike.

Jonathan Woolf 

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Recording details
17 March 1949, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Studio 1 (Beethoven); 25 November 1954, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Studio 1 (Rimsky); 11 August 1950, Radio Exhibition in Forum, Copenhagen (Nielsen); 24 September 1951, Royal Festival Hall, London (Tchaikovsky); 11 December 1952, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Studio 1 (Schubert)