Sunday Gramophone - Reger: Mozart Variations - Paris Conservatory - Hermann Abendroth - 1941

(Hermann Abendroth - something of cult figure in recent years) Recordings of European orchestras during wartime have always been high on the list o

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(Hermann Abendroth - something of cult figure in recent years)

Recordings of European orchestras during wartime have always been high on the list of most record collectors. For one, they were never readily available and were usually pressed in small quantities. For another, most of them represented a dark period in cultural activity. Particularly for countries that had fallen to the Nazis.

Certainly, when France surrendered to Germany in 1940 one of the biggest pluses in the Propaganda front was the flood of German musicians appearing on French concert stages and recording with French orchestras.

One of the great orchestras of the time was the Paris Conservatory, with a rich history going back over a century. So naturally, practically every German musician performed, broadcast and recorded with them from 1941 until early 1944.

One recording, which hasn't seen the light of reissue very much was the Mozart Variations by the late German romantic composer Max Reger. The conductor, Hermann Abendroth was not much of a household name outside of Germany until actually after the war when the majority of his performing and recording career took place in East Germany and around the former Communist Bloc countries. Prior to the rise to power of the Nazis he was a regional conductor who had a good but not international reputation. He more or less played second string to the likes of Erich Kleiber and Bruno Walter. But when Walter was forced to relinquish his posts and leave the country, Abendroth was placed in the spotlight and took over a number of positions formerly held by the banished musicians. In short, was Abendroth a Nazi? The short answer is yes. Was he a virulent Nazi? No. Was it perceived as a wise career move to join the party in order to get better positions? Yes. Did he willingly join the party in 1937? Not entirely. Let's put it this way - he knew which side his bread was buttered on so he went along with the flow until the war ended and then settled in what became East Germany and enjoyed a flourishing career throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Looking at all the twists and turns of his career, one could say he was guilty of opportunism. But so could a lot of them.

As is the case with many, if not most musicians living and working in Germany during the war, the lines aren't clear and the motives are probably more career oriented than idealogical. There are many books written on the subject, covered in much better detail than I could ever offer.

My reason for offering this recording today is not so much an assessment of the man and his politics as much as the man as musician, which he was quite good. It is an example of a rare recording made under adverse conditions by an orchestra of a defeated country.

So. With that said - This recording was made in Paris on December 9, 1941 featuring The Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Hermann Abendroth.

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