June 13, 2010

Tonight, rather than do one piece, I thought I would put up three pieces, all with one thing in common: they feature the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, led by various conductors, but all from the 1930's.

During the time of the 78, it was easier and more economical for a record company to crank out single discs than it was the cumbersome set of 78's that weighed a ton and cost, by today's calculations, a small fortune for the average collector. So our Sunday Gramophone this week will look at shorter works (three of them), two relatively uncommon and one thoroughly over-recorded, but with a legendary conductor.

(Hans Swarowsky - became a household name in the 1950's - in the 1930's not so much)

First up tonight is probably the first recording of the recently premiered (1934) opera by Werner Egk, Die Zaubergeige. It features, in this 1936 recording for Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon, The Berlin State Opera conducted by Hans Swarowsky. Swarowsky would make a name for himself after the war during the lp boom where he led many orchestras in Europe (most notably the Vienna State Opera)in first recordings for the new medium.

(Max von Schillings - legendary and controversial conductor/composer)

Next up was one of the more popular pieces to be recorded during the 78 era. The Overture to Adam's opera "Si j'etais Roi" (If I Were King), had no less than 20 recordings listed in early record catalogs featuring a vast array of orchestras and performing ensembles. This particular recording, made around 1930 for the tiny Palas Label, features The Berlin State Opera Orchestra conducted by Max von Schillings. Schillings is all but forgotten now (he died in 1933) but what few recordings he made have been sought after for years by collectors. I haven't seen this particular recording re-issued anywhere lately. So if you haven't heard it before, it's a good introduction.

(Hermann Abendroth - another prominent figure of the lp era, but not 78's)

Actually, Hermann Abendroth had a long and successful career going back to the 1930s. Probably more so then than in the 1950s. But it's his later recordings, So for our last entry, this recording, made around 1938 or 1939 (judging by the sound of it, but I could be wrong) for the German Odeon company, features Abendroth leading the Berlin State Opera in a rare recording of Ernst von Dohnanyi's Wedding Waltz from The Veil Of Pierrette. Abendroth was always a good, solid conductor who was eclipsed by the luminaries of the period. But the comparatively few recordings he made during the 1930s and 1940s are memorable and many have been resissued on lp and CD over the years.

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