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Gramophone, July 2011

MAHLER, G.: Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection” (Woytowicz, Delorie, Cologne Radio Chorus and Symphony, W. Steinberg) (1965) ICAC5001
BRUCKNER, A.: Symphony No. 3 (BBC Northern Symphony, K. Sanderling) (1978) ICAC5005
Piano Recital: Cziffra, Gyorgy - LISZT, F. / BACH, C.P.E. / COUPERIN, F. / SCARLATTI, D. (Cziffra in Prague, 1955) ICAC5008

The newly launched ICA Classics label has come up with at least a couple of real gems. Readers who, like me, have an aversion to overly luxuriant, emotionally manipulative Mahler will delight in William Steinberg’s clear-headed 1965 Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra broadcast of the Resurrection Symphony, a startlingly direct statement of a score that is too often treated to extremes of mood and tempo. Steinberg’s straightforward route means that the great climactic denouement is both well timed and genuinely uplifting. The soprano Stefania Woytowicz is the more convincing of Steinberg’s two soloists.

I was also interested to hear an uncommonly stolid but in many ways imposing account of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony by the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra under Rudolf Kempe, not exactly a seasoned Mahlerian but certainly a man with a definite view of the music. Kurt Sanderling (now retired) was, it would seem, a rather more convinced Mahler conductor than Kempe and, in a gripping 1982 interview with Piers Burton-Page, refers briefly to “late” Mahler as well as to some key events in his own long career. The main item on this desirable ICA Classics CD is a transparent and well-structured reading of Bruckner’s Third Symphony (1888/89 version) with what was the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic), one of Sanderling’s swifter performances but in no way lacking in gravitas. A Georges Cziffra all-Liszt recital had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief, principally at two performances recorded in Prague in 1955: the Rapsodie espagnole, where Cziffra’s playing summons enormous excitement yet never overheats, and the Second Hungarian Rhapsody, the slow first section very slow, the “friss” second part full of fizz and original interpretative thinking. There are two exciting bonus tracks, both recorded in Turin in 1959, the pitch-black Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H (not, as stated, the Bach-Liszt Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV542) and a thunderous account of Funérailles.

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, July 2011

A few orchestral weaknesses show up here and there…but there is nothing that intrudes on the performance. The orchestra plays up a storm for Steinberg. The sound is very good for a broadcast tape, and there is little gain-riding. The notes tell us some interesting things about Steinberg’s Mahler. This is not the lushest Mahler Second, but it is exciting and one of the most enjoyable recordings of the work that I’ve heard for a while.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Blair Sanderson, March 2011

The interpretation is sympathetic and quite moving, and Steinberg charts a clear course through the symphony that makes it coherent and compelling. This is critically important in the Finale, which in Steinberg’s hands is tightly structured and focused, despite the episodic nature of the movement. Students of important historical recordings will find this rendition fascinating…

David Hurwitz, February 2011

This performance isn’t perfect technically: the chorus gets a little bit off the beat in its first stanza, there are a couple of unimportant brass flubs, and alto Anny Delorie has issues with her memory and with an extra wide vibrato. However, purely as an essay in great Mahler conducting, William Steinberg turns in a performance as powerful, both in its parts and as a totality, as anyone ever has. He gets a superb response from the orchestra, and there are moments here that really do set a new standard in this music: the second movement, for example, is the best yet recorded—the string playing is simply miraculously sensual and romantic. The scherzo, at a measured tempo, offers a clinic in characterful woodwind detail. Indeed, the prominent winds recall Klemperer and add a thrilling rush to moments such as the big choral in the finale, with its trilling piccolos. More importantly, Steinberg captures the emotional intensity of this work as have few others. The climax of the first movement, the scherzo’s “scream of despair”, and the “dead march” in the finale express genuine rage and terror. Steinberg’s control of tempo is absolute; he manages transitions with effortless mastery. The symphony’s closing chorus, with the organ particularly well-balanced, seldom has been delivered more convincingly. Off-stage perspectives are unusually effective; indeed, given that this is a 1965 live performance, the stereo sonics are far better than any studio versions of the same period. In short, this is a “must” for all serious Mahlerians, as well as a worthy memento of a seriously underrated conductor.

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