Kabasta: Broadcast Recordings, 1943/44: Beethoven: Eroica, Dvorak: New World Sym., Bruckner: Sym. No. 4
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|5. I. Adagio/Allegro Molto|
|6. II. Largo|
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Oswald Kabasta was a contemporary of such Austro-Germanic conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, Hans Rosbaud, and Eugen Jochum--all of whom are better remembered. Kabasta died in 1946, before the advent of the LP, while most of the others were still active in the studio after the advent of digital recording. But Kabasta's current obscurity can be more properly attributed to the tragedy of National Socialism. Kabasta was no more an ardent Nazi than was Böhm, who also signed off his correspondence with "Heil Hitler!" and who even more shamelessly flattered the Führer. But Böhm's conducting during the Nazi era was largely confined to Dresden and Vienna, relatively far from the Third Reich's corridors of power. Kabasta's problem was that he spent those years in Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi movement and the showplace for Hitler's grandiose schemes for the arts. Kabasta's Munich Philharmonic even called itself "The Orchestra of the Capital of the Political Movement." Kabasta thus had a more prominent profile as a Nazi than almost any other conductor had. Former party members, such as Karajan, were permitted to resume their careers after the war. But when the Allied occupation forces forbade Kabasta's return to the podium, the conductor committed suicide.
Kabasta's recorded legacy is small, but this Music and Arts two-CD set of broadcasts demonstrates its distinction. He resembles contemporaries such as Jochum and Böhm less closely than older predecessors such as Furtwängler and Mengelberg. His conducting is characterized by spontaneity and by a fondness for fast and flexible tempos. Kabasta's Bruckner Fourth features a thrilling, horn-dominated finale that challenges comparison with Furtwängler's famous Deutsche Grammophon version. His noble reading of Beethoven's "Eroica" surges forward impulsively yet naturally. And while his performance of Dvorák's "New World" Symphony (once falsely attributed to Furtwängler) has more than a few sloppy moments, the excitement created by its reckless abandon is all but impossible to resist. --Stephen Wigler
Top Customer Reviews
La Symphonie du Nouveau Monde ici présente a paru tellement extraordinaire qu'on l'a attribuée longtemps à Furtwängler, sans qu'une proximité stylistique quelconque puisse le justifier. Son Largo frappe par sa plénitude, dans des couleurs assez noires.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Oswald Kabasta's career is well known. He inked a pact with the Beast. Hitherto, he was known to me only by his Bruckner Seventh: it's mundane. These wartime recordings of the Eroica, New World Symphony and Romantic have transformed my appreciation of the man. With a baton in his hand, he's a hell-raiser from the lower reaches of Hades.
How would I characterise his conducting? It's swashbuckling, violent and ever so intense. Cautious he ain't. Gear-changes are common; how deftly they are done! The Bruckner 4th in particular is God-haunted: its danger and numinosity are fully vented. If patience is cardinal in Bruckner, Kabasta the Road-Runner mocks this precept by virtue of his ferrous grip on proceedings. It's no wonder so many ascribed this Dvorak Ninth to Furtwangler - it bears his trademark volatility; I'm afraid to light a match in its vicinity. The Eroica is anguished and heroic on the grandest of scales - catharsis ensues long before the apotheosis of the finale.
Given the wider circumstances, here is another instance where a German orchestra has to "fight or play". The Munich Philharmonic performs as if it wants to burn down the concert hall and thus spare the RAAF and USAAF. Listen to the great coda of the B4 finale - it's betting the house to the last nail. Its ensemble is tighter than a Swiss watch - how it keeps apace with Kabasta in the finales of the D9 and Romantic is beyond me.
All three recordings sound so much better than Kna's Bruckner 4th from '44 and that especially true of this Romantic: everything is here. Needless to say, they're all mono but warmly and spatially so. The dynamic range is remarkable. There are no joins so I presume magnetic tape was being used by the engineers. The Eroica and D9 have more hiss than the B4. Given the intensity of the music-making, one soon forgets the (minor) limitations of these recordings.
Wider questions are raised by a discovery of another dodgy old German-Austrian who conducts Bruckner so consummately. To my mind, the last Brucknerian recordings of note are Karajan's B8 and Giulini's B9 from the late Eighties. Since then, we've had Abbado's phenomenal B9 (May 1997 - it's on YouTube) and little else of genuine resonance (the first person to nominate Tintner gets sent to the gulag). How does one explain this drought? I suggest the following. The conducting profession is not immune from Western Civilisation's collective failure of nerve. How does this translate to the concert-hall or studio? Don't offend or marginalise anyone; understand that all things are relative or explainable by reference to their socio-economics; eschew metaphysics and shamanism; avoid over-statement; shun vision; stick to the mean; disavow exuberance and energy as eternal delight - rather, ascribe to the view that clarity and accessibility are all. In such a dynamic, conductors such as Abbado (outside that B9), Nézet-Séguin, Nelsons, Rattle, Paavo Järvi, Young and the array of scholarly HIPsters will flourish and be feted by the Last Men - sorry, People - of the Gramophone.
These recordings reflect a time where good and evil were not relative but all too real and breathing down one's neck. Hitch a ride to Hell with a bad man!