Classical Reissue Reviews

Georg Kulenkampff Vol. 2 = SCHUMANN: Violin Concerto in D Minor; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major; BEETHOVEN: Romance No. 1 – Georg Kulenkampff, violin/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt/Staatskapelle Berlin/Arthur Rother – Opus Kura

Violinist Georg Kulenkampff offered welcome relief from the dry classic notion of the North German musician, given his decidedly Romantic sensibilities.

Published on September 29, 2010

Georg Kulenkampff Vol. 2 = SCHUMANN: Violin Concerto in D Minor; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major; BEETHOVEN: Romance No. 1 – Georg Kulenkampff, violin/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt/Staatskapelle Berlin/Arthur Rother – Opus Kura

Georg Kulenkampff, Volume 2 = SCHUMANN: Violin Concerto in D Minor; BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; BEETHOVEN: Romance No. 1 in G Major, Op 50 – Georg Kulenkampff, violin/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt/Staatskapelle Berlin/ Arthur Rother (Beethoven)

Opus Kura OPK 2091, 73:24 [Distr. By Albany] ****:


Georg Kulenkampff (1898-1948) offered a welcome relief from the dry, classic notion of the North-German musician, given his decidedly Romantic sensibilities.  Boris Schwarz noted “a suave elegance and vibrant tension in his interpretation that belied his north-German origins.” Ruggiero Ricci recalled his studies with Kulenkampff with pleasure, despite the fact that Kulenkampff’s English skills left much to be desired. One critic lamented that there is something “satanic” in Kulenkampff’s playing that “prevents him from being lyrical.”

Those who know the strained political circumstances of the Schumann Violin Concerto’s 1937 world premiere–originally meant for Menuhin but denied him by the National Socialists–will understand the validity of Kulenkampff’s rendition with Schmidt-Isserstedt, given that they use a cut version of the score. Menuhin did play the full score, but not in concert. The piece–suppressed by the composer–is wrought out of one gesture, almost through-composed from the opening tissue. Its innate lyric melancholy keeps the music from devolving into self-parody and weepy sentimentality. The last movement breaks into a polonaise that both violinist and conductor push with sincere urgency.

Kulenkampff maintained a strong fidelity to the Brahms Concerto, here recorded 21 June 1937, again with Schmidt-Isserstedt.  Despite the Nazi proscriptions, Kulenkampff favors the Joachim cadenza. When Kulenkampff performed the work in London, Beecham accelerated the last movement beyond its Hungarian limits. Schmidt-Isserstedt, reliable but not always motivated by Erato, provides a more than competent orchestral aura around Kulenkampff, who exerts a massive energy and Teutonic polish upon the Brahms figures, often adjusting his bow to effect a rasping pungency that adds a special flavors to the Brahms equation. In his sweet moments, especially the cantilena of the Adagio, we can hear why Kulenkampff remained the darling of the North countries until his political faux pas in occupied Copenhagen, which alienated the Danes. Kulenkampff redeemed himself somewhat by leaving Germany for Switzerland in July 1944, and establishing himself in Lucerne.

The G Major Romance of Beethoven (rec. 1939) complements the F Major Romance Kulenkampff inscribed in 1932. Arthur Rother (1885-1972) conducts, and the two ply this tender piece with careful devotion, intimate, poised, and exquisitely balanced. Its restoration after a long absence proves most welcome, the Telefunken shellacs having been restored without undue compression. A fine addition to this violinist’s catalogue, which proves more generous than connoisseurs may be aware.

– Gary Lemco




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