Classical Reissue Reviews

Mogens Woeldike Complete Danish Recordings of HAYDN symphonies = The Chamber Orch. of the Danish Broadcasting/ Erling B. Bengtsston, cello – Danacord (2 CDs)

Of all the talented Danish conducting talents after WW II, Mogens Woeldike may well have been the most exportable, and his work in Haydn tells us why.

Published on August 22, 2012

Mogens Woeldike Complete Danish Recordings of HAYDN symphonies = The Chamber Orch. of the Danish Broadcasting/ Erling B. Bengtsston, cello – Danacord (2 CDs)

Mogens Woeldike Complete Danish Recordings of HAYDN symphonies = Symphony No. 48 in C Major “Maria Theresa”; Symphony No. 44 in E Minor “Trauer”; Symphony No. 50 in C Major; Symphony No. 91 in E-flat Major; 12 German Dances: 1-6; Cello Concerto in D Major; Symphony No. 43 in E-flat Major “Mercury”; Symphony No. 61 in D Major – The Chamber Orchestra of the Danish Broadcasting System/ Erling Bloendal Bengtsston, cello/ Mogens Woeldike – Danacord DACOCD 703/704, (2 CDs) 78:50; 77:40 [Distr. by Albany] ****: 

Danish conductor Mogens Woeldike (1897-1988) played a significant part in the Haydn revival of the early-1950s, especially in his participation in the Haydn Society label, which ceased to exist after 1954. Yehudi Menuhin spoke with pleasure of his association with Woeldike in their work on the Nielsen Violin Concerto for EMI. Woeldike came to the Haydn symphonic output relatively late in his career, after having served as an organist and choirmaster, more comfortable in oratorios. Yet Woeldike took great pains to respect repeats (when he could) and to consult Haydn authority H.C. Robbins Landon (1926-2009) on the authenticity of the parts.

The so-called 1769 “Maria Theresa” Symphony No. 48 (rec. 1953) required two horns in high C, sounding at written pitch; and these horns the Haydn Society produced especially for their inscription of Symphony No. 50 (1951). But by 1953 these C horns had been lost, and so Woeldike opted for trumpets. After a festive Allegro in C, the ensuing Adagio in F Major generates a devotional atmosphere, intimately molded. For some reason, the Decca producer opposed the idea of the exposition repeat. Pomp and ceremony mark the Menuet Allegro and Trio, the brass quite prominent. The rollicking Finale: Allegro in 2/2 keeps the string bass line busy, and the general tenor of the last music remains in lithe, brilliant spirits.

The 1772 E Minor “Mourning” Symphony No. 44 (rec. 1953 for Decca) moves with both vigor and nobility. We may recall that Haydn requested that the Adagio of this work be performed at his funeral. The innate sturn und drang of the first movement remains in tasteful check by Woeldike, but the individual work in the woodwinds proves riveting. The diviso strings in the development convey weight and intensely personal passion. The unusual placement of the E Minor Menuetto gains even more somber girth in its being a canon whose upper and lower strings are separated by one bar. The strings, muted in the third movement Adagio, create a mysterious procession, in E Major, so the unified affect may be likened to that of a Baroque church sonata. The E Minor Finale: Presto opens unisono then becomes increasingly polyphonic. Lightly articulated but darkly hued, the movement leaves us fascinated by the complexity of mind that can still muster dynamic restraint.

Scholar Robbins for the Haydn Society indicates that the Symphony No. 50 in C may be that which Haydn used specifically as an introduction to the Empress Maria Theresa at Eszterhaza in 1774. Woeldike (rec. 1951) and his producers were convinced that no performance of No. 50 had taken place since the eighteenth century.  A baroque Adagio e maestoso, 4/4, almost Handelian, yields to an Allegro di molto, ¾, in which sweet strings and punctuated trumpets collide. The sound of the high horns and alto trumpets proves quite engaging. An “emotional” Andante moderato, 2/4, ensues, valedictory in spirit. A heavy tread marks the relatively expansive Menuetto e Trio, but its counter theme has a laendler quality. The Finale: Presto seems conservative and conventional, brilliantly deft but uninspired in its 2/2 chugging.

Woeldike makes magic of the first movement of the 1788 Symphony No. 91, which he recorded for HMV 78 rpm in 1949. The Danacord transfer, immaculately quiet, allows the chromatic theme (Allegro assai) in two-part inverted counterpoint full play, with the cellos and woodwinds subtle as well as poignant. The Andante builds upon a theme and three variations, featuring sterling bass playing and a colorful bassoon part. String trills insist on becoming significant as the movement progresses. The bassoon joins the plucked strings for the Menuetto (Un poco allegretto). The Vivace last movement maintains a demure poise that does not lose any of its chiseled architecture.  From 1949 we have six 1792 German Dances from HMV, beautifully restored in high gloss and suave Austrian colors. We could ascribe them to Mozart in a heartbeat.

The Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major (rec. for HMV 1956) has Erling Bloendal Bengtsson (b. 1932) as soloist. Sporting a lovely tone, Bengtsson plays the old 1783 edition of the D Major Concerto to great effect, slowing the tempo for the expansive first movement. Woeldike’s singing line, too, enjoys a natural effusiveness, though we intuit that he might have favored faster tempos but paid ultimate deference to his respected soloist. If the Adagio evokes a disarming innocence, so too the Rondo (Allegro) casts an ingenuous jollity into the equation, a natural buoyancy of spirit that should beguile the most veteran listeners.  The so-called “Mercury” 1772 Symphony No. 43 in E-flat Major (rec. 1951 for Haydn Society)) might warrant the epithet for the fleet motion of its opening Allegro movement under Woeldike, in which the rocket figures up and down the scale move with scintillating grace. In A-flat Major, the poignant Adagio appears “a chamber symphony with muted strings,” according to Robbins Landon. In ¾ time the Menuetto has a martial air and trance-like waltz figures for a trio section. A firm, measured Finale in 2/2 has Woeldike’s wielding a tight rein on the Presto, rather more Allegro ma non troppo in this rendition. The last symphony in the set (rec. 1952 for Haydn Society), the 1776 No. 61 in D Major, in its time signified a mature departure for Haydn, especially in his handling of orchestral colors and the “hunting” character of the Rondo finale (prestissimo). From the opening Vivace, I felt compelled only to listen through this inspired performance, whose clarity and naturalness of style recommend both the work and its happy realization. Of the many talented Danes making music after WW II, Mogens Woeldike proves the most internationally exportable, and for good reason.

—Gary Lemco




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