The Romantic Aspect of German & Austrian Classics / Keilberth

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Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968) belongs to that generation of conductors who continued after Furtwangler’s death to hold the musical heritage of German and Austrian composers in particularly high regard. Furthermore, Keilberth exhibited a very special love for the works of Max Reger and Hans Pfitzner. It is to that predilection of his that we owe a number of outstanding recordings released here for the first time in this release. Keilberth began his career at the age of seventeen in his native city of Karlsruhe as a rehearsal pianist at the municipal theatre, going on to be conductor and finally, in 1935, General Music Director there. In 1940 he assumed the direction of the German Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague. After 1945 he successfully applied himself in Dresden- under the most arduous of conditions- to renewing the great musical tradition of this war-ravaged city. He brought in Rudolf Kempe, who succeeded him in the position of overall musical director. Keilberth went to Hamburg in 1951 as head of the Hanseatic city’s Philharmonic State Orchestra, with which he remained closely associated for many years. It was at this time that he joined former members of his Prague orchestra in founding the Bamberger Symphoniker, remaining that orchestra’s principal conductor until his death. He died doing what he loved, suffering a heart attack while conducting a performance of “Tristan” in Munich in 1968.



The Brahms Second and Bruckner Ninth are both solid, taken at normal tempos, nothing exaggerated or mannered. He is careful to allow for detail and avoid rushing little notes; the Bruckner, done in concert with the Berlin Philharmonic (1960 in Salzburg), shows the orchestra at its best, and the Schubert Eighth is warm and relaxed. Of all the symphonies, though, the best is the Schumann Fourth, which is fast and exciting. Unfortunately it has the worst sound (1952 concert with Cologne Radio), and the brass are too prominent.

The concertos are no less fine. Kulenkampff was a major violinist of the earlier 20th Century, and his Bruch concerto is beautifully done, though definitely in an older style. Annie Fischer is terrific in the Schumann. Her playing is impetuous, almost unpredictable, but her phrasing and touch are wonderful. Rosl Schmid has plenty of technique with which to handle the difficulties of Pfitzner's piano concerto very well.

Keilberth felt an attraction to Reger’s music, and we find four substantial works here. We also have some 82 minutes of Wagner excerpts. The selections are uneven. The two preludes from Siegfried are not very interesting out of context. The music from Tannhäuser goes nearly half an hour, while the Valkyrie Ride is less than three minutes, up through the arrival of only three Valkyries, and then is cut off. All of that aside, there is a lot of exciting Wagner here, and the best is the Lohengrin preludes, recorded not in Bayreuth, where the sound is murky, but in studio with the Hamburg Philharmonic. Everything here is instrumental, except for the three (unidentified) Valkyries.

The other bits and pieces tend to be very good, largely because they are studio recordings from the later 50s. In general I find his conducting bracing and energetic, more direct than contemplative.

– American Record Guide

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: PH18019

  • UPC: 881488180190

  • Label: Profil

  • Composer: Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Schubert, Hans Pfitzner, Hermann Goetz, Hugo Wolf, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, Max Bruch, Max Reger, Peter Cornelius, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: Joseph Keilberth

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Annie Fischer, Georg Kulenkampff