zaterdag 30 oktober 2010

Josef Wolfsthal 1 - Beethoven Romance op.50 (Polydor, 1925)

Een akoestische opname van de vioolromance in F op.50 van Beethoven, gespeeld door de flamboyante violist Josef Wolfsthal, begeleid door het orkest van de Berlijnse Staatsoper o.l.v. Hans Thierfelder.
Josef Wolfsthal (1899-1931): in Wenen geboren, zijn ouders kwamen uit Galicië. Eerst lessen van zijn vader, daarna  van z'n 10e tot z'n 16e van Carl Flesch. Debuut in Berlijn in 1916 samen met Carl Flesch (dubbelconcert van Bach). Eerste violist in Bremen, Stockholm, en vanaf 1921 van het orkest van de Staatsoper in Berlijn. Hij was een favoriet van Richard Strauss en is te horen op opnamen waarin Strauss dirigeert: diens eerste opname van ein Heldenleben en in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, m.n. in de Dans van de Kleermakers. Op z'n 26ste werd hij leraar bij de Berliner Hochschule. Sinds 1928 samen met Max Strub eerste violist in het orkest van de Kroll opera, met Otto Klemperer als dirigent. Hij vormde een trio met Leonid Kreutzer en Gregor Piatigorsky, had naar Amerika gekund met Vladimir Horowitz en Piatigorsky, maar verknalde de auditie. In 1929 maakte hij deel uit van een strijktrio met Paul Hindemith, altviool, en Emanuel Feuermann, cello. Hij stierf februari 1931 aan influenza, gecombineerd met een longontsteking. 

Ludwig van Beethoven: Romance voor viool en orkest no.2 in F op.50    9:04
Josef Wolfsthal, viool
Orkest van de Berliner Staatsoper o.l.v. Hans Thierfelder
78t 30 cm: Polydor 69794   (B 27597/8)   869/70 az
Opname 1925

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11 opmerkingen:

  1. Again, this is much appreciated! More information about Wolfstahl can be found on page 274 in Carl Flesch's memoirs (which is available on the web at the following site for the date of "27 juin 2010"" and a great deal more (with a fuller explanation of Carl Flesch's "hostility") in the interesting book by Carl Flesch's son: "And do you also play the violin?" One thing which is not mentioned in those books is that Wolfstahl's wife - Olga Band - was previously the wife of George Szell and, after Wolfstahl's death, the wife of the great cellist Benar Heifetz! SHE must have been something special too!

    Again, much thanks
    David Mendes

  2. Thank you for this Romance with Herr Wolfsthal. An affectionate playing, indeed.

    He also recorded Beethoven's violin concerto, if I am not mistaken, with Manfred Gurlitt.

    As far as I know, Wolfsthal played in ensemble with the great cellist Feuermann. Did they record anything together?

  3. That's very useful information you give! Thanks a lot! "...for apart from the fact that his (= Wolfsthal) playing contained no characteristic personal note, his human qualities did not equal his gift as a violinist..." That's quite a condemnation from Mr. Carl Flesch!

  4. He recorded the Beethoven concerto twice: the first time (acoustic)in 1925, also with Hans Thierfelder, the second time (electric) in 1929 with Manfred Gurlitt. As far as I know he didn't make any records with Feuermann.

  5. Well, the Carl Flesch "condemnation" is dealt with in Carl Flesch Jr.'s book: In that book, Flesch Jr. cannot really find an explanation for the "condemnation"! He quotes other letters of his father which give praise to Wolfsthal! He also passes on a conversation with Max Rostal (another Flesch pupil) in which Rostal describes Wolfsthal as "a really fine violinist and also a likeable human-being". Both volumes (Flesch and Flesch Jr.) are available in English and German (check

    Now, as you mention, Wolfstahl recorded the Beethoven Concerto TWICE before his death in 1931:

    The electrical recording of the Beethoven Concerto with Gurlitt and the Berlin Philharmonic ("rec. 1928 Matrices 1534-51 Polydor B27742-51") was reissued by Pearl on GEMM CD 9387 in 1989 (along with the Beethoven Romance conducted by Thierfelder which you posted and the 1928 Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 K. 219 with Frieder Weissmann and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra. This Beethoven concerto also appeared on Symposium 1141 with the same Mozart Concerto (with a Symon Goldberg performance of the Adagio from that same Mozart Concerto No. 5 with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Kletzki from 1932). I am pretty sure that DG reissued this Gurlitt conducted performance in a set devoted to historic performances.

    Now the other Beethoven Concerto: As you mentioned, it's acoustic! It and an acoustic Mendelssohn Violin Concerto were reissued by Biddulph on "LAB 095). It was recorded in 1925 (says Biddulph) with Thierfelder and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra and issued on Polydor 69789/93. The Mendelssohn Concerto is accompanied by piano which is played by Waldemar Liachowsky. The notes for that Biddulph issue state that Max Rostal called Wolfstahl "outstanding", Szymon Goldberg described him as "stunning" and Louis Krasner said the he was "an inspiring musician in whose footsteps one hoped to follow". The Biddulph notes state that by October 1929, "...Wolfsthal's relations with his mentor Flesch had soured. Although the reason for this are unclear, it is known that Wolfsthal was an outspoken and impetuous personality while Flesch was quick to take offense at the smallest slight." The notes also mention the complications of Wolfsthal's personal life: "... an affair with the wife of George Szell led to their marriage...."

    I also do not know of any recordings of his playing with Feuermann. There are many recordings of Wolfstahl (mostly playing smaller pieces) which are listed in the Creighton "Discopaedia of the Violin". I only have the first edition of that book which jumbles together the issued acoustic and electrical versions of the Beethoven concerto (and only mentions Gurlitt) and lists the Mendelssohn concerto -actually played with a piano accompaniment - as being played with the Berlin State Opera House Orch conducted by Liachowsky!). Someday, I'll find the second edition of that Creighton Discopaedia!

    Well, keep up the good work, and I hope these remarks shine some further light or cause further investigations into the "mysterious" (and well-recorded!) Wolfsthal!

    Best regards from over here,

    David Mendes

  6. Thank you for the valuable information and comments, David.

    The electrical recording of the Beethoven concerto with Wolfstahl and Gurlitt was indeed reissued by DG - it is included in the boxed set 'Historical performances of Beethoven': it includes pre-war and war-time studio and live recordings of Furtwangler, Klemperer, Schuricht and some post-war recordings of Fritz Busch, Ferenc Fricsay (7th Symphony + 3rd piano concerto with Annie Fischer). Maybe this set is out-of-print now.

    Personally, I do not perceive Wolfsthal's performance of the Romance as 'lacking any personal note' and cold.

    Again, many thanks to the owner of this blog and to David for the comments.

  7. David and Sturla, many thanks for all this info. I do appreciate the sharing of all your research!

  8. Thank you very much for this article. I was searching about information about my granduncle Hans Thierfelder and your post is very interesting. Its the first time for me to listen to a record from him.
    Very best from Dorothée Hahne

  9. Hans Thierfelder also recorded Beethoven's violin concerto with Josef Wolfsthal, violin, in 1925. I'll transfer that one in the future. Has anyone more information about the conductor Hans Thierfelder?
    I wish you a lot of succes with your research!

  10. thanks you all for these posts. Wolfsthal's two recordings of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, from 1925 and 1928 are in fact oustanding - the later one with Gurlitt even better than the one with Thierfelder. If my records are right, they were respectively the second (after Isolde Menges and Landon Ronald conducting the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra in 1923 for HMV) and fifth (after Louis Zimmermann and an unnamed orchestra under Charles Woodhouse for English Columbia, and Kreisler's first with Leo Blech) ever recorded of the complete concerto. What makes the version with Gurlitt a truly outstanding one is, first, the jaw-dropping progress of Wolfsthal's technical proficiency (in 1925 there are spots of less than spotless intonation in some of the runs or upper reaches, not so in 1928) and even more how modern and "straight" the readings are, both from soloist and orchestra: no portamento, no accordion playing with tempi (there is a lot of that in the orchestral intro under Thierfelder), nothing bizarre in the tempi (the Finale with Thierfelder sets off at a very deliberate pace, not so with Gurlitt), other than the sonics this could have been recorded today. In fact, interestingly, the tempi in the first movement up to the cadenza come closest to those of the recent (and "historically-informed") Isabelle Faust and Jiri Belohlavek on Harmonia Mundi: meaning rather swift compared to the standards prevalent in the 1950s to 1980s, but also not sacrificing the music's dynamism and muscularity in the sole favor of its lyricism.

    Satyr, have you deleted your upload of the Romanze ? When I click on "download", mediafire tells me that the file is no more available...

    1. I didn't delete it: Mediafire killed my 4 blogs, I balance between offering new material and restoring older recordings...