Karel Ancerl – Gold Edition, Vol 3
These fine recordings have been together on CD before, but this is a new remastering. The sound is certainly uncommonly clear, with many finely played details in the orchestral accompaniment making their full effect.
The outstanding performance, for me, is of the Mendelssohn. There’s nothing routine about Josef Suk’s playing – his usual technical polish and fine tone combined with unaffected expression – so that the second theme of the first movement and the Andante’s melody speak to us directly. But a large part of the effect is due to the orchestra’s exemplary internal balance and rhythmic poise. Listen to the start of the finale, where the trumpets enter; or, in the first movement, to the way the violins take over the main theme after the opening solo. In such a precise performance it’s surprising to find one place (track 1, 5'40") where violin and orchestra come apart – proof that nothing’s perfect, maybe.
The Bruch has similar virtues – clean, finely balanced textures and a straightforward, strongly communicative expressive style. It’s an expansive interpretation, with an unhurried, serene account of the Adagio and a finale, which, despite its verve, sounds slightly ponderous.
The Berg, even more than the Mendelssohn, benefits from the wealth of beautifully articulated orchestral detail. It’s a pity there isn’t a more light-hearted Viennese lilt in the first movement’s Allegretto section, and that the recording doesn’t allow the ‘wie aus der Ferne’ (as from afar) passages near the end to sound more soft and atmospheric. But Suk plays the cadenza magnificently, and his meditations on the chorale melody are truly affecting. It’s great music-making.