Karl Böhm

Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto No. 5

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For fans of the great Austrian conductor Karl Böhm, this Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester recording of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 coupled with Vieutemps' Violin Concerto No. 3 from 1963 will give great delight. Brahms' First was a Böhm specialty. He made two studio recordings of the work for Deutsche Grammophon, the first from 1960 with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the second from 1976 with the Weiner Philharmoniker. While this 1963 performance is more urgent than the already driven Berlin performance and much more angular than the sumptuous Vienna performance, and though the Cologne players cannot match those two orchestras for precision and beauty, their passion, their professionalism, and their palpable fear of the dictatorial Böhm give the performance an edgy energy that's hard to beat. The Vieutemps' Third, on the other hand, was a Böhm rarity and no other extant recording of him leading the work is known to exist. While it must be said that Böhm's contribution is more than adequate, it must be admitted that it lacks the strength of character of his Brahms. On the other hand, the young Romanian-Belgian violinist Lola Bobesco turns in a performance of such extravagant individuality that it's hard to imagine there could have been room for Böhm to do more than hold things together behind her. The live radio sound is dim but honest.

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