SUSANNE LAUTENBACHER, last heard from in the handsome collection of Schubert's concerted works for violin on Turnabout, reviewed in this space several weeks ago, is the soloist in two unusual and fascinating 20th-century concertos on a new Candide release (QCE 31105): Kurt Weill's Concerto for Violin and Winds (with the Betmold Wind Ensemble under Jost Michaels) and Karl Amadeus Hartmann's Concerto funebre for Violin and String Orchestra (with the Wuerttemberg Chamber Orchestra under Joerg Faerber).
The Weill Concerto is especially welcome, since the only other recording of this work available at present is part of an expensive three-disc set of that composer's works on Deutsche Grammophon. It is a fine version (Nona Liddell, violin, with David Atherton conducting the London Sinfonietta), but not everyone is interested enough in the set's other material to invest in it, and a work as striking as the Violin Concerto ought to be available on a single LP in order to get the attention it deserves.To my ear, Lautenbacher is perhaps even more persuasive in the work, anyway, and the demold Wind Ensemble sounds as if it had this music in its blood. I have never heard a stronger statement of this score.
Hartmann's Concerto is a poignant one. The composer, who died in 1963 at the age of 58, was opposed to the Nazi regime in his country, but made no attempt to leave: his form of protest was to forbid the performance of his music in his own country until the end of the "Thousand-Year Reich." The Concerto funebre , a courageous gesture under the circumstances, was composed in 1939 as a lament for the Czechoslovak Republic, and makes use of the famous Hussite chorale "Ye Who Are Warriors of God," the tune used in the last two sections of Smetana's cycle of tone poems Ma vlast and in Dvorak's Husitsk'a Overture .The music is a lamentation, too, one senses, in the way of a prophecy, for what the rest of Europe was about to suffer at the hands of Hartmann's countrymen.
There is another recording of the Hartmann Concerto, by Andre Gertler and the Czech Philharmonic under Karl Ancerl, which has circulated here for nearly 10 years as a Supraphon import (1.10.0508, with the Hindemith Violin Concerto of the same year). It is a masterly and deepfelt account of the work, but no more persuasive than the intensely sympathetic new one by Lautenbacher and Faerber, and not nearly so well recorded. Moreover, the Candide disc is generally easier to find (as well as more economical), and the Hindemith Concerto is something collectors will want on the Columbia disc it shares with the Barber Violin Concerto, performed by Isaac Stern and Leonard Bernstein. Candide's recording, encoded for "QS" four-channel playback, makes just as fine an impression in two-channel stereo.
Smetana's patriotic cycle of six tone poems, Ma Vlast , alluded to above, has turned up in another authoritative recording by the Czech Philharmonic, this time under the orchestra's present conductor, Vaclav Neumann, in a two-disc Supraphon set (4.10.2021--2, encoded for "SQ" quadro). Neumann, too, had recorded this music before, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in a London/Decca set no longer available; this is a better performance and a better recording, but a bit less convincing, I think, despite its obvious credentials, than the fine version by Walter Susskind and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on Turnabout (QTV-S 34619/20, encoded for "QS" quadro). Best of all the stereo-recorded performances of this noble cycle is the one the Czech Philharmonic gave us under Neumann's predecessor, Karel Ancerl, which has been available in the past on the short-lived CBA Odyssey and Vanguard/Supraphon labels and seems to be still current as an import (Supraphon SUAST-50521/22). It is definitely available on a single cassette (Supraphon 04.50521), and happens to sound better in that format than in any of its disc editions. Susskind's Ma vlast is also offered as a cassette (Vox CT-2116.619). Fine as the Neumann set is, I would choose either Susskind or Ancerl in preference to it, both of them being genuine bargains in cassette form and the Susskind benefiting from superior sound in either format.