Something historic this week – Music from the Vienna Festival in 1959, featuring Philharmonia Hungarica led by the legendary Paul Sacher and featuring Yehudi Menuhin, violin along with Marilyn Horne, Soprano as well we soloists and the Vienna Singakademie Choir in music by Stravinsky, Bartok and Bohuslav Martinu.
Starting off the with the Concerto for Strings in D Major by Stravinsky – followed by Yehudi Menuhin joining for the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 and ending the concert with a performance of Bohuslav Martinu’s Gilgamesh-Epos for soloists, choir and orchestra, featuring Marilyn Horne as soprano soloist.
The great thing about Paul Sacher was, he never programmed a bad concert – adventurous concerts, yes – but bad concerts, no. As founder of the Basel Chamber orchestra from 1926-1987, he was responsible for commissioning a vast number of works by fledgling composers, introducing the world to the likes of Martinu, Bartok, Artur Honnegger, Paul Hindemith, Hans Werner Henze and countless others.
It also helped he was one of the most wealthy people in Europe. But the money enabled him to promote the cause of new and adventuresome music in the world – it also allowed him to acquire and preserve numerous archives, including the Stravinsky and Boulez estates. While he was still alive, Boulez willed his entire estate of manuscripts to the Sacher Foundation.
Aside from this work as benefactor and supporter, he was a widely admired and respected musician – his performances recorded on numerous commercial discs, which included music of Bach as well as contemporaries, have been considered benchmarks of interpretation.
A wonderful concert, a little strange sounding in places due to the age and that it was recorded off the air via KCBH-FM here in Los Angeles in 1959 doesn’t detract from the performances themselves – a tape break during the Martinu leaves a millisecond gap, but it’s all very enjoyable and works perfectly for an anti-Road Rage Wednesday.