Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Walter Barylli, Paul Doktor
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Staatsopernorchester
Conductor: Clemens Krauss, Felix Prohaska
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Preiser Records
Size: 156 MB
Konzert für Violine und Orchester Nr. 4 in D-Dur, KV218
02. Andante cantabile
Sinfonia concertante in Es-Dur, KV364
04. Allegro maestoso
This Preiser release of a long-ago historical recording is remarkable in several ways; first, that the principal artist represented was still living at the time of its release. Second, it is the first release ever of this April 23, 1944, recording of violinist Walter Barylli performing Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Clemens Krauss. Preiser does not specify if this recording comes from disc or a tape, but the sound is absolutely spectacular for 1944; it must be an early magnetophon tape. In any event, the recording was discovered in the archives of the Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv in 2006, and the 1951 Westminster recording used as companion piece — with Barylli, legendary violist Paul Doktor, and the Vienna Opera Orchestra in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, dating from the heyday of “runaway” recording sessions in Vienna — pales in comparison in terms of sound to the older radio tape, although it is an inspired performance. The solo concerto is big-boned, old fashioned Mozart, played with a full complement of strings and a soloist who combines fleet, effortless figurations with fat, luscious vibrato in legato lines.
The name Walter Barylli may be something of a cipher to twenty first century listeners located outside of German-speaking lands; he was for many decades a concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, working alongside Willi Boskovsky and serving as president of the Vienna Philharmonic Society during Herbert von Karajan’s long tenure with the orchestra. Born in 1921, Barylli became a member of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1938 and was promoted to concertmaster in 1939 at age 18, the youngest person ever to hold that position. Barylli was named to the job, however, to replace aging concertmaster Arnold Rosé, who was Jewish and a severe political liability in these post-Anschluss times. And Rosé knew it — the very month Barylli was made a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Society, Rosé fled to Holland. Barylli’s talent was not his fault, nor were the conditions that eliminated Rosé from the orchestra, but for some listeners the association will be a tainted one, proving a barrier they cannot pass.
For Barylli’s own point of view, nothing could be more delightful than the discovery of this early performance, as he is clearly at his best in it. As he took on more and more of the administrative affairs of the Vienna Philharmonic, Barylli appeared increasingly less often with the orchestra and had basically retired his string quartet, which had gained its own renown, by 1960. Every studio recording that Barylli made under his own name appeared on Westminster, an American label whose market savvy, “Natural Balance Sound” designation concealed an inherent cheapness that carried through to the finished product. That this pristine, early Mozart performance should boomerang back within Barylli’s own lifetime is nothing short of a miracle, and anyone who appreciates top-drawer string playing should well join Barylli’s satisfaction in it.