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Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt

Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt Edition – Volume 1 (15CD Box Set)

The two stereo Beethoven cycles, those of the Symphonies (1965–70) and the Piano Concertos (with Wilhelm Backhaus, 1958–59), form the core of this edition of the complete Decca recordings of Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900–1973). It is distinguished by the Wiener Philharmoniker’s unique transparency of sound allied to a firm pulse and rhythmic drive which characterized Schmidt-Isserstedt’s conducting. Several of the recordings were produced by Erik Smith, the conductor’s son.

Though it appears that he never stood in front of the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt achieved a remarkable rapport with a famously headstrong group of musicians when he conducted them in two stereo Beethoven cycles for Decca. In 1958–59 they recorded the piano concertos with Wilhelm Backhaus, as a stereo remake for the pianist’s mono Decca cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic and Clemens Krauss. Backhaus was in his late 70s by then, conveying a lifetime’s wisdom through his fingers while playing with apparently undimmed vitality. The Decca producer for the concertos was the conductor’s son, Erik Smith, and a familial sense of mutual respect and understanding may be one reason for the success of the symphony cycle made between 1965 and 1970. Schmidt-Isserstedt harnesses the unique transparency of the Vienna Philharmonic sound with the firm pulse and rhythmic drive which had always distinguished his conducting. The set has rarely left the catalogue since it was issued, because its virtues have never gone out of fashion. Schmidt-Isserstedt’s first recordings for Decca were made in the early 1950s, as founder-conductor of Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra, now known as the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. The ensemble began life after the war as a cultural project nurtured and supported by the British, and under Schmidt-Isserstedt’s dedicated coaching it quickly became one of the most admired orchestras Europe. Their recordings of Dvořák’s Seventh and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth symphonies were made in state-of-the-art Decca mono sound, produced by John Culshaw. As the reputation of the NDR orchestra spread internationally during the 1960s, so did that of its conductor, who became a welcome and familiar presence in front of the London orchestras. He exerts gentle and sovereign authority over the London Symphony Orchestra on a 1967 album of Mozart concertos in partnership with Vladimir Ashkenazy. This Eloquence set is issued with original covers and a new essay by Peter Quantrill on Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt and his Decca legacy.

CD 1 BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 2 BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’ Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 3 BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 Overture ‘Die Weihe des Hauses’ Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 4 BEETHOVEN: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8 Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 5 BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’ Overture ‘Egmont’ Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 6 BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 Overture ‘Leonore No. 3’ Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 7 BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 ‘Choral’ Joan Sutherland; Marilyn Horne; James King; Martti Talvela Wiener Staatsopernchor Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 8 BEETHOVEN: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Wilhelm Backhaus Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 9 BEETHOVEN: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4 Wilhelm Backhaus Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 10 BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Emperor’ Wilhelm Backhaus Wiener Philharmoniker 
 CD 11 MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 6 Vladimir Ashkenazy London Symphony Orchestra 
 CD 12 TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra 
 CD 13 DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 7 Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra 
 CD 14 DVOŘÁK: 4 Slavonic Dances BRAHMS 7 Hungarian Dances Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra