REVIEW POTPOURRI: Tahra Story

Last Tahra label

by Peter Cates

Tahra Story

Tah 768, one CD, released 2014.

Tahra was a historical CD label started in 1992 by Myriam Scherchen, daughter of the conductor, Hermann Scherchen (1891-1966), and her late husband, Rene Tremaine, journalist, producer and voracious record collector. They started the label as a means of releasing previously unavailable tapes, recordings that had been out of print for decades and some restored material that had wretched sound in their earlier release but now were much improved.

Hermann Abendroth

Although the catalog had several conductors, pianists and string players of significant interest throughout its availability, the couple’s initial focus would be three important conductors- Myriam’s father, Hermann Abendroth (1883-1956) and Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954). I own a sizable pile of their releases and enjoy them thoroughly.

Unfortunately, the decision to end the label, due to several business considerations in 2014, was made and the above CD was its last release.

It was focussed one final time on the same three conductors – Scherchen, Abendroth and Furtwangler, each of whom was a brilliant interpreter of Beethoven. They were also very personalized and individualistic in their conducting styles and gave frequently exciting performances, of which there are five vibrant examples on this CD:
Scherchen conducted a short instrumental piece by the fascinating French baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Sixieme concert en sextuor , from a 1964 broadcast; and a powerful Schubert Unfinished Symphony, from a long, out-of-print 1960 LP.

Wilhelm Furtwangler

Abendroth was a most adept political survivor under two totalitarian regimes. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Abendroth was resistant to, and highly critical, of the regime; thus he lost one conducting post. By 1937, he had joined the Nazi Party and appointed music director of the Leipzig Gewand­haus.

After the war, he was again dismissed by the recently installed Communist government in East Germany yet within a few short years would be busy doing concerts and recordings mostly in Leipzig and Berlin. After his death, from a stroke he suffered during surgery, he was honored by the East German government with a state funeral.

On this CD, Abendroth conducts the opening Allegro moderato, from Bruckner’s 7th Symphony, in a majestic, truly stirring 1951 broadcast performance.

Hermann Scherchen

Furtwangler is generally the most well-known conductor of the three, even sparking more interest in his many live and studio recordings since his death more than 60 years ago. He had a unique talent for communicating the spiritual essence of whatever musical piece he was conducting, whether it was Mozart or Wagner, and his sizable catalog of CDs is more profitable than that of any other conductor, alive or dead!

He conducts the Beethoven 7th’s joyously jubilant first movement in a 1943 Berlin Philharmonic broadcast and the same composer’s 5th Symphony’s second movement in a 1954 Vienna Philharmonic concert, both renditions typically fascinating Furtwangler tracks.

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