Monday, January 31, 2011

The First One-To-A-Part Brandenburg

This week I present something quite special: it's the earliest recording known to me of any of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos where each part is taken by a single player.  This is the norm nowadays, especially in Concertos Nos. 3 and 6, but until about the 1960s it was quite rare (more often, they were played with full symphonic-sized string sections!).  The players are Reinhard Wolf and Kurt Oberländer, violas; Paul and Sylvia Grümmer, viole da gamba; Wolfram Kleber, cello; Hermann Menzel, double bass; and Eta Harich-Schneider, harpsichord.  They are billed collectively as "Soloists of the Berlin Philharmonic" on the label, pictured above, and are conducted by Alois Melichar (1896-1976).

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat, BWV 1051
Soloists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alois Melichar
Recorded c. 1933
Polydor 15066-67, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 45.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 17.77 MB)

My thanks go to Tully Potter for providing the names of the individual players.  Mr. Potter's name is well-known to those of us who collect historical string recordings on CD, as he has contributed many program notes for these; and he has lately published a wonderful biography of Adolf Busch which anyone interested in great music-making in the first half of the 20th century should check out.  Busch was responsible, incidentally, for the second-ever one-to-a-part Brandenburg - his splendid version of No. 3, made two years after this Melichar No. 6 recording, which is readily available on CD, from EMI, Pearl and other labels.


  1. Dear Bryan, Thanks so much for your excellent and clear transfer (how good that Polyfar system was!) and for the extra info. The BL has also transferred this set (the whole Melichar cycle in fact) but only, of course, for us Britishers: it gives the mtx data as 749/750½ be VIII, 752½/751 ge VIII (from the Decca-Polydor issue on LY 6099-6100) but I've not checked that myself - is that what you have?

  2. Hi Nick, the numeric components of the matrix data look correct, but the letters (in caps) are "GE" for all sides.

    Yes, we poor Americans miss out on a lot, thanks to our draconian copyright laws! I'm surprised CHARM lets us listen to and download their files. I spent the first five days of the New Year downloading everything I could think of that I might want, in case they change their mind!

  3. Brilliant, thanks. Don't worry, CHARM will not change its mind! Best wishes, Nick

  4. Lot of thanks.
    What a worthful rendition of the Concerto! I have Melichar's 5th Brandenburg Concerto recording (1st movement only) from the same Polydor set in a Deutsche Grammophon 100th jubilee collection in fantastic transfer done by Gregor Zilinsky (with a wonderful solo harpsichord playing by by the well-known pianist Franz Rupp!).
    Now I'm trying to find the entire Polydor set with Melichar in transfers of comparable quality.

  5. Bryan, do you have Alois Melichar's orchestration for Toccata & Fugue BWV 565?
    Should be very interesting to hear.

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Aggelos, I'm sorry, I don't have that. I'm sure it would be very interesting!

  7. Too bad.... It's on this one too, but this is another hard-to-find item.
    I think Alois Melichar recorded his transcription only once with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for Polydor.

    The score is available on Edition Peters' rental catalogue

  8. Bryan, thanks for this selection. Quite a piece of history.

  9. Yesterday, an anonymous poster offered the following comment:

    "Please note that Music and Arts has just issued an album devoted to the commercial recordings made by Szymon Goldberg between 1932 and 1951 in which the Brandenburg Concerts n° 1,2 and 4 of the melichar set are enclosed (as well as recorgings of tne Berlin PO quartet led by SG)."

    Thank you for this information; that sounds like a set well worth seeking out!

    I have felt compelled, however, to edit out the remainder of your comment, as the references you make in it are not to what I wrote in this post, but to what I wrote in the documentation included with the download, and might therefore create confusion for those who had not actually received the download.