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Hans Grischkat (1903 - 1977)

 

Renaissance X35 with Cantatas Nos. 51 and 189.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renaissance Long Playing Microgroove label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hans Grischkat in the 1970s. Image taken from a record cover of one of his Bach cantata recordings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hans Grischkat conducts Magnificat (J.S. Bach) on the German OPERA label, Reference 3251.

When the LP was in its infancy a lot of pioneers tried their luck. Many label names came into existence but not all survived the mono era to make the transition to the stereo format. Many ceased to exist or their catalogs were sold to other record companies. In the record business there was a lot of wheeling and dealing going on, not necessarily in the pejorative sense.

 

Renaissance was a label of Period Music Co., which held office at 884, 10th Avenue, New York 19. Renaissance specialized in recordings of old music like a few other labels did: Bach Guild (sub label of Vanguard Recording Society); Bach Society; Handel Society (sub label of Concert Hall Society); Haydn Society; and later Baroque Records.

Period was the main label of Period Music Co. On Period René Leibowitz conducted modern music; cellist Janos Starker played Sonatas accompanied by pianist Abba Bogin, Inez Matthews sang Songs (Lieder) by Schubert and Beethoven, and spirituals. Later pianist Istvan Nadas made his debut on Period playing stylish Beethoven Sonatas. And there was jazzman Charlie Shavers on Period.

In June 1952 the advertisement of Period in Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog lists the following Renaissance LP recordings of works by J.S. Bach:

Cantata No. 201 (Phoebe and Pan);
Cantata No. 205 (Der zufriedengestellte Aelus - Aeolus appeased);
Missa Brevis No. 1 (S 233);
Sanctus No. 1 (S 237);
Missa Brevis No. II (S 234);
Sanctus No. 2 (S 238).

The discs have references X 42, X 43, X 44, and X 45 respectively. These choral works are all performed by various soloists, the Swabian Choral Singers, The Tonstudio Orchestra of Stuttgart, and Hans Grischkat conducting.

That same 1952 advertisement announces the release of a 3-12" LP set of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte on Period SPL 555. That is the recording with Erna Hassler (soprano), Hetty Plümacher (contralto), Käthe Nentwig (soprano), Albert Weikenmeier (tenor), Karl Hoppe (baritone) and Joseph Dunnwald conducting that same Stuttgart Tonstudio Orchestra. See Cosi fan tutte.

"S" is the practical indication used in the USA for the numbering of the works of J.S. Bach devised by Wolfgang Schmieder, indicated in Europe as "BWV" (Bach Werke Verzeichnis).
Wolfgang Schmieder (1901-1999) was a German musicologist who, after his graduation became an archivist at Breitkopf & Härtel Publishers in 1927. In 1942 he took the post of "Bibliotheksrat" (Library Manager) of the city of Frankfurt a.d. Main. The "Bach Werke Verzeichnis" (BWV catalog) was published in the Bach year 1950, the 200th Anniversary of Bach's death.

In May 1952, the 4-12" LP set of Bach's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248/S248) performed under conductor Hans Grischkat is listed for the first time in Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog as Renaissance X 201. The recording was probably made in 1951 or even earlier. The price for this edition was $23.80, plus libretto. Quite expensive for a specialist's recording and most certainly not a bestseller.

Five months later, in November of that year, it was announced that Don Gabor had bought the Christmas Oratorio recording with Grischkat from the Period people and he was going to offer the 4 LP set on Remington for only $5.95 plus $ 1 for the libretto. The deal meant that Remington Records obtained the original Renaissance plates as well. From these plates the Remington records were pressed, be it on Websterlite, the special vinyl mix Don Gabor had devised to keep the cost of record production low.

Marta Schilling (soprano), Ruth Michaelis (contralto), Werner Hohmann (baritone), Bruno Mueller (bass), The Stuttgart Choral Society, the Swabian (Suebian) Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hans Grischkat. Cover by Curt John Witt.
The dead wax shows the Period plate numbers (X 20).

The oratorio (consisting of six cantatas) performed by a renown interpreter of Bach's music, was obviously a nice addition to the Remington catalog. Collectors who would buy cantatas issued on the Renaissance label or whatever label that offered Bach's choral music, could now acquire the inexpensive, complete Christmas oratorio from Remington, or they could buy the newly released, expensive recording by Vladimir Grossman on Vox, which was officially listed in the January 1953 Schwann catalog. Period and Gabor must have known about the upcoming release on VOX. So Remington could present itself again as the budget label with "Music for Millions" and ranked itself at the same time in the same league, more or less, of these more expensive labels. That was a clever move.

The liner notes glued on the inside of the front of the box say:


Hans Grischkat, the Conductor, has assumed as his life work the study and performance of the church cantatas and other choral works of Bach. Conductor of the Suebian Symphony and the various "Singkreise" in Reutlingen and Stuttgart, he is also Professor of Choral Conducting at the State Conservatory of Music, Stuttgart.

The Stuttgart Choral Society is a handpicked group of the best singers from the local "Singkreise" or singing circles. Attendance at weekly rehearsals, and at the community sing symposium, which is conducted for two weeks every summer, is mandatory. The highest standards of admission requirements and stringent regulations concerning attendaanjce at rehearsals make it possible to acquire the precision demanded by baroque music.

The Suebian Symphony Orchestra, Oboe Choir (two oboi da caccia, two oboi d'amore), two corni da caccia, bassoon, violone continuo three D-trumpets.

Ruth Michaelis, Contralto is a resident of Munich and member of the Bavarian State Opera. She has appeared on every German operatic stage, in roles ranging from Monteverdi to Richard Strauss. She has appeared at the Salzburg Festivals and has sung all of the alto cantatas of Bach in concert.

Marta Schilling, Soprano has appeared as soloist in oratorio performances under the world-famous conductor Hermann Abendroth, as well as at the Stuttgart, Cologne and Leipzig Gewandhaus Bach Festivals.

Werner Hohmann, Tenor has concertised in Germany and France. He specialized in the study and the performance of various Evangelist Tenor roles in the Bach Passions and Oratorios.

Bruno Müller, Bass was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has appeared in oratorio festivals in Stuttgart, Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Oslo, Basel, Berlin, Leipzig and Paris.

Instrumental Soloists: Andrea Steffen-Wendling, Violin Solo; Adolf Kassa, Trumpet Solo; Hans Sperling and Fritz Pfeifer, oboe; Eva Hölderlin, organ continuo.

Music editor Alec Robertson reviewed this performance issued in Great Britain on the Nixa label in 'The Gramophone' of August 1952. The following paragraphs are taken from that review.


The performance, as a whole, shows every evidence of loving preparation and care and it is only occasionally that it seems to fall short. Thus, there is a sense of haste in the cradle-song that robs it of its tenderness; but in the beautiful quiet singing of "Keep, 0 my spirit" in Part III, Ruth Michaelis shows what she might have done with the earlier aria, and the orchestra here at once establishes the proper atmosphere. Schweitzer's great authority can be quoted for the heavily stressed playing of the "angelic" opening theme in the Pastoral Symphony, and this is usually done; but the effect is much more, it seems to me, in accordance with Bach's intentions if the lovely melody is allowed to float along, except where it is required to break out joyfully. (...)

All the singers phrase most artistically and Werner Hohmann, the narrator and singer of the tenor arias, has remarkable breath control. Bruno Muller, the bass, is admirable in his duets with the sopranos but in his first aria in Part I (No. 8) he breaks out into a rush of aspirates that only an Italian tenor would envy.
The one thing in the excellent orchestral playing, and sometimes in the equally excellent choral singing, that I feel inclined to criticise is too much use of staccato, so that the music falls into a metronomic jog-trot rhythm that can be a danger in Bach. (...)

The recording, by and large, is good (though not free of pitch waver in some places), and we certainly hear most clearly the carefully worked out and most interesting schemes of Bach's orchestration. - Alec Robertson

Long before the eminent Gustav Leonhardt and the daring Nikolaus Harnoncourt started dusting off the scores of Johann Sebastian Bach and brought us a pure and sober and also original setting for the performances of the many compositions of Bach, it was Hans Grischkat who dedicated himself to the noble practice of performing the Choral Works true to the score as it possibly can be. Already in the 1920s - when he was in his twenties himself - Grischkat made name by performing Bach Cantatas in a style far from the dramatic and romantic approach of so many a conductor in those days. After World War Two Grischkat became the prominent researcher and knowledgeable interpreter of many a Bach-score.

European musicologists and record collectors were well aware of the significance of Grischkat's practice as he could be found on the Nixa label (Great Britain), Contrepoint (France), Opera (Germany), and VOX. The Period recordings were issued on the Nixa label in Europe. The recordings released in the USA on the Renaissance label may well have been those that were issued in France on Contrepoint. They are all from the early nineteenfifties.

A selection of recordings by Hans Grischkat and the Schwäbische Singkreis made in the early 1950s and that were available in Europe:

*Barmherziger Herze der ewigen Liebe + Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt - Nixa PLP 236

*Es ist das Heil nun kommen wird + Lobe den Herrn, den mächtigen König der Ehren - PLP237

*Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen + Meine Seele rühmt und preist - PLP 235

*Der zufrieden gestellte Aeolus - PLP 243

*Missa Brevis in g + Sanctus in d - Contrepoint MC 20059

*Missa Brevis in G + Sanctus is G - Contrepoint MC 20025

*Hohe Messe - Vox PL 8063 3x12" - Margot Guillaume, Hetty Plümacher, Werner Hohmann, Horst Günter, The Pro Musica Orchestra Stuttgart, Hans Grischkat

Vox PL 8063 was also issued in Great Britain in a gatefold album containing the three discs. Instead of supplying liner notes with information about the work and the artists, listeners were advised to buy a booklet from the Oxford University Press about Bach's B Minor Mass.

*Weinachtsoratorium on Nixa PLP 201 in England - On the continent both the Nixa issue and Remington 118/4 were available for a short period.

Nevertheless, Hans Grischkat soon received tough competition from Hermann Scherchen, Ferdinand Grossmann, and Felix Prohaska.

Grischkat conducted many a performance in the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart and for his recording of the B minor Mass (H-Moll Messe) he received the "Grand prix du disque" in 1960. This was a later recording issued on the VOX label, again with the "Schwäbische Singkreis", and now with the Orchestra of the 35th German Bach Festival. Singers are Friederike Sailer (soprano), Margaret Bence (contralto), Fritz Wunderlich (tenor), Erich Wenk (bass), and the Swabian Chorale. Instrumental soloists are Susi (Susanne) Lautenbacher (vioin), Karl Strobel (flute), Friedrich Milde (oboe), Karl Arnold (horn), Siegfried Hopf (English horn), Walter Gleisle (trumpet). Eva Hölderlin played the organ, Herbert Schaeffer the cello, and Georg Hörtnagel played double bass. Vox Mono VBX7, Stereo STPL511283 and SVBX 57.

That was not all. He continued to make recordings and he continued his research and studied extensively the Cantatas and prepared the publication of the scores for professionals, and he even took care of the publications in the pocket book format accessible for the layman as well. His performances have nothing of the dry, ascetic practice one sometimes encounters in the modern performances of a few conductors of today. That is why many critics noted and appreciated the precise, yet very lively performances led by Hans Grischkat.

In the Remington catalog is missing the Grischkat Concerteum recording CR 321 - CR meaning Remington on Concerteum - of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. However that recording was issued in the USA by the Period label, Reference 530.

Hans Grischkat whose full name was Hans Adolf Karl Willy Grischkat, was born on August 29, 1903, in Hamburg, Germany. He died in Suttgart, the town he lived his prosperous life in, on January 10, 1977.

Text and research, Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published on July 20, 2011.

 

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