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Conrad Hansen (1906 - 2002)

Edwin Fischer, Conrad Hansen's teacher.
Picture taken from French EMI LP PM322 with Beethoven's Fifth Concerto with Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 x 78 rpm records: Tchaikovsky's 1st Concerto on the Czech Ultraphon label. Ref.U-G14273/6 (Telefunken SK3092/5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting in the Old Philharmonic Hall (Alte Philharmonie) which was destroyed in 1944. Picture taken from the Unicorn release of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, 'Choral' - UNI. 100/101.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Masterseal release of Tchaikovsky's Op. 23 with conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 x 78 rpm records: Tchaikovsky's 1st Concerto on the original Telefunken label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The release of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the RIAS Symphony and Wolfgang Sawallisch on a 10" Deutscher Schallplattenclub record, reference DSC C-67.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search The Remington Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit also the interesting Furtwangler page published by Jimbob.

 

See also Youngrok Lee's Wilhelm Furtwangler discography

Already at a very young age Conrad Hansen performed with conductor Eugen Jochum and from 1927 on he often concertized with Wilhelm Furtwängler as well. With Furtwängler he performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 Op. 56 in 1943 which was to become Conrad Hansen's most famous recording. But he also made a recording for Remington Records. 

Conrad Hansen was born on the 24th of November 1906, in Lippstadt in Westphalia. According to pianist Gisela Sott, it was Fritz Volbach (at the time 'Generalmusikdirector' in Münster) who discovered the young talent. Young Conrad Hansen came to Berlin in 1920 and two years later he was accepted as a student by the great Edwin Fischer. He studied with Fischer until 1930 and later became an adept of the Cortot-school of piano playing. Hansen knew Cortot well and every time the French maestro was in Berlin, the two pianists met, although their styles of piano playing differ.
Edwin Fischer, who had a busy concert schedule, asked Hansen to be his assistant and to teach Fischer's students when the great performer was on tour. So from 1935 on Hansen taught at the Berlin Municipal Conservatory (Berliner Musikhochschule, formerly 'Sternsches Konservatorium').

After a successful concert performance with Wilhelm Mengelberg of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23, commemorating the composer's 100th birthday (April 25th, 1940), Hansen was asked to play the popular concerto again with famous Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,but now for a recording. Hansen told Hans-Heinrich Raab during a conversation on July 24, 1996 and later broadcast by Nordeutscher Rundfunk (on July 24th, 2002), that the people from Telefunken Schallplatten asked if conductor, pianist and orchestra could play the Concerto without interruption. That was quite uncommon as recordings were made direct-to-disc in several steps. AEG Magnetophon recorded Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Conrad Hansen and Wilhelm Mengelberg in July 1940

But when the Telefunken Gesellschaft had acquired the new Magnetophon (Tonbandgerät = tape recorder) which was developped by AEG, the recording team aproached the artists and managers with the wish to use the Magnetophon for the recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto. Mengelberg and Hansen were asked if they could play the Concerto without interruption instead of playing subsequent parts of the score as was the custom. They agreed. And that made Hansen's Tchaikovsky one of the first recordings (if not the first ever) of a classical work done on tape, in 1940!

The Tchaikovsky recording was made in July of 1940 just about two months after the Netherlands had been invaded by the Nazis on May 10th, 1940, the army of the Netherlands were defeated at Grebbeberg, and after the center of the city of Rotterdam had been severely bombed by the Germans on May 14th. Going to Germany after your country has been attacked and after it had to surrender to Hitler's army, shows what Willem Mengelberg's position was. In short: life must go on and music is more important than politics. The political, social and humanitarian consequences of Germany's War were generally not fully understood by everebody at the time, or the meaning of being occupied by the Germans was deliberately neglected by many, and specifically by such a celebrity as Willem Mengelberg.

The cooperation between Hansen (25) and Mengelberg (69) resulted in a balanced performance. Mengelberg did not put his personal stamp on the music and let Hansen be his own self. It is known that Mengelberg did not "interpret" specific popular works like the Tchaikovsky B Flat. The Berlin Philharmonic plays the part as probably any good orchestra led by a first class conductor would have. A Mengelberg approach would be in great contrast with Conrad Hansen's pure pianistic style. In this recording Hansen - in the first movement - plays the shortest cadenza ever, skipping several bars and proceeding practically immediately to the end of the cadenza. The emphasis is on precision. It is also a performance without much passion.
"Mengelberg was very happy with my playing", Hansen later said.
As so many Mengelberg recordings also this performance was released not only on the Telefunken label but also on the Czech label Ultraphon.

During the period of the Third Reich, the artists who had specialized in performing modern repertory, had difficulty in keeping their positions as the modern repertory soon was declared to be 'entartete Musik' (degenerated music). Many performing artists, composers and conductors fled the country. Those who stayed just kept a low profile and tried to come by. Not all musicians and especially the performers of the classical repertory did have too much to fear. Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Herbert von Karajan, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Karl Böhm, Carl Schuricht, Richard Strauss, Elly Ney, Willem van Hoogstraten, Wilhelm Backhaus, and others could continue their careers. Some because they sympathized more or less with the Nazis, others despite of the Nazi regime as in the case of conductor Günther Wandt who had a narrow escape after he had been arrested.

These were dangerous times as is illustrated by the arrest, trial and execution in September 1943 in Berlin of young concert pianist of Dutch origin, Karlrobert Kreiten (1916-1943) who as a young man was careless when he expressed that Adolf Hitler was merely a mad man and that the Third Reich would soon end. Karlrobert was arrested. Wilhelm Furtwangler was asked to intervene, but the conductor merely wrote a note thinking that this was sufficient to free young Kreiten. Furtwängler's intervention was ineffective, right from the start. (See the German website about the young pianist Karlrobert Kreiten in Berlin in 1943.)
Many artists in Germany and other European countries stayed. Also Conrad Hansen continued to perform. He was forced to play for the army (Wehrmacht).

Conrad Hansen in the mid nineteen fifties.
Image taken from the 1958 Tefi catalog, photo copy of original picture submitted by Dr. Klaus Holzapfel (Germany) and edited and artistically rendered by Rudolf A. Bruil.

Immediately after World War Two in 1945 (as his biography tells), Hansen founded his own trio: The Conrad Hansen Trio, together with Arthur Troester (cello) and Erich Röhn (violin). But he always remained a devoted teacher. He also was one of the founders of the "Detmold Music Academy". The idea for this music college had come up already in 1944, near the end of the war, but the realization of the project started in 1946.

In 1960 Conrad Hansen moved to Hamburg to teach at the Hamburger Musikhochschule as a successor of Eduard Erdmann (who had first taught at the Cologne Conservatory from 1925 till 1935, then followed exclusively a career as concert pianist, and in 1950 had become a professor in Hamburg).
At the same time Hansen continued teaching in Lübeck.
As so many pianists have done and still do, also Hansen edited Beethoven's original manuscripts (Urtext) of the Piano Sonatas and prepared this edition for publication.
For many years he continued to teach and many young students from all over the world, in his later years many students from the Far East, came to Hamburg to have lessons with the professor.

Professor Hansen always stressed that it is important to be able to play legato. He also said that the intrinsic value of the interpretation is the highest goal to be reached. To play brilliantly is easy, but to perform the inner truth of the music is quite something else.
This adagio is a trait of his performances of several Mozart Sonatas which he recorded for Deutsche Grammophon. The intrinsic value is a subjective notion. There is a large difference between the intrinsic value of Mozart Sonatas and the recorded live performance of Beethoven's 4th Concerto (Klavierkonzert Nr. 4) together with conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler in 1943. This compelling performance was the result of Furftwangler's views which must have inspired the pianist to a large extend. This performance is admired the world over.

Conrad Hansen also found that the Compact Disc is inadequate to store the many dynamic variations, the impact and depth of the sound of musical instruments, and because of that, the CD is incapable to fully convey the interpretation of the artist.

When Laszlo Halasz supervised the Remington MUSIRAMA recordings (at times together with Don Gabor himself who then traveled to Berlin) with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra, starting in the fall of 1953, a new recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto Op. 23 in B flat minor was on the list. It should replace the early recording on Remington R-199-76 of pianist Hermann Schwertmann and conductor Alexander Paulmüller with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra (Oesterreichisches Sinfonie Orchester).

That is when Conrad Hansen was asked to be the soloist in a new LP recording of Tchaikovsky's popular concerto for Remington Records Inc. In this recording Hansen illustrates what he preaches. It is a very articulate performance, conducted very ably by 30 year old Wolfgang Sawallisch. Hansen scarcely uses the pedal and plays legato and staccato were appropriate and never gets sentimental or romantic. His approach is merely classical and has a beautiful lightness. Hansen gives precise passage work and also his "jeu perlé" can be witnessed in this recording. His interpretation has great purity and beautiful timing. This performance is above all about esthetics. Only in the cadenzas of the first movement and the second movement is he more telling.

The cooperation between any conductor and any artist is significant for the interpretation of a composition. Hansen and Sawallisch go well together as they have more or less the same strict ideas. Yet one cannot fail to notice that Hansen is very conscious about his art as he also illustrates in his other recordings, for example Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 with Eugen Jochum, and in the performance of Piano Concerto No. 1 of Johannes Brahms with Ferenc Fricsay and the RIAS Symphonie-Orchester dated April 19, 1953, a performance with all the advantages and disadvantages of a live recording (available on I grandi Concerti, Longanesi Periodici No. 50).

NOTE If you are looking for humanity in the Tchaikovsky, there are other recordings to go for. Witold Malcuzynski, together with conductor Witold Rowicki, gave a compelling virtuoso performance, dynamic and passionate, on Muza SX 0123 (stereo). Or you may even try out of curiosity the old imperfectly recorded Remington disc of pianist Hermann Schwertmann for a change, who interestingly takes all the time he needs and has moments of fine phrasing and timing, but did not have the same quality of orchestra mostly due to a bad recording technique with a more or less altered frequency characteristic, and there was practically no possibility for more takes and splicing. But his performance is right from the heart and has no pretense!

Hansen's recording on Remington R-199-197 was later released on Don Gabor's Masterseal label (MSLP 5006). There is no information about Conrad Hansen on the Remington Musirama cover. But on the later Masterseal release the liner notes state this simple phrase:


"Conrad Hansen is one of Europe's most gifted and upcoming young pianists, whose sensitive interpretations have established him along the top rated European pianists."

This of course was advertising talk as Hansen had recorded the work when he was 48 and the Masterseal was released a few years later, around 1957/1958, when Hansen was about 52. He hardly could have been an "upcoming young pianist".
Much later there was a release of Tchaikovsky's 1st Concerto on Masterseal in stereo which mentions Conrad Hansen as being the soloist, but this is definitely not Conrad Hansen, as producer Tom Null told me in 2001. (The same could be true for the Webster Continental LP with reference number St-12-2.)

D I S C O G R A P H Y

Conrad Hansen did not make too many recordings. Of the recordings he made there are a few cherished by connoisseurs. 

On the recordings of Mozart's Piano Sonatas and Fantasy K475.
Hansen's cycle of Mozart Sonatas on the Hammerklavier for Deutsche Grammophon was started in 1956 and was not completed when in 1958 the stereo format arrived.
Although admired by a few purists, the recordings apparently did not sell in quantities high enough to justify the continuation of the project.

About the recording of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto
Nevertheless his discography is interesting, especially because of his interpretations of various Beethoven concertos of which No. 4 with Wilhelm Furtwängler is -as said earlier- very compelling. It was a live performance, probably recorded on acetates (as far as I can judge), although the tape recorder, the Magnetophon (which had been presented in 1936 at the Berlin Radio Fair) was already in use by the RRG (Reichs Rundfunk Gesellschaft, the Third Reich Radio Broadcast Corporation) in those days.

I advise you to look for the Italian Ariston LP release which has the concerto spread over the two LP sides. It is the same as the release on Unicorn UNI 106 in the UK, although the latter also contains the Fifth Symphony, more or less to the detriment of the sound of both the Concerto and the Symphony. The Ariston edition from Italy indicates that the record is playable on mono and stereo equipment. The transfer is done in electronic stereo, but this time in a rather unobtrusive way and is really well done. And if your speakers are well positioned, this really is enjoyable. It has the beautiful harmonic sound of ancient tube gear with all the distortion, the coughing and door slamming included, while the Deutsche Grammophon release in the 2000 Series (2535 807) has been filtered and restored a bit too much to my taste, and thus does not convey the atmosphere, does not have that same intensity. The Melodiya Lp ( M10 46067 GOST 5289-80) also is a clean version but the copy I encountered suffers from flutter and is not too enjoyable.

The Unicorn UNI 106 and Deutsche Grammophon releases are of course worthwhile alternatives if you do not find the Ariston release or the cheaper Super Oscar SPO 1001 release which is pressed from the same plates as the Ariston. I cannot judge about the quality of the various CD-transfers, because I do not own one of them. But generally these transfers have often been cleaned up so severely that they lack the naturalness, plasticity of the piano tone and miss the atmosphere of the old transfers to analog LP. So when I made a transfer to CD I found an acceptable balance between hiss and distortion on the one hand and on the other hand musical and relatively clean sound.

Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1
in B Flat Op. 23, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Willem Mengelberg
(recorded July 9, 1940)
ULTRAPHON G 14273/6
TELEFUNKEN SK 3092/5
Dubbed to LP in the early nineteen fifties: CAPITOL P 8097
and later as PAST MASTERS PM-18

Irving Kolodin reviewed this performance in "The New Guide of Recorded Music" (New York, 1950):


"Should the Mengelberg version appear here in a reasonable pressing, or an LP transfer, it can be noted in advance as an imperious statement of the orchestral score, with facile assistance from Hansen. It is also a better recording than any of the domestic ones." (Rubinstein-Mitropoulos, Levant-Ormandy, Horowitz-Toscanini.)

In this recording the full cadenza was not played as was often the case in the 78 RPM era. Reasons could be:
a) the pianist finds the cadenza too difficult to perform impeccably in a direct-to-disc recording session;
b) it saves a minute or two and that section of the movement can be accommodated on one specific side.

Beethoven: Concerto No. 5
with the Orchestra of the Deutsches Opernhaus, Eugen Jochum (recorded June 22 + 23, 1941)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3203/7 (also referred to as TSK 3203/7)

Mozart: Concerto No. 26 KV 537
Berlin State Opera House Orchestra, Arthur Rother
(recorded June 27, 1941)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3734/37
LP: CAPITOL P 8109

Liszt: Concerto No. 1
with Berlin State Opera Orchestra, Arthur Rother
(recorded July 4, 1941)
TELEFUNKEN not issued

Beethoven: Concerto No. 4
with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Wilhelm Furtwängler
(recorded live 31 October - 3 November 1943). This performance was never issued on 78 RPM but was later transferred to LP in the nineteen seventies. The Melodiya transfer may have been made much earlier.
Melodiya M 10 49721
UNICORN UNI 106
ARISTON ARCL 13028
Super Oscar SPO 1001 (pressed from the plates of Ariston ARCL 13028)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 2535 807
(Mike Gray, in his excellent Berlin Philharmonic discography, gives only October 31, 1943, as recording date) (see the NOTE above)

Frank: Prelude, Fugue and Variations
(recorded July 20, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3741
+ Brahms: Ballade Op. 118, No.5
(recorded July 20, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3741/42

Mozart: Rondo D Major KV 485
(recorded July 20, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3725

Mozart: Piano Sonata G Major KV 283
(recorded July 21, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN SK 3724/25

Brahms: Intermezzo Op. 117, No. 2
(recorded July 21, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN not issued

Chopin: Nocturne E Flat Major Op. 9, No. 2
(recorded July 21, 1942)
TELEFUNKEN not issued

Recordings made in the LP era:

Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1
with the
RIAS Symphony Orchestra and conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch
REMINGTON R-199-197
Released in Germany on the Bertelsmann label, 'Bestell-Nummer' 13 174.
Reissued around 1958 as MASTERSEAL MSLP 5006

Beethoven: Trio for Piano, Clarinet and Violoncello Op. 11
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Erich Röhn (Violin), Arthur Troester (Cello) Brahms: Trio for Clarinet Op. 114
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Heinrich Geuser (clarinet), Arthur Troester (Cello)
ELECTROLA/COLUMBIA SMC 80902. Later reissued on Mace.

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ferenc Fricsay (live recording April 19, 1953)
LONGANESI I grandi Concerti No. 50
NOMOS 9.809212

Schubert: Trio Op. 100
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Erich Röhn (Violin), Arthur Troester (Cello) (recorded September 14-16, 1954 Hamburg)
TELEFUNKEN LE 6525 / LGX 66039

Dvorak: Trio E minor, op. 90
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Erich Röhn (Violin), Arthur Troester (Cello) (recorded December 8-11, 1954 Berlin)
TELEFUNKEN LB 6122

Mozart: Trio B Flat major, KV 502
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Erich Röhn (Violin), Arthur Troester (Cello) (recorded December 8-11, 1954 Berlin)
TELEFUNKEN issued ??

Schubert: Trio Op. 100
Conrad Hansen (Piano), Erich Röhn (Violin), Arthur Troester (Cello) (recorded June, 12-14, 1956)
TELEFUNKEN BLE 14131

Schubert: Forellenquintett (Trout Quintet)
with Max Strub (Violin), Walter Müller (Viola), Irene Güdel (Cello), Rolf Heister, (Contrabass)
BERTELSMANN Schallplattenring 13353 P10

Brahms: Trio in A minor Op. 114, Beethoven trio in B Flat Op. 11
with Heinrich Geuser (clarinet) and Arthur Troester (cello)
MACE MS/MCS-9038 (a Electrola GmbH recording)

Mozart: Sonatas Nos. 1 (K279), 2 (K280), 3 (K281) and 4 (K282)
performed on Hammerklavier

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON LPM 18320

Mozart: Sonatas Nos. 5 (K283), 11 (K331) and 15 (K545)
performed on Hammerklavier

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON LPM 18322

Mozart: Sonatas Nos. 6 (K284) and 8 (K310) 
performed on Hammerklavier

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON LPM 18505

Mozart: Sonatas Nos. 7 (K309) and 11 (K331)
performed on Hammerklavier

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON LPM 18321

Mozart: Fantasie (Fantasy) K 475 and Sonata K 457, and Sonatas K533-494
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON LPM 18479

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1
with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Heinz Wallberg

OPERA 3959 (Stereo). Later reissued on Eurodisc 70296.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Istvan Kertesz
OPERA/Europäischer Phonoklub 3269
Later reissued on PARNASS S 61 425 (Stereo)

Discographer Ernst Lumpe - known for his research on the Allegro-Royale bootlegged recordings - notes that the recording on REGENT MG 5026 of Piano Concerto No. 3 of Beethoven with pianist Franz Schultz and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gustave Kuntz is actually the radio recording of the German Reichsrundfunk Gesellschaft with Conrad Hansen and the "Grosses Orchester des Berliner Rundfunks" (Large Orchestra of the Berlin Radio), Artur Rother conducting. He adds:


I now have definite proof of the identity of this recording with Hansen's RRG recording. The DRA in Frankfurt still has the first movement of Hansen's recording, and it is absolutely identical to the movement on Regent. The DRA does not have movements 2 and 3 which are on the Regent LP. So the complete performance has only been preserved under pseudonym on the Regent LP. - Ernst Lumpe

In his late seventies Conrad Hansen recorded in the newly introduced digital format a Mozart Program for the SIGNAL record label, issued in 1984.
Mozart: Sonata No. 11 in A major K. 331, Rondo a la Turca, Rondo D major K. 485, Fantasy in D minor K. 397, Sonata No. 16 in C major K. 545

On Compact Disc:

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Sonata No. 5, Sonata No. 32. Brahms: Piano Quartet Op. 25, Sonata Op. 5, Intermezzo Op. 119 No. 1. Conrad Hansen with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm, Ernst Doberitz, viola.
MUSICAPHON M 56845 (2 CD)

Rudolf A. Bruil, September 2000.

On Tuesday June 25, 2002 the German newspaper 'Die Welt' announced that "pianist and pedagogue Conrad Hansen died on Saturday June 22, 2002 at the age of 95." - R.A.B.

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