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Gustav Koslik (1902-1989)

















































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It was on the afternoon of March 16, 1952, that in the Musikverein in Vienna one of the famous Sunday Concerts took place. Gustav Koslik was conducting the Tonkünstler Orchestra, the Tonkünstler Choir, and singers Ilona Steingruber, Hilde Rössel-Majdan, Waldemar Kmentt and Walter Berry in a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem.

Many attendees were impressed by the atmospheric performance, the board of the orchestra included. Now the board decided to appoint Gustav Koslik as the new principal conductor of the Tonkünstler Orchestra, as successor of Kurt Wöss. Initially Koslik's style was criticized by a few people; among these was conductor Hans Swarowsky, but sometime later Swarowsky changed his opinion and spoke out in favor of the new conductor.

Kurt Wöss, conductor of the Niederöstereichisches Tonkünstlerorchester from 1948 on, left Vienna in September, 1951, for Japan. He was going to lead the prestigeous Japan Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra (NHK). As of that date the Tonkünstler Orchestra did not have a principal conductor. The board was undecided who to appoint. Various conductors had swung the baton in front of the orchestra. There were Wilhelm Loibner, Hine Arthur Brown, Alexander Paulmüller, and Gustav Koslik,. They all recorded for Remington Records, Koslik included.

It seems that the board was somewhat cautious for Gustav Koslik's contract was renewed in the month of February of every following year and this annual confirmation was repeated for 12 years until 1964 as is stated in 'The Tonkünstler, Orchestra Stories from Vienna and Lower Austria' (Die Tonkünstler, Orchestergeschichten aus Wien und Niederösterreich, Residenz Verlag, Vienna and Salzburg, 2007.)
In the end Koslik's technique of conducting was much appreciated and not only by the members of the orchestra.

After that famous Sunday Concert, on the following day, Monday, March 17, and on Tuesday as well, orchestra and chorus performed the Requiem once again but now with Ilona Steingruber (soprano), Rosette Anday (contralto), Ratco Delorco (tenor) and Oskar Czerwenka (bass). The performance was taped by the crew of Marcel Prawy, producer for Remington Records Inc., New York.

The hiring of Rosette Anday, Ratco Delorco, and Oskar Czerwenka (Cerwenka as is printed on te Remington box), replacing Rössel-Majdan, Kmentt and Berry, could have been for contractual reasons. Hilde Rössel-Majdan and Waldemar Kmentt may have signed contracts with Westminster at the time or they expected to sign up with this or another record label. Whatever the reason, they did not appear on the 2 LP recording issued as R-199-105/2 by Don Gabor the following year.

Although the sound on the Remington discs leaves much to be desired, some of what made the performance special during that Sunday afternoon concert is shining through in the Remington recording. Typically the very slow and careful approach must have given an atmospheric touch as felt by the concert goers attending the performance. If the technical quality of the recording had been at a higher level, more of its quality may have reached the music listener's ears and mind.

David Johnson is the author of The Mass since Bach, which is an extensive article published in High Fidelity, May issue of 1958. Of Verdi's Requiem there are 6 editions to be evaluated. He writes:

"Almost all commentaries on Verdi's only Mass center on the question of whether or not it is sufficiently "religious." Generally they conclude by saying that it is "sincere," which is not quite the same thing. The truth is that this massive link between Aida and Otello is less an offering to God than to the memory of Alessandro Manzoni, the Italian novelist whom Verdi venerated as artist and patriot. He wanted to give Mazoni his best, and his best was what he had learned as a journeyman in the theater for thirty-five years. He was to find a voice wherewith to address God at the very end of his life, after he had put the theater away from him; but nobody, I think, would claim that those serene late works are greater than the Manzoni Requiem." - David Johnson

A few annotations from Johnson's review in order to get an idea of the early 1950s scene:

"The Decca set (originally Deutsche Grammophon, ed.) contains excellent analytical notes by Francis Toye (as does the Angel), the immaculate singing of the St. Hedwig's Choir, and a good soprano. But the sound is muddy at climaxes, and Fricsay appears at a loss in interpreting this very Italian music. The tenor, Helmut Krebs, is a specialist when it comes to Monteverdi: when it comes to Verdi he is a woeful failure.

The Angel set, despite the distinguished cast it boasts, is disappointing. Recorded in June 1954, it does not reflect Angel's usual high standards of engineering. De Sabata's orchestra plays better than Fricsay's; but their fff attacks in the Dies Irae and elsewhere are brutal rather than forceful (...).
For me the greatest performance of the Manzoni Requiem on records is the oldest, the one conducted by Serafin. Originally issued as an album of ten 78s, it represented some of the liveliest sound the recording industry had then achieved. In its present reincarnation (among Victor's "Vault Treasures" series) nothing of that lively sound has been lost."

Johnson confessed: "I have not heard the Remington set". And Warren DeMotte's evaluation is that the Remington release has only a low price as a recommendation. So there is one option and that is listening to an excerpt of the Requiem Mass.

Click here for a Sound Clip of Requiem and Kyrie of Verdi's Requiem conducted by Gustav Koslik taken from Remington R-199-150/2.

Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem Mass
lona Steingruber (soprano), Rosette Anday (contralto), Ratko Delorco (tenor), Oskar Cerwenka (bass); Austrian Chorus and Symphony, Gustav Koslik, cond. REMINGTON R-199-105/2

Read John Freeman's liner notes written for the Remington release (pdf).

The recording was later released on the Vibraton and Joker labels. But then the first bars of the beginning (Requiem et Kyrie) that can be heard on Koslik's Remington recording (and on many other performances available on Youtube) were omitted. That indicates that the technicians who cut the masters for the Vibraton made the mistake. That same edited tape was used by the technicians who prepared the Joker LP.

Italian issue from 1969 of the 1952 recording of Verdi's Requiem conducted by Gustav Koslik on Vibraton
Italian issue from 1982 of the 1952 recording of Verdi's Requiem conducted by Gustav Koslik on Joker


Other recordings of Gustav Koslik for Remington:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overtures (La clemenza de Tito; Don Giovanni; Die Entführung aus dem Serail) REMINGTON R-199-125

Alexander Borodin: Prince Igor Overture & Polovetsian Dances; Modest Mussorgski: Night on Bald Mountain (coupled with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov Capricio Espagnol conducted by Ernst Mehlich) REMINGTON R-199-130

Alexander Borodin: Prince Igor Overture & Polovetsian Dances were also coupled with Highlights from Kismet played by Tony Osborne and his Orchestra and sung by Reg Gray and Glen Campbell on REMINGTON R-199-186

Georg Friedrich Handel: Watermusic (coupled with Gaston Poulet's performance of Violin Concerto K 216) REMINGTON R-199-131

According to the short biography submitted by Alexander Rausch on the web site of the Austrian Music Lexicon Gustav Koslik was born on March 29, 1902 in Vienna and died September 1, 1989, in Essen, Germany. Koslik Studied musicology with G. Adler at the University of Vienna and received a doctorate in 1925. He also received piano, violin and theory lessons from the Kaiser Music School. He began his career as a solo répétiteur and conductor in Essen (1925-30). After engagements in the German cities Saarbrücken (1930-35), Koblenz (1935-41) and Colmar (1941-44) he was general music director at the Süddeutscher Rundfunk in Stuttgart (1946-48). He led a conducting class there. From 1952 until 1963 he was chief conductor of the Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra. From 1958 Koslik also taught at the Conservatory of the City of Vienna. He retired in 1974.

Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published on February 6, 2018.



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