Hans Rosbaud conducts Beethoven - Symphonies, Overtures, Concertos. © 2020 Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs GmbH

CD Spotlight

Extraordinarily Gifted

Hans Rosbaud conducts Beethoven,
and GERALD FENECH is impressed

'These exceptional recordings, taped between 1953 and 1962, reveal a conductor of exceptional insight and unbounded energy, and these interpretations can be safely considered as among the very best of their time.'


This wonderful set has as much to do with Beethoven's music as it has with the conductor who interprets this same music. Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962), like the famous Karl Böhm, was from Graz in Styria. He was one of the four illegitimate children the pianist Anna Rosbaud had with organist Franz Heinisser, who was her junior by eight years. Although Hans' official father was Hans Strayner it was Heinisser who, in fact, took care of his son's well-being. The mother put two of her children into care but the other two, Hans and Paul, were raised by herself. Very soon it became evident that the young Hans was extraordinarily gifted and at a most tender age he was already an excellent pianist, violinist and cellist. Aged thirteen Rosbaud went to Frankfurt/Main to study piano and composition, where one of his great friends was the multitalented fellow pupil Paul Hindemith, later to become one of Germany's leading twentieth century composers.

In 1921 Rosbaud, although the youngest, won the post of director of the Mainz music school from among eighty applicants and, to top it all, he was also put in charge of conducting the Symphony concerts organised by the city. From then on until the time of his death in 1962 Rosbaud went on to conduct many prestigious orchestras, among which the Sudwestfunkorchester Baden-Baden takes pride of place. Indeed, today the large recording room of the national radio in this city bears his name.

Listen — Beethoven: Allegro con brio (Symphony No 5 in C minor)
(CD3 track 1, 0:00-0:57) © 1953-62 SWR Media Services GmbH :

As Artistic Director of the radio orchestra, Rosbaud made sure that several twentieth century new works were given a chance to reach the public, with world premieres of pieces by Schoenberg and Bartók among others. He remains famous for having moulded the Baden-Baden orchestra into maybe the most proficient ensemble for contemporary music. Legendary is the number of compositions premiered by Rosbaud and their creators: Boulez, Henze, Honegger, Messiaen and Dallapiccola among a host of other famous names. But Rosbaud was also a master of interpretation in the classical and romantic repertoire.

Listen — Beethoven: Largo (Emperor Piano Concerto)
(CD6 track 5, 0:00-0:55) © 1953-62 SWR Media Services GmbH :

On these historic recordings of the Master's major symphonic works one cannot fail to notice Rosbaud's artistic ability to combine a structural approach with musical brilliance, the forward-pushing with the magic of poetry and austerity with creative inspiration. When it comes to fusing opposites in order to create a whole of higher value, Rosbaud was almost untouchable. His only supposed blemish, according to today's musicologists, was his undogmatic approach where the recapitulation of the exposition in the so-called 'sonata-allegro' form is concerned. But that is only a matter of opinion.

Listen — Beethoven: Allegro con brio (Symphony No 2 in D)
(CD1 track 5, 7:22-8:20) © 1953-62 SWR Media Services GmbH :

These exceptional recordings, taped between 1953 and 1962, reveal a conductor of exceptional insight and unbounded energy, and these interpretations can be safely considered as among the very best of their time.

Listen — Beethoven: Egmont Overture
(CD7 track 2, 2:28-3:28) © 1953-62 SWR Media Services GmbH :

Young conductors who are searching for role models beyond the ordinary should snap this set without delay. Superb remastering and outstanding annotations complete an issue of true distinction that is a credit to both composer and label.

Copyright © 21 June 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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