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BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3/SCHUMANN: Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13/BARTOK: Suite for Piano, Op.14/BRAHMS: Paganini Variations, Op. 35
Geza Anda, piano
BBC Legends BBCL 4135-2 70:50 (Distrib. Koch):
Geza Anda (1921-1976) is one of "The Great Pianists of the 20th Century" celebrated on the Philips 100-installments set. Anda, a born aristocrat, was a pupil of Dohnanyi, and he made his first big impressions on us through a series of EMI recordings of Brahms and Schumann, of which this recital from Edinburgh, 23 August 1955, is representative. He later recorded for DGG, and his Schubert B-flat Posthumous Sonata ought to come back to the active catalogue. He played Bartok masterfully, as his recordings of the concertos with Fricsay amply demonstrate. He loved the Brahms B-flat Concerto, and he played it with Fricsay, Klemperer and Karajan, among others. I would be grateful to see the Fricsay restored. His last project, before cancer took him from us, was to inscribe the complete Mozart concertos, whose result was a strange cross between natural ease of performance and a tendency to fussiness.
The opening Beethoven D Major Sonata testifies to a lyric spirit, not aggressively percussive or lingeringly thoughtful, but direct and songful. The light touch rules here. Bartok's so-called Out-of-Doors Suite, (by the way, new to Anda's catalogue of recorded music), finds its impulse in song, not in the savage, primal, rhythmic tattoos that suggest a musical equivalent of Vachel Lindsay's "The Congo." Beethoven's lovely "Largo e mesto" from the Sonata has a poised, classic rendition. More curious is Anda's treatment of Schumann's admittedly knotty symphonic Etudes, in which Anda incorporates only the last of the 'apocryphal' etudes into his traversal. The magic of the filigree, the suppleness of even the most punishing stretches and metric shifts, are all handled so deftly we forget the art behind the art. So, too, the Brahms Paganini Variations, which will bear scrutiny against other titans' performances, like those of Arrau, Wild, and Backhaus. The playing is all bravura, but it has a capacity for poetry and the glittering, pearly line that made Anda's sound unique.
BEETHOVEN: Piano Trio No. 5 in D, Op. 70, No. 1 "Ghost"/MOZART: Piano Trio in G, K. 564/BRIDGE: Piano Trio No. 2 in B Minor
Benjamin Britten, Piano; Yehudi Menuhin, Violin; Maurice Gendron, Cello
BBC Legends BBCL 4134-2 74:24 (Distrib. Koch):
The complete concert at the Aldeburgh Festival, 24 June 1963, excepting the Schubert Notturno, featuring three great instrumentalists who clearly enjoyed working together. Though they had not played exclusively as a trio, the individual musicians had been mutual acquaintances since 1945, meeting during the post-catastrophic days of Germany's surrender and the liberation of assorted concentration camps. Menuhin, especially, wished to restore some semblance of order and humanity to a world both desolated and benumbed by the Nazi atrocities. Maurice Gendron appeared at 1963 Aldeburgh as a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Mstislav Rostropovich. Admirers of this fine artist should seek out his Naive CD with Jean Francaix (IMV 031) and his Tokyo appearance with Keiko Toyama on Camerata (25CM-366).
There are at least two rarities to be gleaned on this precious disc, the unbuttoned energy of Beethoven's so-called "Geister" Trio; and the enigmatic, rather elusive emotions of Frank Bridge's Second Piano Trio (1929), composed under the influenc of the Second Viennese School with occasionally quirky homages to Debussy. The disc opens with a spitfire rendition of the Beethoven, bold and playful at once. Britten, whose excellent piano work is celebrated in its own, distinct series on BBC Legends, had mixed feelings about Beethoven (and hated Brahms), but he thought this D Major Trio "lovely." The Mozart simply bubbles with glee, with Britten's utilizing some clever pedalling to achieve hues and colors of interest. Menuhin has some breathless moments keeping up, but he still manages some sweet sounds. Finally, the late work of Frank Bridge (1879 1941), Britten's idolized teacher. Britten had championed this rather severe piece in the 1930's when most critics has dismissed it as "too un-British." It makes for some challenging listening, granted. Perhaps it tries too hard to avoid sentimental cliches and winds up lacking any real sentiment, except a tight-lipped sense of structure. Perhaps its absence of warmth emanates from the pre-Depression period that produced it.
Vladimir Horowitz, Legendary RCA Recordings (1941-1982) = TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor/RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor; Prelude in G/CHOPIN: Polonaise-Fantasie; Mazurka in C# Minor; Nocturne No. 2/SCHUMANN: Traumerei; Wieck Variations/SCRIABIN: 3 Preludes; Etude in D# Minor/MOSZKOWSKI: Etincelles/BIZET: Variations on Carmen (arr. Horowitz)/PROKOFIEV: Toccata/CLEMENTI: Rondo/SCARLATTI: 2 Sonatas/POULENC: Presto/LISZT: Mephisto Waltz
Arturo Toscanini conducts NBC Symphony (Tchaikovsky)
Fritz Reiner conducts RCA Victor Symphony (Rachmaninov) RCA Red Seal B0000CE9YK (2 CDs):
Browsing at my local Tower Records, I see any number of repackaged
tributes to Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989), perhaps the greatest keyboard superstar of the 20th Century. I saw Horowitz in person only once, in Atlanta; and of the entire program I remember most vividly the Scriabin Left-Hand Nocturne from Op. 9, played like an erotic prayer, while Horowitz' right hand rested on his thigh, the thumb at a 90-degree angle to the palm. The Horowitz sound, too, made a lasting impression: insiders claim that Horowitz lacquered his piano hammers to attain that special,
hard tone that, when played staccato, simply pulverized an audience.
Whatever else admirers or detractors say of Horowitz, he could never be accused of being un-musical. His Scarlatti, whom Rubinstein never seems to have touched, has a pearly play and liquidity that always breath true. His Liszt Mephisto Waltz (from 1979) is a blazing mixture of revels and caresses, certainly the spirit of Liszt. Horowitz was a true Schumann acolyte; and if there is an irony or perversity to some of the performances, the neuroses ring true of Schumann's own, complicated\ psyche. The neurasthenia of Horowitz' personal temperament, reminiscent of Roderick Usher, found a perfect, musical vehicle in Scriabin, whose poetry is a fusion of lust and pantheism. I am never entirely happy with Chopin via Horowitz, but I have never heard a more sensual inscription of the posthumous Nocturne, Op. 72, No. 1 (CBS, not RCA); and RCA has the best recordings of his mazurkas (the C# Minor is from 1949).
The concerto recordings have already been available via the Great Pianists
of the 20th Century series on Philips. I gravitated to the 1951 Rachmaninov Third Concerto with Reiner more than to the the veteran 1941 Tchaikovsky under Toscanini. For my taste, the Rachmaninov has more controlled passion, an almost Stoic poise. For more pure fire in this piece with Horowitz, you have to go to the early inscription with Albert Coates. The rest of the repertory, display pieces by Moszkowski, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Clementi, and the "Bizet," all sparkle (as Etincelles should) and sing a monumental personality who, periodically, really enjoyed playing the piano. Ever the "artiste," Horowitz remains an "event" in music, like Halley's comet. Now he travels among the immortals.
Otto Klemperer conducts Berlin Philharmonic = BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, BWV 1068/MOZART: Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201/BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 "Pastoral"/Rehearsal of the "Pastoral"
The complete Sunday concert of May 31, 1964 with Otto Klemperer and the Berlin Philharmonic comes back to us, courtesy of Deutschland Radio archives. Klemperer (1885-1973) had been a student of Mahler, then he made his debut with the BPO in 1921; and at the time of this concert, he had not performed with the BPO since 1958. The extended (44 minutes) rehearsal element of the "Pastoral" first movement tells quite a story: the 79-year-old conductor wants more volume from his bassoon, flute, and clarinet. He wants to work on breathing and pianissimos. The results are palpable; and the later, actual performance is broad and stirring, without sentimentality, but rife with nature's grandeur, fury, and renewal. The set makes an admirable companion to Klemperer in Denmark (SBT 2242) isssued earlier by Testament.
The opening Bach Suite is noble and grand. The first two sections, the French overture and the famous Air, are taken spaciously, in the monumental style Klemperer cultivated late in his career. But the ensuing pieces are quite dance-like, even folksy, and played with an easy grace that precludes any undue solemnity. For my money, the opening of the Mozart A Major is a tad slow, just enough to make it sound more galant than 'classical,' missing the magical the way Cantelli moves it. Still, Klemperer's is a loving, even tender conception that often waxes transparent, like large-scale chamber music. The finale is particularly buoyant and charming. The Pastoral has a 'heavenly length,' to borrow from Schubert, that runs two minutes longer than his commercial, 1957 inscription with the Philharmonia of London. The textural contrasts between the Scene by the Brook and the Storm movement are striking; the large architectural design of the entire unfolding is nothing less than regal, always a model of plastic, flexible tempos. Right at the outset of the rehearsal, Klemperer says, "I am not one for long speeches; but it is good to play with you (the BPO) again." The feelings were obviously mutual. Special mention goes to the trumpet players in the Bach Suite; they are outstanding throughout.
BEETHOVEN: Vioin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61/MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218
David Oistrakh, violin; Kyrill Kondrashin conducts Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra - BBC Legends BBCL 4127-2 66:58 (Distrib. Koch):
Recorded within two days of each other, October 10-12, 1965, these Beethoven and Mozart concertos with David Oistrakh (1906-1974) capture his full and vibrant playing at the peak of his career, ably assisted by veteran Kyrill Kondrashin (1914-1981). Oistakh had made his Western debut in New York, 1956, playing Shostakovich and the Mozart Turkish Concerto, then going on to Philadelphia for a series of records with Eugene Ormandy, which included the Mozart D Major Concerto (CBS, ML 5085, still not reissued). Oistrakh always projects a muscular, resonant approach; and though capable of huge bouts of speed and agility, he can play slowly and linger on a phrase for its warm simplicity. Sporting the cadenzas of Ferdidand David, Mozart's D Major loses any sense of its 'galant' origins and becomes a dynamic, youthful vehicle of the 'emotional' school. Oistrakh's greatest recorded performance of the Beethoven is still his EMI rendition with Andre Cluytens, for sheer Apollinian grace. "Unhurried breadth" is the epithet the critics used to describe Oistrakh's rendition. Here, with Kondrashin, there are more risks, a bit more dazzle, but the herculean poise is never absent. Oistrakh's handlings of the Kreisler cadenzas are suave and polished. Always appreciated and acknowledged a true master in London town, Oistrakh's performances at the BBC wowed them then, and they pack no less a musical wollop now.
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58; Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"
One of the most understated interpretations of the Beethoven G Major Concerto has resurfaced, with Hans Richter-Haaser (1912-1980) and Istvan Kertesz (1929-1972) and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Richter Haaser was a classical virtuoso, known for his calm and restraint rather than any tumultuous pursuit of the gods' thunder. He left a record of a Beethoven sonata (Op. 79) with the International Piano Archive in Maryland; he made a recording of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Ludwig Hoelscher. His interpretation of the Brahms B-flat Concerto with Karajan appeared on British Columbia, though he and Karajan recorded no more together. Richter-Haaser and Rudolf Moralt did a coupling of the Grieg and Schumann concertos for Philips. The pairing of the Beethoven concertos here reissued date from late July, 1960. The two also inscribed two Mozart concertos.
Both Beethoven performances enjoy a majesterial poise that bespeaks a thorough familiarity of the Beethoven style. Dresden trained, Richter Haaser took his musical models from Karl Bohm. Beethoven is all placid, lyric structure, played for the lovely intertwining of musical details and colors. Kertesz, who certainly bore a more romantic temper, manages to accompany the Apollinian impulses without intrusions. Collectors will gravitate to the autumnal grace of the G Major's Andante con moto, revealed as mystery and tender drama. The "Emperor" has a high gloss, too, and a bouncy, sober verve that reminds me of the Backhaus Krauss interpretation that was on Decca. There is seriousness of purpose, but an ease of execution that makes Beethoven a master of the graceful line instead of the exploder of old forms. While neither of these fine artists was a stellar attraction at the box office, their innate musicality and cordiality of ensemble should keep this disc active on your record shelf.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Russian Easter Overture/MUSSORGSKY: Prelude to Khovantschina/RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27/ROSSINI: William Tell Overture/WAGNER: Ride of the Valkyries; Magic Fire Music; Siegfried's Rhine Journey and Funeral Music; Tristan: Prelude to Act I and Love Death/STRAUSS: Dance of the Seven Veils; Death and Transfiguration
Artur Rodzinski conducts Royal Philharmonic; New York Philharmonic (Rachmaninov); CBS Orchestra (Rossini); Chicago Symphony (Tristan); and Philharmonia Orchestra (Strauss)
EMI "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" Vol. 31 7243 5 75959 74:59; 77:37:
The EMI tribute to Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958) is, to date, he most disappointing EMI resuscitation, given its repetition of several materials (Rimsky-Korsakov and Strauss) already available on its "Artist Profile" set in celebration of this gifted but eccentric conductor. "Rodzinski was a troubled, troubling character," quipped Boris Goldovsky to me in Atlanta. "He had a strange sense of humor; he made few concessions to players and to management; and he carried a gun!" More generous assessments grant Rodzinski's musical assistance to Leopold Stokowski; his capacity to build ensembles, both in New York and in Cleveland; and his powerful presentations of opera in concert form, especially in Chicago, where he exhausted the budget after only one year's tenure.
Frankly, given the many fine radio broadcasts that survive with Rodzinski, that EMI did not choose some collaborations with Heifetz and Menuhin or Casadesus I find curious: it could have given us Cleveland Orchestra materials or more from those "Twilight Concerts" from CBS (I owned the LP's, one of which featured soprano Genevieve Rowe) that always captivated me. What we do have is a fine, albeit cut, edition of the Rachmaninov Second Symphony from 1945, slick, glossy and sympathetically played. A fine Wagner conductor, Rodzinski gives us Tristan excerpts that are moody and powerful; I recall Rodzinski did a moving version of the Act III Prelude, too, with the Chicago that was on an extended play 7" LP. The Philharmonia does respond warmly to Rodzinski for the Richard Strauss selections; in the "Artists Profile," we also get his excellent rendition of the Dance Suite After Couperin, and the whole disc was quite well received for its idiomatic interpretations. The Rossini sparkles; the Rimsky-Korsakov starts a big sluggishly but then takes off. The Mussorgsky Khovantschina Prelude is Rodzinski at his best in lyric, Slavic music. If you do not already have the prior "Artist Profile," this is a good survey. If you do, try to find a bargain copy, since you are purchasing only half an album of new materials.
SIBELIUS: Violin concerto in D Minor, Op. 47/SINDING: Suite in A Minor, Op. 10/KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
It seems hard to conceive that Itzhak Perlman has been around long enough to warrant an "Edition" from EMI in the "historic" recordings section. These performances from 1979/1980 are cut out of the Heifetz mold, following his repertory and his manner of playing. For my money, the most effective piece is the Korngold, played with the panache it deserves, the music's having already plenty of flair from the Hollywood movie scores (like The Sea Hawk) that sent Errol Flynn scurrying high on the mast or on trees in Sherwood Forest. Perlman gets better sound than Heifetz did, and Perlman's 1704 Stradivarius has a warmer tone. The Sinding Suite is quite fiery, given its rather Baroque affect, a kind of suite in olden style. The Heifetz performance with Wallenstein is a mite steamier, even more bravura; but this does not deny Perlman's sweet fioratura. The Sibelius just does not convey the sweep of other versions of this stormy work that I favor: Oistrakh, Marcovici, even the young Isaac Stern with Beecham. And, of course, there is the Heifetz inscription with Walter Hendl that towers over this one. Perlman has plenty of good intentions, but his collaboration lacks the power and brooding obsessiveness that makes for devout listening. The disc is a keeper for the Korngold Concerto, which will likely never have a more finished performance.
MALIPIERO: String Quartet No. 1 "Rispetti e Strambotti"/DEBUSSY: String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10/RAVEL: String Quartet in F Major/SHULMAN: Rendezvous for Clarinet and String Quartet
Stuyvesant String Quartet ; Benny Goodman, clarinet
Bridge 9137 79:18 (Distrib. Albany):
The history of The Stuyvesant String Quartet (1938-1953) is a sterling example of splendid music-making just outside the mainstream, conservative record industry, where fine musicans (Alan and Sylvan Shulman, Emanuel Vardi, Edward Kreiner) decided to explore, even to commission, important new works for the quartet medium. Collectors will remember fondly their old Philharmonia label LP's and some infrequent RCA Victors, featuring the music of Ravel and Hindemith, Paganini and Kreisler. These were intelligent musicians playing intelligent music, to paraphrase Ned Rorem.
The Bridge issue is a combination of the well-trod and the avante-garde: the Malipiero Quartet (1920), in particular, lets us hear a unique voice in music. Based on Italian, poetic forms, the one-movement work is relatively rhapsodic in structure, but its alternating strident and modal sonorities are ever-captivating, as are the Stuyvesants' (1950) deft handling of the rapid key changes. The Malipiero likely takes its cue from the "Pantuom" form Ravel uses in his own Piano Trio. The solid combination of the Debussy-Ravel Quartets (1951) proves no less ingratiating. Linear projection rules, but the accuracy and fine intonation only clarify the interior lines of each master colorist. The Shulman Rendezvous (with Benny) comes from 1946. Alan Shulman composed the piece to debut on Goodman's own NBC radio show, a lively, spirited and jazzy piece that would show off the Quartet's "crossover" capabilities with the "King of Swing." Bridge restorations of the Ravel and Debussy derive from the Nonesuch remasterings of 1964; the Malipiero and Shulman pieces owe their fine sound to Brian C. Peters. A winner all the way!
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian"; Serenade in C Major for Strings, Op. 48
Evgeny Svetlanov conducts USSR Symphony Orchestra
Moscow Studio Archives MOS 20007 67:13 (Distrib. Allegro):
I have prior commented on the conducting art of Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002), the master colorist who excelled in passionate, intensely driven readings of Slavic works. Svetlanov undertook a massive project for Melodiya, The Anthology of Russian Music, which included some elusive pieces by Arensky and Glazounov. Now, his memory endures via the Svetlanov Edition, of which these 1967 Tchaikovsky renditions form Volume 7.
I have been partial to Tchaikovsky's 1880 "Ukrainian" Symphony ever since I first owned the RCA Camden LP of Eugene Goossens with the Cincinnati Symphony. Later, I discovered Beecham's eminently lyrical account on CBS. Svetlanov's earthy rendition features a bouncy Andante marciale, taken at a brisk clip; no dawdling. A blender of vivid interior voices, especially in the woodwinds, Svetlanov urges some tenderly balletic and folksy sentiments from this piece. The Serenade is on an altogether larger scale, more in the monumental dimensions of Mravinsky and Koussevitzky, with the latter's warmth. Broad tempos in the slow sections, poignant string lines and articulate counterpoint in the waltz and Theme Russe, the account will have your heart and feet moving in synchronized eurhythmia by the final pages. This is a fine reissue; and I for one wouldn't mind having the entire Svetlanov Edition on my shelves.
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, "Unfinished"/STRAUSS: Don Juan/HAYDN: Symphony Concertante, Op. 84/BACH (orch. RESPIGHI): Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor
The complete concert of 14 October 1939 in good sound with Arturo Toscanini's opening of the third season of the NBC Symphony. A forthright performance of the Schubert Unfinished begins the evening, highly energized and driven, without sentimental afflatus. Toscanini seems more interested in the opposition of dramatic impulses than in any metaphysical mystery. The G Major cello melody has a slight unmarked crescendo, but its victory is transient in the midst of the storms that surround it. Robert Bloom's oboe is a special sound here, one sorely lacking in the RCA comemrical recording made in 1950.
After the big display piece of Don Juan, Toscanini opts for intimacy and delight in details, with Haydn's Symphony Concertante of 1792. The work soon becomes a virtuoso showcase for Toscanini's first-desk players, and the woodwinds have a grand time. The Andante is one of those "cosmic clockwork" designs whose realization under Toscanini achieves a relaxed poise that is the very opposite of the kind of nervous excitement of the later inscription (from a broadcast of 1948). Finally, Respighi's splashy orchestration (1930, commissioned by Toscanini) of Bach, where the Maestro can one-up Stokowski. Obviously delighted with the opulent and gaudy mixing of colors, Toscanin lets out the stops and fills the hall with Baroque prisms of musical geometry. Collectors who like to get away from the mainstream resuscitations of the old masters will want this disc.
Felix Weingartner conducts = BEETHOVEN: Prometheus Overture; Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36/BERLIOZ: Marche troyenne/WEBER: Invitation to the Dance/BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90/MOZART: Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, K. 543/WAGNER: Rienzi Overture; A Siegfried Idyll/LISZT: Les Preludes; Mephisto Waltz
Felix Weingartner conducts Vienna Philharmonic (Prometheus); London Symphony (Beethoven Sym. No. 2; Mephisto Waltz); Paris Conservatory Orchestra (Rienzi); and London Philharmonic Orchestra
EMI Great Conductors of the 20th Century No. 34 7243 5 79565 2 78:04; 76:22:
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was the musical antithesis to contemporary Willem Mengelberg: demure, aristocratic, absolutely allergic to emotional excess, Weingartner, along with Toscanini, revitalized the neo-classical tradition in conducting, eliminating the rhetoric and intrusive portamento that plagued many Romantic conductors. The inscriptions EMI asembles date 1936-1940, when Weingartner had already made his reputation on record by being the first to survey the Beethoven cycle for posterity. Somewhat idiosyncratic, they still attest to an active, musical mind, very intent on clean articulation of the woodwind parts, a trait no less evident in the 1940 Mozart E-flat.
Weingartner was a noted Liszt interpreter, despite his singular repute in Beethoven and, to a lesser degree, in Brahms. He had contracted to record Liszt's Tasso when he died in 1942. He recorded both piano concertos with old-world artist Emil von Sauer. Most of the propulsion in Weingartner's Les Preludes and in Mephisto is linear, accentuating the evolving singing of the themes. The 1939 Rienzi, too, has a slick, propulsive finish (despite worn master shellacs), martial and lyrical at once. I recall owning all the Brahms Symphonies with Weingartner on CBS Harmony LP's, performances taut and lean in scale, but eminently songful. A Berlioz enthusiast, Weingartner recorded the Symphonie Fantastique but it lacked the fire he was reputed to bring to the score in the concert hall. The pearl of the set, along with the minor gem, the 1938 Weber Invitation to the Dance, is the Beethoven Second from London, 1938. If the playing lacks an absolutely perfect articulation, it does not want for spirit and spontaneity. Tempos are singularly quick, but the beauty of the Larghetto reveals an Olympian poise worthy of those moments inscribed on Keats's Grecian urn. The 1936 Prometheus Overture, by the way, is from a Japanese shellac that is quite clear in sound, a pressing treasured by Opus Kura.