Classical CD Reissues, Part 2
for May 2002
MOZART: Piano Sonatas - A Major, K. 284; C Major, K. 309; A Major, K. 311; Allegro in B-flat Major, K. 400; Allegro in G Minor, K. 312
Paul Badura-Skoda, pianoforte Johann Schantz, 1790
NAÏVE E8866 75:25 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):
While I do not tend to favor "authentic" instruments, I wanted to audition excerpts from Paul Badura-Skoda's 1990 Mozart cycle, as played on a period instrument, having heard him in concert in Atlanta some years ago and still favoring his Concerto No. 22 with Furtwaengler from 1952. Badura-Skoda claims his "conversion" to the lighter, more fluent action of period instruments came in 1948, after a recital by Isolde Ahlgrimm. The more transparent articulation, the fluid staccato effects he achieves, compensate for the loss of sonorous weight the modern piano provides. I
I am particularly impressed by Badura-Skoda in the tricky, often surprising antics of the C Major Sonata, K. 309, where Mozart often trades the top line with its accompaniment, as well as using daring, irregular metric feet. He takes the usually slow, elegant Adagio at a slightly more Andante pace. The broken-style of K. 284 holds a world of digital demands, including stunning orchestral effects, as well as variations that reveal Mozart's own notions of ornaments. The Rondos in these recordings really shimmer, the middle and upper registers of the Schantz keyboard's enjoying a definable 'ping' that sets this recording apart. Besides the immensely spirited Sonata in A, K. 311, an old favorite, the real find in this survey is the little, dark Allegro in G Minor, K. 312 (590d), written around 1790, that has all the imploded fury of the C Minor Concerto, K. 491. Its use of canon clearly hearkens to Mozart's late studies of Bach. This disc is thoroughly musical in every way.
MOZART: Overture to "The Impraesario," K. 486; Concerto No. 10 for 2 Pianos in E-flat, K. 365; "L'amero, saro costante," K. 208; "Ma, che vi fece, o stelle-Sperai vicino il lido,: K. 368; Symphony in F, K. 112
Gesa Anda and Clara Haskil, pianos
Erika Koeth, soprano
Bernhard Paumgartner conducts Camerata Academica Salzburg
Orfeo C 572 011B 60:57 (Distrib. Qualiton):
This disc celebrates a number of eminent Mozarteans, not the least of which is Bernhard Paumgartner (1887-1971), founder of the Camerata Academica in 1952, noted for its inclusion of the lesser, but no less charming, lights in Mozart's oeuvre. This Sunday matinee concert from 4 August 1957 captures the warm ambiance Paumgartner achieved with his ensemble and the luminary soloists who joined in the festivities. Here, the team of Anda and Haskil, two artists who had collaborated in the Mozart E-flat Concerto for EMI (with Galliera), as well as in the Bach C Major 2-Klavier Concerto (neither reissued) regroup for a florid, totally lyrical reading, with Anda at first klavier, Haskil's assuming the part written Mozart's sister, Nannerl. The down-side to this rendition is the slovenly, often ragged ensemble of the Camerata, which makes one wonder if Paumgartner's repute survives more from nostalgia than real discipline. The real surprise may be the virtuoso coloratura Erika Koeth, sparkling in the two arias, the first from Il re pastore, the second a brilliant concert piece that requires three high f's, to which she rises with hearty abandon. The opening Overture to the droll "singspiel" The Impraesario, bursts forth with gusty fervor; the concert ends with an early symphony by the fifteen-year-old composer that reveals its many obligations to the Italian Sammartini and to the German Dittersdorf. The finale of the Concerto, by the way, has so infectious a sway that it had to be repeated after the tumultuous applause of the Salzburg audience. You can play it as often as you wish.
BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, OP .111; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Pietro Scarpini, piano
Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducts RAI Rome Orchestra
Arbiter 131 62:31 (Distrib. Qualiton):
Pietro Scarpini (1911-1997) enjoys a limited reputation among piano cognoscenti for two collaborations, his 1956 Mozart E-flat Concerto with Mitropoulos, part of the Mozart bi-centennial; and the 1952 Beethoven G Major with Furtwaengler included on this disc. I recall asking a visiting Maria Tipo (at the Atlanta Symphony) about him in 1995: she replied that he was still active as a teacher and consultant, but not giving concerts; he had formally retired in 1971. Scarpini's penchant for the modernists-Nono, Dallapiccola, Scriabin, Schoenberg-caused him to refer to himself as "the Rubinstein for modern music." But his approach has more of Charles Rosen: a pensive, literalist, thoughtful regard to tempo and phrasing, a rather dry sonority, a sparing use of pedal. His unissued recorded repertory is quite vast: Arbiter plans a major restoration, in the order of some 20 CD's that will embrace music by Bartok, Haydn, Chopin, Janacek, Liszt, Prokofiev, Scarlatti, Bach, Stravinsky and others.
I find Scarpini's Op. 111 intense, understated, highly exploratory while remaining quite sober, somewhat an adumbraton of Richter's glacial approach, but less detached in the growing fervor of th sonata's last pages. It is an amazing testament to Scarpini's restrined dynamics: he can pianissimo with the best, making his extended trill near the conclusion quite precious. The reading is of a piece, quietly introspective, with some moments of mesmerizing control. When the audience applauds, you are shocked to realize the sonata was recorded in concert. Furtwaengler occasionally seems to adjust his forces in this most singing of concertos to Scarpini's capacity for non-legato playing. Still, there are some liquid moments, some searching, poetic dialogues between piano and orchestra, with Scarpini's top line runs facilely graceful. The recorded sound is distant; we do not hear the colors of every woodwind, the miking remains fixed on piano and strings. Still, this a loving, devotional performance, worthy of our attention as well as our fascination with the remainder of what may well be a treasure trove.
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata No. 13 in A, D. 664; Piano Sonata No. 14 in A Minor, D. 784/BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
Testament SBT 1230 67:05 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):
The legacy of British pianist Solomon Cutner (1902-1988) continues to expand on CD: Testament restores the A Minor Sonata, D. 784, one of the great artist's most elusive LP's, the recording made in 1952. No less emblematic of this chaste but fluent artist is his Schubert A Major Sonata, D. 664, the recording made in 1956, two years before the debilitating stroke that paralyzed Solomon's awesome powers. The natural tendency is to compare the A Major to the historic inscription Myra Hess made of the piece back in 1929. Each has its virtues, the Solomon being more virtuosic, more plastic in the rhythm, and more vehement in the polyphonic passages that pepper the finale. The second movement Andante proves pivotal for both.
The A Minor is truly a strange fish; with sudden outbursts and interruptions, it seems entirely inner-directed, disturbed, given to onrushes of feeling via double octaves and blistering runs. The opening movement is wholly disproportionate to the remaining two movements, double their length and intensity. Is this sonata the precursor to Chopin's off-center notions of the traditional piano sonata? The finale of this piece breaks off, leaving us relatively barren and disconsolate. Solomon's careful attention only exacerbates the feeling of dejection and spiritual isolation. The 1948 C Minor Beethoven Op. 111 is one of a total of seventeen Beethoven sonatas Solomon recorded prior to his forced retirement. Solomon alternates long moments of static calm against the onrush of " a sea of troubles." Whatever the intricacies of this Everest of piano sonatas, Solomon has it all in hand, a breathless, unified vision. The Adagio con varazioni is a huge canvas, slowly worked out to its"hard-won resolution," in the manner of the Great Fugue. Solomon lays out the original motif so slowly, so carefully, that every development and transformation seems integrated as a natural extension of itself. No small praise for the solver of the Gordion Knot!
HERMAN D. KOPPEL, Composer and Pianist - KOPPEL: Sonata, Op. 1; Variations and Fugue, Op. 3; Piano Piece, Op. 7; Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 20; Suite for Piano, Op. 21; Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 50; 15 Miniatures for Piano, Op. 97a/SCHUBERT: Sonata in D, D. 850/BRAHMS: Paganini Variations, Op. 35; Capriccio, Op. 76, No. 2/LISZT: Au Lac de Wallenstadt; Sonetto No. 123 del Petrarca
Danacord DACOCD 563-564 76:47; 61:02 (Distrib. Albany):
Herman D. Koppel (1908-1998) represents the neo-Romantic strain in Danish music, a clear advocate of his mentor Nielsen's insistence that past, classical models could be integrated with contemporary expression. Koppel, whose Jewish descent forced him to flee during the Nazi occupation, came to the Danish Conservatory in 1925 with some compositions of his own which elicited from Nielsen the same response he had gleaned from Niels Gade: "You have a sense of form." Koppel became a thorough piano virtuoso, studying with Rudolf Simonsen. Even in the midst of a Danish reaction to Romantic music, for his 1932-33 recitals Koppel programmed Brahms, Liszt and Schubert along with the politically correct pieces by Bartok, Stravinsky, Bach and Moussorgsky. The influence of the Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel is obvious in Koppel's own work, especially his Op. 3 (rec. 1980). But no less apparent is Bartok's Allegro barbaro and Mikrokosmos, with their heavy-footed rhythms and eccentric accents.
The 2-disc set is a complement to Vol. I, Herman D. Koppel in Concert Performance (DACOCD 561-562), where he plays concertos and concertinos by Jolivet, Bartok, Stravinsky and himself. The second disc has his playing favorite Schubert (1969) and Liszt (1963) and Brahms (1957). Schubert fascinated Koppel because of Schubert's unorthodox harmonic progressions and his innate sadness. Liszt appealed to Koppel's sense of color and dynamics. Brahms was forever the master of form as well as of thorough piano technique that Koppel found quite modern. Anders Koppel, the omposer's son, recalls that in his last days Herman had a morbid compulsion to listen continually to Brahms's E Minor Symphony.
Disc one is devoted to a broad selection of Koppel's solo compositions, written 1928-1988, demonstrating the composer's own gift as well as immense debts to Hindemoth, Stravinsky, Nielsen, Bartok and Brahms. Many of the miniatures have modal, serpentine melodic lines; they use chromatic harmony in a solid, tonal tradition. Some have an oriental flavor, like Tcherepnin, in a toccata-style. The Op. 50 Sonata opening could be out of a page of Reger, with his own obligations to the Brahms F Minor Sonata. Then the music seems to pay homage to Prokofiev. The Miniatures required the composer's looking hard at his own score, since they call for nuance and precision worthy of Liszt.
For the musically adventurous, the legacy of Herman D. Koppel is worth owning. Danacord is already advertising Vol. III, devoted to Koppel's chamber music (565-566).
FAURE: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13/DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in G Minor; Le plus que lente; Il pleure dan mon couer; Minstrels
Jan Tomasow, violin/Franz Holetschek, piano
Amadeus AMD 7017 47:27 (Distrib. Allegro):
\Jan Tomasow (b. 1914) is an Argentinian-born talent who became associated with the National Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, and Thomas Scherman's Little Orchestra Society. He is a suave technician who made several records for the Vanguard label; this issue of Faure and Debussy Tomasow recorded with Holetschek in 1954 in Vienna. The elegance and silken line of these recordings only makes me quibble at the brevity of the disc, where it could easily have accommodated another half-hour of music. Some wonderful things happen in the Andante of the Faure, where a deep feeling rises out of the pointed sequences that appear to be a seamless, calm surface. Tomasek's Debussy is equally poised, and it enjoys his natural, Latin persuasion in the "Allegro vivo," where the composer relies heavily on Spanish rhythms. The virtuosic demands of thesecond movement, with its arpeggios, double-stops and pizzicati, mean nothing to Tomasow, except as a bravura means to more poetry. The "Slower-than-slow" waltz has an ironic, salon sensibility. It rains in my heart is Arthur Hartmann's transcription of one of the lovely "little forgotten-melodies." Debussy himself transcribed his piano prelude Minstrels for the lively treatment it affords Tomasow and his old hand, Holetschek, who made more than many fine collaborations with Fournier and Cassado.
Andres Segovia and His Contemporaries, Vol. 7: Andres Segovia and Francisco Salinas
DOREMI DHR-7761 68:02 (Dist. Allegro):
Here are 22 cuts by two of the guitar masters of the early history of that instrument on record: the 1926 CBS, HMV, and RCA records by Andres Segovia and his colleague, the gifted teacher-virtuoso Francisco Salinas (1892-1979). Salinas' program ranges from the folkish etudes of OctavianoYanes to the lyric melancholy of Gomez, Tarrega and Galindo. Cleanliness of line and sobriety of articulation characterize Salinas' colorful playing. If he were a harpist, I would compare him to Salzedo; if he were zither player, I would mention Anton Karas. His pointed playing, its piercing, ringing tone and innate rhythmic fluidity sets the standard for the later school of Mexican guitarists. His own composition, "Dime Que Si. . ." allows him to luxuriate in his strengths, his strong singing line and his quick articulation of chords and added hamonics. At track 15 forward, we get the art of Segovia, just at the point when his concerts were rejuvenating interest in the serious side of guitar music. He begins with the famous Tremolo Study by Tarrega and Turina's Fandanguillo, then on to a suite of five pieces by Manuel Ponce. All of the restorations by Jacob Harnoy are among the most quiet shellac transfers I have heard. If you desire two grand guitar masters play for you in your home, this recording makes it happen. Ole!
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