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Volume 18 Issue 1 - September 2012

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Old Wine, New Bottles |

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESIn march 1960 the 18 year oldMaurizio Pollini won first prizein the Sixth International ChopinCompetition in Warsaw. The prizeearned him a three LP contractwith EMI. The first, completed byApril 21, 1960, was the Chopin FirstPiano Concerto, recorded by withPaul Kletzki and the PhilharmoniaOrchestra in London. The secondsessions were in September whenhe recorded the two sets of Etudes,Op. 10 and 25. Although he gaveno specific reason, Pollini refusedto allow them to be released. EMIpaid the cancellation penalty forthe third recording and said goodbyeto Mister Pollini who, ironically,would re-emerge as a superstar onDeutsche Grammophon.Testament has issued the nowlegendary complete Chopin Etudes(SBT1473, stereo CD) and we canonly wonder why the pianist saidno at the time. Listening to thesereproachless performances iscompletely disarming. Peter Andry,the producer for these recordings,writes that “When I heard him play,his strength and flair for the piano wereprodigious. Hearing him perform the firstof Chopin’s complete sets of etudes that werecorded was a spine tingling experience,with great rolling waves of sound comingfrom the grand piano. This was pianismof the very finest kind. Rarely had I heardsuch perfection. He seemed to play thesedemanding works effortlessly. I rememberthe occasion even now as one of my greatestmusical experiences.”Why Pollini withheld permission to releasethe Etudes is explained by Peter Andry inhis book of enticing memoirs, Inside theRecording Studio, published in 2008 as aquality paperback by Scarecrow Press (ISBN13 978-0-8108-6026-1). Aware that EMI waslosing interest in Pollini, DG was wooinghim and promising that they would recordthe Etudes. They eventually did so ... in 1972.The DG recordings are fine performances butquite different from the EMI whose recordedsound is cleaner and more pleasant to theear. There is a higher level of virtuosity inthese early performances, his lighter touchbefitting the repertoire. This recording wouldbe a gem in any thoughtful collection and isrecommended without reservation.For the first half of the 20th centuryHMV was, by default, the only recordingcompany that meticulously documentedthe art of singing lieder, particularly, butnot exclusively, SchubertLieder. The HMV cataloguewas populated by the leadingartists of their time — LeoSlezak, Elena Gerhardt, FriedaHempel, Alexander Kipnis, JohnMcCormack, Richard Tauber,Meta Seinemeyer, GeorgesThill, Vanni Marcoux, FeodorChaliapin, Lotte Lehmann,Charles Panzera,Elisabeth Schumann,Gerhard Hüsch, FridaLeider — to mentionsome of the pre-c.1950luminaries of the field.Adding to this castwere the many lesserknown but not lesserartists of the period. Thegeneration of singerssince then should befamiliar to concertgoers and recordcollectors; Schwarzkopf,Pears, Baker, Hotter,Ameling, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau (he has his owndisc), Wunderlich,Bostridge, Hampson, and others. DieSchöne Müllerin is given to PeterSchreier, Schwanengesang to Olaf Bär,and Winterreise to Thomas Hampson.Hampson is also heard on the 17th discin a discussion, Schubert’s Journey: AnExploration of his Lieder. The grandtotal is 91 singers singing 213 songs inSchubert Lieder on Record 1898-2012 (EMI3275752, 17 CDs). Clearly, some singers singmore than one song and some songs are sungby more than one singer. Erlkönig has sevenversions including the spine-tingling 1930recording with tenor Georges Thill, sung inFrench with a baritone and a boy soprano.This set has a heritage. Schubert Lieder onRecord 1898-1952 was released in 1982 on amammoth (for the day) 8-LP set (later on sixCDs) compiled by the late Keith Hardwick.The invaluable Hardwick was the engineerwho did many of the transfers from 78s forEMI’s acclaimed series Great Recordings ofthe Century on LP.Expanded to 17 CDs with recordingsmade since 1952, the spiritual worth of theinterpretations herein can’t be measured.The recording dates are given in the enclosedbooklet but no translations. This uniquecollection will give endless satisfaction to theselect group of devotees of this repertoire.A generation or two ago it was theBudapest String Quartet that came first tomind when someone mentioned stringquartets. In the 1930s they recorded severalof the Beethoven quartets for HMV and in1951 and 1952 Columbia recorded a completemonaural cycle for release on LP. Columbiareturned them to the studio for a stereoremake in sessions that spanned 1958 to1961 with Josef Roisman, first violin; BorisKroyt, viola; Mischa Schneider, cello; andAlexander Schneider replacing secondviolinist Jac Gorodetzky.Fifty years later, time hasnot reduced the charmand beauty of these latercommitted performances.Sony has reissued thesevaluable stereo recordings,in immaculate sound at anultra-budget price, as TheBudapest String Quartet PlaysBeethoven – The CompleteString Quartets (SonyMasters, 886977 767821, 8CDs). Arguably, one hasn’treally experienced theseworks unless you’veheard such performancesas these. Devotees maywish to compare these lateperformances with thehighly regarded 1951/52mono recordings that areavailable in fine sound fromUnited Archives (NUA01,8CDs) at a somewhat higherprice. Founded in 1917by four members of theBudapest Opera Orchestra, the BudapestString Quartet disbanded in 1967.For about three decades circa 1940 to1960, Hungarian-German pianist Julian vonKarolyi’s popularity was such that both DGand EMI signed and recorded him in solo andin concerted works. His performances wereinsightful, authoritative and assured. Karolyiattained his popularity with audiences fromnumerous concert appearances without thekick-start of being a competition winner.His recordings are starting to appearon CD, the latest being from DOREMI(DHR-7984). Heard on this new re-issueare two staples of the concerto repertoire,the Tchaikovsky First and the SchumannA Minor, both in collaboration with theBavarian Radio Orchestra. The 1948 LisztHungarian Fantasia from Munich is anattractive bonus. The word collaboration iswell considered. Karolyi is a team player whodisplays strength and sensitivity in partnershipwith the orchestra, not jockeying forposition. The two concertos are in stereo.68 September 1 – October 7, 2012

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