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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.16
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Fantasie for piano and orchestra Op.111
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Rhapsodie espagnole S254 arranged Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Felicja Blumental (piano)
Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra/Hans Swarowski (Grieg)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rudolf Schwarz (Fauré)
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Helmut Froschauer (Liszt/Busoni)
No recording dates or locations
BRANA RECORDS BR 0015 [61.08]


A number of Felicja Blumental’s Brana discs have featured on this site. For further biographical material on the Warsaw-born pianist who died in 1991 one can look there or at Brana’s website. She was primarily known as a specialist in Latin American music - she came to Brazil in 1942 - and twentieth century music (Villa-Lobos featuring highly, with works dedicated to her by such as Penderecki and Lutosławski amongst others). But as Brana’s series of reissues from the 1950s and 1960s has demonstrated she had a foothold in the Classical and Romantic camps as well – a versatile, unruffled and imaginative musician who was clearly prepared to take chances.

Given the eclectic nature of some of her recording sessions across Europe – Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia were popular destinations for her enrichment of the discography – this latest release is a strange collection of bedfellows. Possibly the most welcome of the retrievals is the Fauré, which features the superior accompaniment of Rudolf Schwarz and the Philharmonia. This suits Blumental well – its mix of elliptical utterance and forthright drama is well calibrated in this performance and the recording stands up reasonably into the bargain; she evinces a particularly apposite sense of playfulness, which I admired, especially when late Fauré tends to be written off as gnomic and tough.

The Liszt-Busoni Rhapsodie espagnole comes out attractively and though the recording is showing its age the combination of La Folia, malign left hand and perfumed Spanishry is a potent brew. Busoni’s 1894 arrangement is a conspicuously tangy one for orchestral forces and given her predilections in the repertoire it’s not surprising Blumental was attracted to it. The Grieg has the drawback of a swimmy acoustic and a very up-front piano, so that it both smoothes out the orchestral perspective and tends to harden the piano tone. I think only Blumental admirers will really seek this one out; strings are thin and the playing is a bit unrelieved and stop-start.

Still, Blumental discs do tend to throw up nuggets; I think the Fauré is one, even though it’s only a quarter of an hour long and Brana continues to fly the flag with enthusiasm.

Jonathan Woolf


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