Schubert sonatas

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Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



The Art of Heinrich Neuhaus
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor Op.11 (1829-30) [37.30]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Piano Concerto in F sharp minor Op.20 (1897) [24.58]
Heinrich Neuhaus (piano)
USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Gauk (Chopin); Nikolai Golovanov (Scriabin)
rec. Moscow, 1946 (Scriabin) and 1951 (Chopin)

I can imagine the objections to this 1951 Chopin E minor performance. How can one live with the constricted sound, why are the fiddles so stringy, why is the piano so splintery, where do its ornaments disappear to, how can one live with the lack of clarity and definition between sections and orchestral choirs, or the uniformity of recording levelsÖand so on. Well, yes, itís all true and I felt the same thing. But given the intractable engineering problems we might as well listen to the aristocratic Neuhaus, abetted by Gauk, to whom someone, perhaps in my lifetime, will devote an edition or two.

So letís admit the limitations and then admire the playing. Delicate filigree, dynamics we will for the most part have to take on trust, beautiful elegance, a vocalised intimacy of projection; these are the things that make one listen through and beyond surface limitations. In the second movement we can add to the list pliancy and pellucid phrasing and in the finale wit: that and Neuhausís control over elasticity of phrase lengths - all splendid. So, yes, the wind counter-themes in the finale are only just about audible and the fruitful exchanges between soloist and orchestra are perforce muted. But itís for Neuhaus we have come and itís for Neuhaus we will stay.

Which means of course the equally problematic, albeit famed Scriabin Concerto recording with Golovanov. This has already appeared on Archipel with Golovanovís other Scriabin performances, and reviewed on this site. Russian Disc has also issued it. It sounds to me as if Archipel had access only to a sometimes bumpy LP pressing and in the first couple of pages there are some clicks on their transfer. On Classical Recordís transfer I can hear the same LP click, though itís been concealed rather better. One can draw oneís own conclusions about this kind of thing but the fact remains that this new transfer is slightly more tidy, though not dramatically improved. The performance is really splendid. Yes, the orchestra is wobbly, the piano once more clangy and the solo violinist absurdly forward in the sound spectrum (as is the flute in the finale). But the proto-Rachmaninovian flux and passion are all there, or would be were the recording better. The warm string veil of the slow movement is all Golovanovís doing, the nobility and authority of the finale a testament to Neuhaus and Golovanovís affiliation with the work. I imagine Sofronitsky would have been more intense and dynamic but Neuhaus cuts a splendid dash nevertheless. Even given the limitations of the original recording I have to echo myself in my previous review of this performance Ė we still await an authoritative transfer. And as with previous releases in this series Neuhausís name has been presented incomprehensibly.

Jonathan Woolf


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