52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  


Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

Not available in the USA




Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor Op.37 (1800) [35:08] ¹
Carl Maria Von WEBER (1786-1826)  
Konzertstück in F minor Op.79 (1821) [16:16] ²
Piano Sonata No.1 in C major Op.24 (1816) [21:13]
Claudio Arrau (piano)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
rec. Academy of Music, Philadelphia, December 1947 ¹
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Désiré Defauw
rec. Orchestra Hall, Chicago, April 1946 ²
Weber sonata recorded Victor Studio 2, New York City, February 1941
NAXOS 8.111263 [72:37]


The C minor Concerto performance was given a bit of a roasting in The Record Guide. The contributors there briefly lambasted Ormandy’s “sentimentalised and vulgar” conducting before consigning the whole thing to the out tray of critical taste. Well times change but it’s hard to see quite what so annoyed the writers regarding Ormandy. Maybe it was the rather over grazioso string phrasing in the first movement, something that might then have smacked of Rachmaninovian excess to more puritan sensibilities. Or maybe it was the balance between piano and orchestra – not especially well judged – that skewed critical favour against the performance. However one views these things Arrau has considerable reserves of power, and in the finale demonstrates a rather striking balance of command and caprice when it comes to phraseology. In the slow movement there is perhaps too much of a patrician reserve. He avoids, if I can put it this way, quiescent chording – and I find some of the right hand runs strangely cursory. Not vulgar, just rather unthinking. So whilst I can’t concur with the adjectival chorus of disgust evinced by The Record Guide the performance as a whole strikes me as oddly unsatisfying and not properly thought-through. I will say that Mark Obert-Thorn has tamed the fierce treble  - the highs are still there and it’s still not altogether comfortable but there’s certainly a richer, mellower string tone now.

The Weber Konzertstück was recorded a year earlier than the Beethoven. The accompanist was Désiré Defauw whose performance here is usually written off. Defauw was a good musician – violinist and conductor – but he wasn’t helped by the recording which was very cloudy, a problem that Obert-Thorn has sought to address in his transfer, and by his own rather stolid approach.  Arrau always remembered a pre-War performance of the work given in Berlin by Schnabel – played beautifully he added – and it was a work Arrau kept in his repertoire until the end, by which time his work-list had shrunk to Thibaud-like parsimony. Arrau’s articulation has a bejewelled beauty to it, despite the limitations of the recording, and a ripe aplomb in the finale. The Sonata was Arrau’s first American studio recording. It was boxy, sounding rather like some of those pre-war Parisian ones, and pressed on inferior wartime shellac, but the playing is vital and communicative.

The transfers as noted seek to address inherent recording limitations in a variety of ways – stiffening the bass, cushioning boxy, unreverberant acoustics, trying to clarify muddied frequencies and ensuring pitch correction. It’s all been most sensitively done.

Jonathan Woolf 

see also Review by Colin Clarke



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.