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Frederick DELIUS (1862–1934)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C minor (1899) [18:42] *

rec. live, Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 13 September 1955

Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873–1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (1934) [21:38] *

rec. live, Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 8 September 1955

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18 (1900) [32:56] +

rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 13 and 14 August 1955

Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)

BBC Symphony Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent *

Philharmonia Orchestra/Hugo Rignold +



Two of these performances are live and were recorded at the Proms in September 1955. The third, Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto is the well known Abbey Road traversal with Hugo Rignold. For the Proms performances Moiseiwitsch was teamed with an old colleague, Malcolm Sargent, and together they essayed the Delius concerto and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.


Sargent conducted the Delius concertos but not so frequently. He’d recorded the Violin Concerto in 1944 with Sammons whilst Moisewitsch had earlier recorded the Piano Concerto in 1946 with Constant Lambert. Moiseiwitsch of course always played the single movement version of the concerto and had been an adherent for many years  The Sargent performance is a full two minutes quicker than the Lambert and this adds some considerable tension and drama to the proceedings. The sound is a bit raw but the heat of the playing is compensation enough, and one hears the important oboe and horn lines quite well. As ever Moisewitsch plays it with almost Rachmaninovian panache, essaying the passagework with power and elan, treating the rolled chords with grace, nuance and sensitivity, layering chordal writing with the right calibration of weight. Throughout his playing garners just that much more power and intimacy than in the commercial recording with Lambert; it makes for exciting, often exhilarating listening and if you can cope with the raw sound you will be richly rewarded.


The performance of the  Paganini variations, which aren’t sepatrately tracked, is very similar to the 1938 Liverpool Philharmonic/Basil Cameron recording. There’s what sounds like a small patch of cross station interference at the beginning but that soon goes even if the acetates used are a little bit scuffy. Moisewitsch is his usual bewitching fusion of sanguine wit and leonine power. The famous eighteenth variation is desptached with a certain romantic hauteur and the faster variations show little diminuition of his technique. The well-known and admired 1955 commercial recording of the Concerto was also on  EMI CDH 7637882 but I greatly prefer this Guild transfer. Not only is it transferred at a higher level but there’s much more presence and body to the sound. You will have to contend with a higher ratio of surface noise as well but that’s of minimal account given the sonic improvements in immediacy and transparency.


We live in rich times for Moiseiwitsch lovers. Pearl, APR, Testament and Naxos have sourced a wide array of his recordings and live recitals and Guild has now fruitfully entered the fray. Let’s hope there’s more where this comes from.


Jonathan Woolf




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