These were widely admired performances when Classics
for Pleasure first issued them in 1983 and so they remain. Blumenthal
had to compete with the Previn/LSO recording of 1971, as well as the
Bernstein. Today the field is huge and Earl Wild looms as large as ever
in this repertoire. Nevertheless the reasons for Blumenthal and Bedfordís
return to the catalogue in this super-budget issue are not hard to find.
There is a clear-sighted, entirely plausible finesse to the playing
which never slides into the slick and certainly never descends to the
blowsily self-indulgent. It is subtle playing, less obviously jazzy
than Previnís, less prone to Bernsteinís self-absorption, more concentrated
on filigree passagework, clarity of articulation and to making its points
through musical acuity.
This is not to say that its reserve is unidiomatic
Ė on the contrary. These are highly winning performances and worthy
of an eminent place in anyoneís estimation. Blumenthalís subtlety never
conceals an authentic approach to the music that is both rhythmically
pointed and flexible. The passagework and rhythmic sensitivity in Rhapsody
in Blue are as admirable as Blumenthalís reluctance to indulgence its
big tune. In the Concerto in F, maybe marginally the less successful
of his two performances, Blumenthal still offers a lesson in musical
objectivity harnessed to technical and expressive skills. The piece
emerges strengthened as a result. Bedford accompanies well Ė at the
time this was seen as a most unlikely combination of talents but the
big band ECO work well and if Bedfordís An American in Paris lacks the
bustling swagger of his rivals it loses nothing in clarity and detail.
At this price though the disc is every bit as desirable now as it was
back in 1983.