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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1
Piano Concerto No. 2 ed. Siloti
Chanson Triste Op. 40. No. 2
Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)
No. 1: Philharmonia/George Weldon
rec Friends Meeting House, London, 30-31 Aug 1945
No. 2: Liverpool Philharmonic/George Weldon
rec Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 29 Aug 1944 - partly Abbey Rd, 19 Oct 1944
NAXOS Historical 8.110655 [67.52]


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This is the third disc in the Naxos Moiseiwitsch series. Moiseiwitsch (1890+1963) is represented in performances likely to be well beloved of the 1940s generations with recordings made in two bombed British cities.

The First Concerto is usually played for its corruscating glint and keyboard strafing pianism. Moiseiwitsch was having none of this. Instead we get a steady, reliable and really rather unemphatic approach with poetic sensibility to the fore. Weldon and his orchestra (not his usual one) make tender play with the andante but many will miss the barn and the storm. Weldon gips things up in the finale but the soloist is not tempted. Those brought up on Ogdon, Horowitz, Weissenburg and Argerich will feel that there is something missing. I love the Viktoria Postnikova version; the one with the Vienna Symphony conducted by Rozhdestvensky. This is on the cheap Eloquence label.

The Second Concerto, disdained by most virtuosos, is given, as was customary for the times, in the Siloti edition drastically machete-ed to about 55% of the length of the work we hear now. I have always thought of it as a sort of 'Coronation' concerto, regal and with infusions of Beethoven and Mozart (revered by Tchaikovsky) and premonitions of Saint-Saens. Alexander Siloti never secured the composer's permission for his wholesale hatchet job.

Moiseiwitsch becomes much more animated in the finale to the Second Concerto. However, overall this is the material of historic documentation and Moiseiwitsch completism. To get a better handle on the Second and at fuller length try Peter Donohoe or Emil Gilels (like Moiseiwitsch born in Odessa) - both EMI. I am not sure whether Shura Cherkassky's 1950s DG recording is still in the Universal catalogue.

Going by the liner essay the lack of gaudy sheen was temperamentally in step with Moiseiwitsch's character which was transformed by his divorce in 1924 from the Australian violinist, Daisy Kennedy and by the death of his second wife, Anita, in the late 1930s. In his leonine youth this was the man whose Chopin Revolutionary Etude was in the late 1900s slated by Leschetizky for ostentation! Not much of that here.

The surface burble is not hidden by Ward Marston's audio restoration. Side changes are sometimes evident from the different tenor of the softly insistent aural 'gruffle'. Everything is in mono, of course. The piano sound is good for its age with no shatter; just a slightly 'hooded' tone. Notes (English only) are by Nalen Anthoni.

Rob Barnett


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