> LISZT Lamond [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Frederic Lamond (1868-1948)
The Complete Liszt Recordings 1919-36
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Erlkönig (Schubert) two recordings
Gnomenreigen (Etude de Concert) three recordings
Un sospiro (Etude de Concert) four recordings
Cujus animam (Rossini; Stabat Mater)
Petrarch Sonnet No 104
Tarantella (Venezia e Napoli)
Valse impromptu
Tarantelle di bravura (Auber; La Muette de Portici)
Feux follets (Etude d’exécution transcendente)
Waldesrauschen (Etude de concert)
Liebestraum No 3
Frederic Lamond, piano
Recorded 1919-1936
APR 5504 [78.11]

Lamond was one of Liszt’s last pupils. The Class of 1885 in which he, a seventeen year old, found himself included old hands such as Arthur Friedheim, Alexander Siloti and Moriz Rosenthal as well as newer initiates such as Conrad Ansorge, Bernhard Stavenhagen and José Vianna da Motta. Lamond studied with Liszt for one year and the venerable man attended one of his final concerts in Britain when he came to see his young pupil perform in London.

His career was centred in central Europe; in his native country he was at best equivocally received and he didn’t tour America until the early 1920s. His Beethoven and Liszt were widely admired, especially in Germany where he settled and he maintained a small but persistent hold on the recording catalogues though not one that outlasted him. Returning to Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War he met with a degree of indifference, though he did perform a couple of concerts as a duo with Albert Sammons, after the early death of the violinist’s colleague William Murdoch. But Lamond’s career wasn’t to be revived; although he made some recordings for Decca in 1941 – inevitably perhaps Beethoven, the "Moonlight" and Liszt, some things including a performance of the "Waldstein" remaining unissued – his day was past. He died in 1948 in Stirling.

Lamond has generally been thought of and remembered as a stolid musician. The consensus was that his technique was adequate but inclined to splinter, that he was insufficiently dramatic, that he didn’t inflect the music with requisite colour; in short that he was dull. I have always thought this unfair and a number of these Liszt recordings – especially those from the February 1929 session when he was on inspired form – go a long way to making a counter-claim of greatness. The recordings here are from his HMV and Electrola sessions between 1919 and 1936. Invariably, given that his earliest recordings here are London made acoustics there are duplications, sometimes multiple; two recordings of Erlkönig, three of Gnomenreigen and a remarkable four of a particular Lamond favourite, Un sospiro, dating from 1921, 1925, 1927 and 1936 (he even recorded it for Decca in 1941). A full panoply of qualities emerge from these recordings; no hell for leather dash in Erlkönig, the ending all the more inherently malign for the concise and precise dynamic gradients being the more reigned in. His Un sospiro of 1921 is quite exciting; certainly, as alleged, there are technical shortcomings here and elsewhere and comparison with the 1925 early electric version does show a slaking of excitement – the tempo is considerably slower and the rubato more obviously applied. There again by 1927, the time of his next recording of it – clearly as Bryan Crimp’s note suggests the 1925 version was considered expendable – there is much greater inflection, the rubato less jaggedly indulged, the performance entirely improved from the unsatisfactory earlier version. Lamond’s playing was by no means static therefore; his interpretations could change given changed circumstances, such as the nature of the recording or its location. Whatever happened in February 1929 he was on regal – not invincible, just superb – form when he went to the Small Queen’s Hall to set down a series of discs. This is where I suggest you look in this particular disc for something of Lamond’s greatness. The Cujus Animam derived from Rossini’s Stabat Mater is rhythmically supple, wonderfully balanced, and full of colour and nuance. Immediately afterwards he set to work on the Petrarch Sonnet No 104 and another masterpiece – technique and mood in accord, left hand perhaps rather subservient to the right but that right hand is nobly elevated and powerful. He is superbly controlled and virtuosic in the Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli whilst the Valse Impromptu is idiosyncratic, certainly, but enjoyable. In the Tarantelle di bravura he’s not entirely confident technically but the music’s outlines are crystal clear. Feux follets completes a tremendous session is real style.

The disc concludes with four sides made for Electrola in Berlin in May 1936. There is a falling away from the 1929 gold standard. Gnomenreigen is again quite slow and whilst his Waldesrauschen is beautiful and sensitively done his 1936 Un sospiro is rather cool and undemonstrative. APR have done Lamond proud here; I recommend the disc to doubting Lisztians and refer those interested to Biddulph’s two Lamond discs. Confirmed admirers will hope that an imaginative company releases Lamond’s preserved BBC talk on Liszt, which is full of instructive things, and was once available on a Rare Records LP.

Jonathan Woolf


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