> Andor Foldes Beethoven etc [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Tono Recordings - 1950-51
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata Op 12 Pathétique
Sonata Op 78
Sonata Op 79
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Abegg Variations
Aufschwung (Fantasiestücke Op 12/2)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Rhapsody in G minor Op 79/2
Intermezzo in E Flat Op 117/1
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Waltz in A Flat Op 34/1
Polonaise in A Op 40/1
Andor Foldes, piano
Recorded Bispebjerg Bio, Copenhagen, Denmark 1950-51
APR 5580 [72í05]

Full price

Born in Budapest in 1913 Andor Foldes settled in America in 1940 after some successes there. As early as 1942 he recorded with fellow Hungarian Josef Szigeti. Admirers will remember especially the first Schubert Violin Sonata. After the War, before he became so identified with the music of Bartók, he made a series of little known recordings in Denmark for Tono and the majority have now been collected and issued by APR.

Tono, like Decca, had rather noisy shellac and itís difficult to filter the noise without compromising or losing altogether the higher frequencies. Total noise reduction would compress too much and APR has instead skilfully retained some audible surface noise without damaging the integrity of the recordings. These Tonos have been an undiscovered discographic resource for a number of distinguished artists; at the same time as Foldes made these recordings another émigré Hungarian violinist and Nielsenís son in law, Emil Telmanyi, was making a prolific series of discs. Itís entirely right Foldesí never since reissued recordings should now gain a wider currency as it affords us the opportunity to listen to him in his early maturity; he was thirty-seven when the series began. He emerges from these discs as a cool and analytical pianist. The Pathétique is technically adept, with clarity of articulation in right hand runs and some attractive playing in the outer movements. But it shares with the little Opp 78 and 79 Sonatas a rather aloof personality. Whilst the Presto alla tedesca for example is fluent itís not witty and whereas the slow movement of the same sonata is not over-scaled in terms of its place in the architecture of the eight-minute work, it equally never really engages as it should.

His Schumann is of a piece with the general profile of his playing. The Abegg Variations are flecked with some filigree treble at their conclusion but Papillons has a limited range of dynamics and a lack of intimacy and fantasy. His rhythm at the start is much more regular than, say, Cortotís, whose rhythmically disruptive playing immediately conjures up the fantastic. Foldes, by comparison, is a lot more brusque and cosmopolitan, lacking the Frenchmanís insinuating cragginess and spontaneity. Foldes canít help but seem metronomic and rather prosaic in comparison. His Brahms is also troubling. Facelessness bedevils the Intermezzo whilst the Rhapsody is analytical, rather mechanical, contrastive sections uninvolving and an almost total lack of legato. His coolness vitiates Chopinís A Flat Waltz and an unrelieved mezzo forte runs throughout the Polonaise, shorn of dynamic contrasts and quite clearly not the fault of Tonoís engineers. Others will doubtless hold more positive views of Foldesí playing here; his analytical clarity will appeal to collectors of mid-century Beethovenian performance practice. He is not a pianist who appeals to me but the important point is that these long unavailable recordings are once more open to scrutiny and investigation.

Jonathan Woolf


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