Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

The Hambourg Legacy: Mark and Michal Hambourg
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Andante spianato in E flat Op. 22 (1834) – Grande Polonaise unrecorded
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata in A flat Op. 26 (1800-01)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Andante and Variations for Two Pianos Op. 46 (1843)
Fantasie in C Op. 17 (1836-38)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1895) arr. Borwick
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

St Francis’ Sermon to the Birds
Mark Hambourg (piano)
and Michal Hambourg (piano) in both Schumann works and the Liszt
Recorded 1914 – 1933 (Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann Andante and Variations, Debussy) and in 1995 by Michal Hambourg alone in Liszt and Schumann’s Fantasie
ARBITER 109 [75.24]


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Mark Hambourg, Leschetizky pupil, who preceded his younger compatriot Benno Moiseiwitsch by a year or two in Vienna, made his first recordings in 1909. As Allan Evans’ notes suggest, his reputation has long been ambiguous at best and he has never garnered the status of a Friedman, Rosenthal or indeed a Moiseiwitsch. It is undoubtedly true that erratic performances have contributed to a less than just level of esteem – he has one of the most uneven recording legacies of any top-flight pianist – but it is also true that there are a number of significant successes amongst those recordings and these include the recordings he made with his daughter Michal, some of whose recent 1995 private recordings make their appearance in this set as well.

He recorded the Andante spianato (shorn of the Grande Polonaise) in January 1914. He badly splits a note or two and is very quick but some of his legato phrasing really is ravishing with the Leschetizky advice about bel canto (listen to great singers) still clearly uppermost in Hambourg’s mind. The A flat Beethoven sonata has a good scherzo – dramatic bass pointing and goodish rhythm – but the funeral march third movement is not ideally moving or monumental. In the Schumann Andante and variations Mark is joined by Michal (London, 1933). This is a free and driving performance that develops a real momentum - even though the blend between them isn’t always ideal and there are some slips along the way. The Debussy was arranged by Leonard Borwick, distinguished British pianist, but in Hambourg’s hands it strangely but obstinately refuses to come to life, remaining instead rather lacking in fantasy and a bit heavy. The remainder is devoted to Michal’s performances in St John’s Wood through 1995. In the Liszt her voicings are good and she has plenty of imagination for colour and line, even if not always optimum technique. She also essays the difficult Schumann Fantasie in C. The first movement produces numerous obstacles and she can be a little pressurised at moments but it’s not – I hope – ungallant to point out that she was in her mid-seventies when she recorded these pieces, her first recordings in fact since 1934. I was concerned that she didn’t seem to be bringing out the left hand enough in the concluding movement though is certainly animated enough in that respect later on.

This disc honours the continuing Hambourg legacy with refinement and generosity and that extends to the documentation. The two page picture spread in the centre has a couple of unknowns, so let me tentatively suggest that the bespectacled gentleman on the right is the jowly Alfred Clark, then head of EMI, and the saturnine cove with the cigarette looks like Landon Ronald.

Jonathan Woolf

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