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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    


 

Brana Records

The Pupils of Beethoven
Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 214a [30’57].
Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)
Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, Op. 55b [28’25].
Felicja Blumental (piano); aVienna Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Froschauer; bSalzburg Chamber Orchestra/Theodore Guschlbauer.
Rec. aVienna in 1968, bKlessheim Palace, Salzburg in 1968. ADD
BRANA RECORDS BR0005 [59’25]

 

Thanks are due to Brana Records for allowing us to enjoy the artistry of Felicja Blumental and simultaneously explore a couple of the byways of the piano concerto repertoire. Felicja Blumental was (she died in 1991) a pianist who specialised in music which supplements the standard repertoire, yet she is no second-rater. She plays not only with utter belief in these pieces, but also with an unfailing musicality that can illuminate the lowliest phrase.

Czerny the composer (as opposed to Czerny the pedagogue) is under-represented in the catalogues. His music rarely falls under the hands of the great interpreters (an exception is Alexis Weissenberg’s version of the Variations on a theme of Rode on Philips’ Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century 456 988-2). True, this is not always massively memorable music, but even when it is not it shows a tendency to fizz with a plethora of arpeggios. Czerny provides an interesting link between Beethoven (who taught him) and Liszt (whom he taught). The Piano Concerto in A minor is a little uneven and it could be argued that 16 minutes for the first movement is several too many. The lovely, lyrical second subject is rather more remarkable than the work’s somewhat workaday first subject area (despite the effective shadowy clouds of the first bars). Blumental gives her all, though, her playing always clean and delightful. She enjoys the Chopinesque decorations (a pity the piano sound is rather tinny in the higher frequencies).

The very first chord of the slow movement is redolent of the second movement of Beethoven’s third concerto, but it soon becomes apparent this is an altogether lighter statement. Which is not to undermine its beauty, of course. Blumental plays with much delicacy here. The editing has to be questioned in the final movement (which begins at 3’13 in track 2 with a jolt in the middle of a trill) – at 4’03 the edit is just embarrassing (it is impossible to miss), and again at 14’11. A shame, as there is much joy in this performance.

The Ries immediately shows the Beethoven influence in its seriousness of intent (Ferdinand, eldest son of Franz Anton Ries, studied piano with Beethoven in Vienna, 1802-4). Although, like the Czerny, the C sharp minor Concerto is emphatically not a work of genius, there is no doubting its composer’s imagination and it is good to see some darker clouds scud across the sky from time to time. The work unfolds gradually yet easily. Blumental is marvelously delicate (try around 9’30 into the first movement), and she spins the melodies well in the Larghetto. Beethoven’s shadow once more crosses the music in the finale. Blumental clearly relishes the sparkling cascades of notes.

The recording is perfectly adequate once one adjusts. The piano shows a tendency towards harshness up top and there are those edits to contend with but it is all actually a small price to pay for such delight. Recommended.

Colin Clarke


 
 
 

 



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