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Casals Festivals at Prades Live concert performances
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

PiaNo.Quartet No.2 in E flat, K.493 (Horszowski, Y. Menuhin, Wallfisch, Casals)
PiaNo.Quartet No.2 in E flat, K.493 (Kapell, Grumiaux, Thomas, Tortelier)
Oboe Quartet in F, K.370 (Tabuteau, Pernel, Tuttle, Tortelier)
Clarinet Quintet in A, K.581 (Gonzales, Vegh Quartet)
"Zeffiretti lusinghieri" from Idomeneo (de los Angeles, Collegium Musicum, conducted by. Casals)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Trio No.1 in D Minor, Op. 63 (Szigeti, Horszowski, von Tobel)
Trio No.2 in F, Op. 80 (Menuhin, Horszowski, Casals)
Trio No.3 in G Minor, Op. 110 (Vegh, Serkin, Casals)
Adagio and Allegro in A flat for piaNo.and horn (Curzon, Casals)
String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1 (Vegh Quartet)
PiaNo.Quintet in E flat, Op. 44 (Serkin, Vegh Quartet)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1, No.3 (Y. and H. Menuhin, Casals)
Piano Trio in D, Op. 70, No.1 "Ghost" (Goldberg, Serkin, Casals)
Piano Trio in E flat, Op. 70, No.2 (Goldberg, Serkin, Casals)
Piano Trio in D, Op. 121a "Kakadu" Variations (Goldberg, Serkin, Casals)
Sonata in F [No.1] for Cello and Piano, Op. 5, No.1 (Casals, Serkin)
Sonata in G Minor [No.2] for Cello and Piano, Op. 5, No.2 (Casals, Istomin)
Sonata in A [No.3] for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 (Casals, Cortot)
Sonata in C [No.4] for Cello and Piano, Op. 102, No.1 (Casals, Serkin)
Sonata in D [No.5] for Cello and Piano, Op. 102, No.2 (Casals, Horszowski)
Seven Variations on "Bei Männern" (Casals, Cortot)
Sonata in D [No.1] for Piano and Violin, Op. 12, No.1 (Kapell, Grumiaux)
Sonata in A [No.6] for Piano and Violin, Op. 30, No.1 (Horszowski, Goldberg)
Horn Sonata in F, Op. 17 (Casals, Horszowski)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Trio No.1 in B, Op. 8 (Y. Menuhin, Istomin, Casals)
Trio No.2 in C, Op. 87 (Y. Menuhin, Istomin, Casals)
Trio No.3 in C Minor, Op. 101 (Y. Menuhin, Istomin, Casals)
Clarinet Trio in A Minor, Op. 114 (Oppenheim, Istomin, Casals)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suite No.3 in C, BWV 1009 (Casals)
Sonata in G for Cello and Piano, BWV 1027 (Casals, Horszowski)
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book Two: Preludes and Fugues in D, F-sharp Minor, G, and B Minor (Horszowski)
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828): String Quintet in C, Op. 163 (Krachmalnick, Pernel, Tuttle, Foley, Casals)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847): PiaNo.Trio in D Minor, Op. 49 (Engel, Vegh, Casals)
Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Rudolf Serkin, Hepzibah Menuhin, Eugene Istomin,
William Kapell, Alfred Cortot, Karl Engel, Clifford Curzon, piano
Yehudi Menuhin, Sandor Végh, Szymon Goldberg, Arthur Grumiaux,
Orrea Pernel, Joseph Szigeti, Jacob Krachmalnick, violin
Ernst Wallfisch, Milton Thomas, Karen Tuttle, viola
Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier, Rudolph von Tobel, Madeline Foley, cello
David Oppenheim, Jose Gonzales, clarinet
Marcel Tabuteau, oboe
Victoria de los Angeles, soprano
Collegium Musicum (London)
Végh Quartet Recorded 1953-60
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1113 AAD monaural [13CDs: 63:08, 61:02, 56:25, 64:00, 75:00, 55:35, 65:56, 66:57, 69:16, 70:48, 68:46, 75:45, 69:06]


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Collectors will know that over half of this box has been available before. CDs 1-8 were previously available on Music and Arts 688 and 689, now deleted, and there has been no alteration to the sound quality. CDs 9-13 include apparently previously unreleased material. This new cache of recordings offers the Beethoven Cello Sonatas including the 1958 meeting between Casals and Cortot in the A major and in the Bei Männern variations Ė the others are with Serkin and Istomin Ė and the D minor Mendelssohn Trio with Végh and Karl Engel. Then there are the non-Casals recordings Ė the Schubert Quintet amongst them and the mouth-watering combination of Szymon Goldberg and Mieczyslaw Horszowski in Beethovenís Violin Sonata in A Op 30/1. So a considerable amount of creative recycling has gone on to produce this box, which, moreover is at special price, 13 CDs for the price of 6.

Let me just give an overview of this collection, one that dates from the years 1953-60. Of the new material we can admire Clifford Curzonís contribution to the Schumann Adagio and Allegro which despite Casalsís technical and intonational problems emerges nobly; coupled on this all-Schumann disc is an alternately sweet and powerful A minor Quartet played by the Végh and a rather more hit and miss Quintet where theyíre partnered by Rudolf Serkin. The famous Schubert Quintet at Prades in 1952 finds an echo of sorts in this 1953 performance with the new line up of Krachmalnick, Pernel, Tuttle, Foley and Casals. The first violin is elegant and authoritative, the violas formidable but the Adagio, because of tonal dissimilarities, is rather cool. The emotive high point is actually the Scherzo where the group is at its most tonally congruent, cohesive and profound. The Mendelssohn trio with Engel and Végh is rather disappointing. The violinist is very steely, Engel makes some finger slips and Casals, despite the carapace of his old phrasal beauty, is undistinguished.

The Bei Männern variations see Casals joined by his old colleague Alfred Cortot. Casals and Cortot were reconciled despite the Catalanís apparently implacable contempt for the Frenchmanís admittedly reprehensible behaviour in the War. He never forgave his other trio partner, Thibaud, who actually lost a soldier son in the War, probably because the violinist didnít come crawling for Casalsís papal forgiveness. Still it is moving to hear Casals and Cortot, even with the legendary finger slips of the pianist palpable as ever, and Casalsís trill now badly compromised. They bring a virile humour to the work despite everything. I greatly admired the Goldberg-Horszowski partnership in Beethoven. Thereís freshness, lithe attack, expressive tone colour, beautiful shaping, real characterisation. Finally on this disc we have the Mozart Clarinet Quintet where Jose Gonzales joins the Végh Quartet for an expressive but very slow reading. The recording is close enough to hear the clarinet keys and consequently never hushed enough. The finale is also elastic to breaking point. Itís certainly poignant to hear the Casals-Cortot Beethoven A Major. The cello rasps alarmingly but Casals was eighty-two now and itís a wonder his technique retained the degree of resilience it did, even if the instances here and throughout of wandering intonation are many. The height of their eloquence is in the Adagio cantabile of the third movement, which is gloriously phrased, even if Cortot fluffs about in the concluding Allegro vivace. Had he practised it? The sound for the C major sonata with Serkin in June 1953 is relatively poor; cavernous even if the performance is intense. The D major is in much better, up-front sound though this does have the effect of imparting a distinct nasality to Casalsí tone. He and Serkin play crisply and authoritatively.

Many of the other performances are by now well known. Thereís the delightful Mozart Quartet back again for renewed life, Menuhin to the fore, and the less successful Schumann Trio with Végh and Serkin. Menuhin was clearly a breath of fresh air at Prades and contributed greatly, not being part of a coterie or clique. His playing in the 1959 Beethoven Trio in C is not exemplary and Casals sounds rather buzzy, as well as emitting what Menuhin once described as "groans like a bumblebee." The Ghost Trio with Goldberg and Serkin is much better. The violinist is in excellent form managing the difficult feat of a decent ensemble with Casals whose sepulchral entries in the Largo assai are tremendously intense. Goldberg and Serkin also remain for the E flat trio with power, affection and sensitive elasticity of the slow pages in the long opening movement. Menuhin returns for a Brahms Trio in C that sees him occasionally wavery (indeed awry in the finale), though moving, and Istomin is much to the fore showing his credentials as a chamber collaborator of refinement and rhythmic acuity.

Casals is captured in the Bach Solo Cello Suite in C, an undated performance, the highlights of which are a deeply charged Sarabande: lento and the joyful rusticity of his Gigue. On this disc, the fourth in the set, the Beethoven Cello Sonata in D features Horszowski in a notably successful pairing. Though the cello sound is rather recessed Ė it sounds as though it was taped in the audience - one can still admire the desolation of the beginning of the Adagio. Flexibility informs the Menuhin-Horszowski-Casals ensemble in Schumannís Trio in F. The slow movement is sweetly lyric and despite some little local difficulty the finale is flowing and cohesive, albeit the string ensemble is hardly the most sympathetic. Horszowski returns for the selections from Book II of the Well Tempered Clavier, romantic and beautiful. And we can also catch a couple of glimpses of the young Arthur Grumiaux; his K493 with colleagues is good but the main focus of interst will be his Beethoven Sonata in D Op 12/1 with his equally youthful colleague William Kapell. Kapell is in splendid and energised form from the very first bar whilst Grumiaux takes time to warm up. In the variations second movement thereís some attractive playing and in the finale there is animation and vivacity. By and large Kapell emerges as the more successful on that day. Thereís a beautiful Idomeneo aria sung by de Los Angeles with Casals conducting the Collegium Musicum and the famed Mozart Oboe Quartet with Tabuteau with a group led by the English violinist Orrea Pernel, who never recorded commercially and had so important an effect at Dartington, having doubtless absorbed Casalsís influence. The 1955 Menuhin-Istomin-Casals Brahms Trio No.2 in C has its fair share of cellistic grunting and Menuhinís expressive but occasionally slightly out of control vibrato. But against that it has a noble seriousness and warm enjoyment; as Menuhin said, No.one brought more out of him as a chamber player than Casals. Then, finally, we have our only sighting of Josef Szigeti who, together with Horszowski and cellist Rudolph von Tobel plays the First Schumann trio. Alas, Szigeti had long since suffered from all manner of physical problems and his playing is severely problematic.

There it is. Performances great and not so great, in sonically reasonable or less good condition. The artists are some of the most important of the century in music that is central even to the core repertory. I donít think collectors will hesitate. These documents have lasting integrity and a value that canít be measured by comparative versions and quibbles about frailty. I have laboured such only to warn the unwary.

Jonathan Woolf

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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