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Felicja Blumental (piano)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Op.73 Emperor (1811)
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Robert Wagner, recorded Innsbruck, 1967
Romance Cantabile in E minor H13
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Alberto Zedda, recorded Teatro Angelicum, Milan, 1963
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Konzertstücke for Piano and Orchestra Op.113 (c.1889)
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Helmut Froschauer, recorded Vienna, 1969
Felicja Blumental (piano) with accompaniments as above
BRANA BR 0023 [69.08]

Brana continues its good work on behalf of Felicja Blumental with these recordings taped between 1963 and 1969. Two were with the Vienna Symphony and one with the very characterful Prague Symphony; the latter with larger than life woodwind principals. None is without interest, of course, though the Romance Cantabile is really a historical footnote and whilst the Emperor shows powerful signs of her command itís the Rubinstein that makes the greatest impression, not least by virtue of her splendidly conceived pianism and control of architecture.

The Emperor has the drawback of an empty hall acoustic which can deaden the sound. The recording isnít subtle with the piano balanced too far forward and thus obliterating some string lines. Iím sure there was nothing Brana could do much to mitigate this so one has to grin and bear it. Her playing is metrically quite slow though thereís a gruff, hectoring quality that some may find convincingly Beethovenian Ė as opposed to the small scale Concerto playing one sometimes finds. She cultivates a battery of intriguing right hand voicings in the finale and rhythmic nuances, which create an individual perspective. But unfortunately runs arenít climactic enough, especially in the first movement, and thereís a fatal lack of orchestral heft at tuttis throughout, which I put down to recording limitations.

It was the Rubinstein that grabbed me most. The fine winds of the Vienna Symphony, are heard in better perspective here. Also notable is the fusion of Saint-Saënsí airiness and Romantic effusion, laced with Blumentalís splendid sense of logic and development. The tempo is a good, firm and forward-looking one. The bravura is unimpeded by technical considerations. The binding of what can in other hands sprawl is a testament to the collaborative excellence on display.

I believe the Rubinstein was last available on Ars Classicum which only enjoyed limited circulation. In fact Iíve never seen a copy. It sounds excellent here. Itís for the Rubinstein really that Iíd recommend this latest souvenir of Blumentalís art.

Jonathan Woolf

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