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Eugen d’Albert
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Concerto No. 5 Emperor – First Movement #
Ecossaises in E flat arr d’Albert
Violin Sonata No. 5 Spring – Scherzo and Rondo *
Carl Maria von WEBER

Aufforderung zum Tanz Op. 65
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Au Bord d’une Source
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Capriccio in B minor Op. 76/2
Eugen d’ALBERT (1864-1932)

Die Toten Augen; Lied der Myrtocle
Tiefland; Zwischenspiel
Tiefland; Schau her, das ist ein Taler +<
Gavotte and Minuet Op. 1 No. 4
Scherzo Op. 16/2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Sonata in C – Andante sostenuto *
Fryderyk CHOPIN

Nocturne in F sharp Op. 15/2
Waltz in A flat Op. 42
Etude in F minor Op. 25/2
Etude in G flat Op. 25/9
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptus No. 3 and 4 in B flat and F minor D946
Marche Militaire in D Op. 51/1 D733
Eugen d’Albert (piano) with
Andreas Weissgerber (violin) in the Mozart and Beethoven Violin Sonatas *
Berlin Orchestra conducted by Bruno Seidler-Winkler #
Gotthilf Pistor (tenor)
Recorded 1912-30
SYMPOSIUM 1146 [78.30]


With exceptionally detailed documentation and good, honest transfers this disc makes for riveting listening. Though remembered perhaps more as a composer now, for many years d’Albert was considered one of Liszt’s very finest piano students – indeed Liszt called the young man the most dazzling contemporary talent he had heard. From his beginnings in Glasgow, to studies with Max Pauer in London – along the way he so astonished Arthur Sullivan with his compositions that Sullivan sent for John Stainer so they could listen to d’Albert together – to his London debut, at 17, playing his own First Concerto with Hans Richter conducting, d’Albert was the Midas of pianists. He did nothing by halves; precocity, virtuosity, acerbity, controversy, women, d’Albert did it all. It was only fitting that he should die on tour, in Riga, in 1932 because he had little left to prove. He’d played both Brahms Concertos – under the composer’s baton of course – and taught a generation of astounding talents after succeeding Joachim (who else?) as director of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik; Backhaus, Dohnányi, Rehberg, Howard-Jones, Risler and so on.

D’Albert made his first recordings in 1910. Symposium have collated a sequence that includes his Odeons and some of his slightly later DG recordings as well as a fantastically rare live first movement of the Emperor Concerto recorded in 1930 and preserved in some semi-miraculous fashion. With a bank of documentary support from such as Ronald Smith – acute on technical and musical concerns – with a minute bar by bar analysis of the surviving Emperor by Santiago Mantas and more excellent articles by Geoffrey Howard and Eliot Levin this issue comes formidably equipped before one even listens to the disc.

If one starts with the Emperor recorded two years before d’Albert’s death one can hear his hugely personalised response – massive ritardandi, gloriously romanticised phrasing yet also with some portentously italicised moments, impulsive accelerandi and vast contrastive material, constant slowing down for the orchestral returns. Throughout there is a sense of constant fluctuation; finger slips galore, powerful bass sonorities and a sense of titanic involvement. The cadenza is storm tossed and note dropping, with an almost insane sense of commitment. It’s one of the more astonishing and exhausting performances ever captured for posterity – the sound is not ideal but that’s a small consideration for so perplexing and dramatic a reading.

Not that the rest of the recital is in any way anti-climactic. His Brahms may be rather heavy but his Chopin, though idiosyncratic, is persuasive and eloquent. Elsewhere repeats are shorn and some of the pieces are, as was necessary, truncated. His Liszt is exciting and glittering, his Schubert rather frantic – though time considerations may have had something to do with it. He is joined by violinist Andreas Weissgerber in a couple of things – movements from Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas. Weissgerber is very, very backwardly placed, and contributes as a result a sort of obbligato effect, not aided by a sometimes witheringly slow vibrato. But it’s especially valuable to hear d’Albert’s own pieces, full of portamento ease and slim orchestral tone.

It’s been something of a voyage of discovery to encounter d’Albert in the round. I can’t imagine any pianophile willingly renouncing the chance to make the acquaintance of so various, so remarkable a musician.

Jonathan Woolf



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