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Felicja Blumental (piano)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54
Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra/Hans Swarowski, recorded Vienna, 1958
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Wedding Cake for Piano and Orchestra in A flat Op.76
Filarmonica Triestina/Luigi Toffolo, recorded Trieste, 1956
Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1832)

Piano Concerto in C major Op.7
Salzburg Symphony Orchestra/Theodore Guschlbauer, recorded Salzburg, 1969
Felicja Blumental (piano) with accompaniments as above
Recorded 1956-69
BRANA RECORDS BR 0016 [72.13]

Brana continues its reclamation of Polish pianistís Felicja Blumentalís recorded legacy with this rather disparate trio of recordings. I think we can dispose of Saint-Saënsí ebullient and terpsichorean Wedding Cake, a ten-minute romp, which is nicely played by Blumental but in very constricted sound and less than first rate accompaniment. The Kuhlau is another rarity and cut from a much better aural cloth. Dedicated to C.E.F. Weyse, this was one of only two concertante works written by the Danish Kuhlau. A Court composer (unsalaried but prestigious) and an admired pianist whose career took him across the continent of Europe he was, compositionally speaking, on the cusp of the new Romantic aesthetic whilst retaining distinct classical procedures, as can clearly be heard in this attractive work. The Allegro opening is gallant as could be before developing some Beethovenian power (the Dane had met Beethoven and knew his music). Kuhlau throws in a fine, pompous orchestral march section, on which the piano muses and decorates prettily and wittily. Thereís some notable wind writing along the way as well. The Intermezzo has a gracious, unperfumed cantilever; melodically itís not especially individual or distinctive but has charm. The finale is light-hearted and perky with good touches for the animating left hand of the note perfect pianist.

Though she is more generally remembered for her committed forays into the contemporary and Latin American piano repertoire we have enough examples on disc to show how adept a classicist Blumental was and her ventures into the romantic literature were also rewarding. Her Schumann was recorded in Vienna in 1958 with Hans Swarowski conducting the Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra. The sound can be a wee bit papery but her playing is attractively scaled and persuasive in its avoidance of specious rhetoric.

This is another worthwhile retrieval of Blumental material; the notes are rather brief but the emphasis is rightly on a pianist who invariably has interesting things to convey.

Jonathan Woolf

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