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.