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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 K467 (1785) [27.34]
Géza Anda (piano)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Karel Ančerl
Recorded live, 4th March 1970 
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor Op.15 (1854-58) [47.48]
Géza Anda (piano)
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eugen Jochum
Recorded live, 1st March 1967
TAHRA 536 [75.26]


Anda was one of the most poetic pianists of the post-War years and his early death in 1976 robbed the world, as had Julius Katchen’s, of a remarkable talent. Nevertheless we’re in the fortunate position of having an increasingly large representation of his art on disc. Some specialist companies, such as Testament, are digging back to the early LP recordings; others, DG for instance, have recently re-released the immense cycle of the complete Mozart concertos that Anda laid down with the Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteums, an undertaking that spanned the 1960s. But live recordings have been part of the Anda agenda as well, and with good reason. Tahra has unearthed two such, one from Toronto and the other from Amsterdam.

It’s doubly valuable because Karel Ančerl’s Toronto tenure has been documented by Tahra before. I enjoyed the collaboration between the two; maybe the orchestral strings lack a certain warmth and clarity but one’s ears are drawn back to the lyrical freedom Ančerl encourages and the justness of Anda’s phrasing. He treads the divide between over-assertion and intimate reserve with limpid simplicity. His refinement is there for all to hear and whilst it’s true that the piano is somewhat over-prominent in the recorded balance one has the advantage of hearing his concentration and tonal resources with a degree of enhanced magnification. He plays an unidentified cadenza in the first movement, which may be partly his own from the sound of it. Especially treasurable is his lyricism and sense of animation (active left hand) in the slow movement – no question of a wallow here.

Coupled with the Mozart is a work cut from a different cloth, the Brahms D minor Concerto. This is once again a very poetic performance but one that will polarise opinion I suspect. Anda’s first entry is veiled and withdrawn, discreet to the point of timidity. His cultivation of anti-heroic introspection, a kind of anti-Romantic reserve, sheds many curious and unusual lights on the concerto. The tempos are slow, the dynamics severely terraced and reduced. His technique is sometimes stretched by the demands, it needs to be noted, and the sense of elastic self-containment is pervasive and imaginative – if not the whole story. Clearly there is bravura here as well, not least in the outer movements. But in the slow movement his taciturn melancholy weaves its own very personal spell. As for the finale, here he summons up a more incisive and disruptive sense of attack – but he still avoids oversize exaggeration, and the runs – so flamboyantly thrown off by some other pianists – are here much more contained and constrained. I especially enjoyed the contribution of the viola and cello sections in the finale, the most convincing movement. Certainly a performance for intimate Brahmsians who turn away from flourish in this work – but I must say I found it lacking in power and energy.

Jonathan Woolf



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