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.
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
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is veiled and withdrawn, discreet to the point of timidity.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