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Brana Records

Felicja Blumental – The Italian Collection Volume 1
Giovanni Battista VIOTTI (1755-1824)
Piano Concerto in G minor [transcribed from Violin Concerto No.19 in G minor]
Torino Symphony Orchestra/Alberto Zedda
Giovanni Benedetto PIATTI (c.1692-1763)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G major
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
Salzburg Symphony Orchestra/Theodore Guschlbauer
Felicja Blumental (piano) – with accompaniments as above
Recorded 1967-68
BRANA RECORDS BR0025 [66.35]

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Brana continues its reclamation of the 1960s and 1970s recordings of Polish-born Felicja Blumental with this, the first of a two volume ‘Italian Concerto’ series. The second volume couples the B flat major of Manfredini with two by Paisiello and this earlier volume symmetrically shackles the big Viotti with two much smaller and more intimate works by Giovanni Benedetto Piatti.

The Viotti is actually a transcription of the Nineteenth Violin Concerto, in which form it will be better known, at least by initiates of Viotti’s extensive portfolio of concertos, some of them Golden Age warhorses. This doesn’t quite apply to the Nineteenth, which has been rather passed over. It’s a big work, certainly, lasting here all of thirty-nine minutes which is far too long for the actual material. Though the opening movement begins promisingly with a strong martial feel, it soon falls away into rather static bluster and even Blumental and the loyal Zedda can do little with it, even though the slow movement has a certain Mozartian lightness and animation. The best of the three movements is the finale; well sprung, lyrical, well laid out but again too long.

It’s actually the Piatti Concertos that prove more welcome, especially the compact Largo of the G major which is wistful, classical and altogether winning; as indeed is what sounds like the guitar underpinning of the same concerto’s finale. Piatti could really cultivate grazioso – as he does in the Andantino opener of the C minor – a gracious molto mosso indeed. But the highlight of the concerto and indeed of the disc has to be the ravishing aria of the Adagio, the beauty of which derives immediately from the hushed string introduction and is continued by Blumental’s pellucid phrasing. Gorgeous.

Playing and recording are above par – sometimes these ex-Vox LPs were scrappily enthusiastic but not here. Neat, tidy and affectionate.

Jonathan Woolf


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