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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54 (1841-45) [29.02]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor Op.37 (? 1800) [35.07]
Clara Haskil (piano)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet
rec. Victoria Hall, October 1956 (Schumann); Montreux, August 1960 (Beethoven)
CLAVES 50-2408 [64.16]
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Despite her relatively early death we are fortunate that Clara Haskil left behind numerous examples of her art, a situation that is particularly true of these concertos. Collectors will know that the Beethoven Concerto, best known maybe from her commercial 1950 Lamoureux/Markevitch recording for Philips, also exists in performances with the Winterthur Orchestra under the expatriate Czech Swoboda and the Vienna Symphony and Karajan (the former on DG, the latter on Tahra). The Schumann was also taped with the Hague Orchestra under van Otterloo for Philips Ė both this and the Beethoven-Markevitch have recently been reissued in a big Haskil retrospective from Philips Ė but a Strasbourg/Schuricht live traversal also exists. To add to this archive we now have these two Ansermet-led performances with the conductorís own Suisse Romande recorded in Geneva and Montreux in 1956 and 1960.

If neither adds materially to our collective knowledge and understanding of Haskilís approach to these works there is still considerable merit in hearing her accord with Ansermet. He leads a rather dogged view of the C minor Concerto, rather too italicised and accented for many tastes Iím sure, and his rather heavy orchestral carapace fuses with Haskilís pensively asserted piano statements. The result is a certain gruffness, not aided by a recording that slightly recesses the strings and seems to bring out the middle register of the keyboard. Digital fetishists will note that not all her runs are smooth and there are a few dropped and smudged notes along the way though those who value musicianship will subsume these as passing details. In the slow movement Haskil speeds up fluently though emotively itís rather cool. The finale is very much like her commercial Philips recording Ė fluent but unexciting. I enjoyed some of her mildly capricious phrasing but I never felt a sense of exultancy or drive; things are rather too bottled up.

Her Schumann I find more convincing as a statement. It cleaves to a Lipatti-like control of tempo though without quite his special luminosity Ė the two of course were colleagues and friends. Itís Schumann playing that doesnít take Myra Hessís celebrated pre-War scenic route; Haskil is very much quicker though her control of rubati is such that one doesnít register this at all. Sheís nowhere near as fast in fact as another famous pre-War interpreter, Yves Nat, whose recording with Bigot saw an electrically fast central movement. Itís a pity that this 1956 recording has the piano too close to the microphone because wind detail gets submerged as well as a slightly skewed perspective generally. But against that weakness we can appreciate her strong qualities of mercurial sensitivity and chamber intimacy in this work; and also her attaca qualities as well, ones she found seemingly easier or more natural to lavish on this work than the companion Beethoven.

The booklet is attractively laid out and we can hope for more Haskil from this source; Iím sure that Radio Suisse Romande has riches to offer.

Jonathan Woolf

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