Records do not date these performances.
I assume that they were all made in
1953. They also present his name on
their packaging in a way unrecognisable
to all – Neighaus.
It’s unfortunate that
such a percentage of Neuhaus’s discs
were so relatively poorly recorded.
Even live performances such as these
– presumably - from the 1950s are marked
by a distinct muddiness of texture and
an echo-y indistinct sound quality.
Even his commercial Chopin discs, some
of which were transferred by Preiser
in 2003, along with some Debussy and
Scriabin, are disappointingly veil-like
in this respect.
This all-Scriabin programme
ranges widely. There are the Ninth and
Tenth sonatas, the self-immolating Vers
la Flamme, and lots of Preludes.
In the hierarchies of Russian pianists
he was less vertiginous than Scriabin’s
son-in-law Sofronitsky, less kinetic
than Horowitz and maybe less obviously
visceral than Neuhaus’s own pupil Richter.
That said, despite the murky recording
quality we can hear just those very
qualities that elevated Neuhaus to so
august a position in the pianistic hierarchy.
He may be more sanguine
than Sofronitsky in the A minor Op.11
Prelude and less intense as well as
slower but he points out the Chopinesque
inheritance rather more humanly. He’s
actually more reminiscent of someone
like Gieseking in the E minor Prelude
than a fellow Russian like Sofronitsky,
though Neuhaus does vest the Prelude
with rather more colour than Gieseking.
His chordal depth and bell chimes in
the Op.13 C major are magnificent; and
he’s actually, as he generally wasn’t,
quicker than Sofronitsky here. The superb
playing is sabotaged by the recording
quality but specialists will want to
hear his playing if they haven’t already
on previous releases so important is
it; it opens up other trajectories of
Scriabin playing besides the ones already
alluded to. In general Neuhaus is less
tense, less febrile than Sofronitsky
though his more aristocratic approach
suits many of these Preludes very well
Urgency and rubato
inflection mark out Sofronitsky’s Feuillet
d’album, besides which Neuhaus sounds
just a touch slow. But the Ninth sonata
builds to a magnetic climax, despite
the hollow sound perspective and the
reverberation that splinters clarity.
The Tenth sonata is dramatic and fulsome
but is again maimed by a cloudy recording.
Admirers will not hesitate;
generalists will reflect on poor sound
quality. The notes are concise but this
series scores highly for well-produced
and attractive photographic reproduction.
Unfortunately this Russian company doesn’t
cite source material nor, as I mentioned,
recording dates and needs to revise
its spelling of Neuhaus’s name.