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Three Piano Concerti -Three Great Virtuosi
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major G124 (1849) [16:17]
Simon Barere (piano)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/David Broekman
rec. Carnegie Hall, May 17, 1946
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor Op. 22 (1868) [22:15]
Reginald Paul (piano)
Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra/Stanley Chapple
rec. Stoll Theatre, London early 1930
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 17 (1888)  [31:34]
Jesús Mariá Sanroma (piano)
Boston Promenade Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
rec. 1939
SYMPOSIUM 1353 [70:16]

This triptych of concertos bears witness to three soloists - which explains the rather cumbersome title of the disc. In essence we have one superman, one klaviertiger of ravenous divinity, the great Barere, one pianist whose star has waxed and waned over the years - Jesús Mariá Sanroma – and one almost unknown, Reginald Paul. The dice are loaded against Paul biographically so let’s start with him.
Alan Bush, who was at college with him, always maintained that Paul was the best sight-reader he’d ever met. That’s not necessarily a qualification for pianistic status but Paul was undoubtedly a fine chamber player and later an equally fine teacher. Born in London in 1894 he was a Matthay pupil at the Royal Academy and later formed a duo with violinist Harold Fielding, who’d taken lessons with Sammons and was later a well-known music promoter. Paul founded the London Pianoforte Quartet in 1932 a group that contained the core of the Stratton Quartet (George Stratton, Watson Forbes and John Moore). He taught at his old college for many years. Yet he didn’t record heavily and this makes this 1930 traversal all the more valuable as a document of his playing in its youthful prime.
Recorded for Broadcast in 1930 this performance of the Saint-Saens G minor concerto was the first electric set to be issued. Arthur de Greef and Landon Ronald had earlier collaborated on an HMV acoustic. Broadcast Twelve was one of the cheap British labels that proliferated at around this time and copies often turn up in less than pristine condition. The set used here is generally fine but has some scrunchy moments and some blasting at fortes. Paul proves a good soloist, though not one who could attain the degree of sparkle that someone such as, say, Moiseiwitsch could find in this work – even granted that Moiseiwitsch sounded a touch tired in his 1947 recording with Basil Cameron. Paul has the work under his fingers and if he can seem a touch reserved in the finale he compensates with fine legato and a sure stylistic awareness.
This is fine retrieval work from Symposium and while I have the floor they would do a real service in investigating the rest of the Broadcast and other catalogues. Paul’s British contemporary Maurice Cole made a number of highly impressive discs for Broadcast – I think especially of his Chopin, Rachmaninov and the Grieg Concerto with the same Metropolitan band (and Stanley Chapple) that accompanies Reginald Paul. He also made some less well-known sides for Aco – and they are no less impressive. Cole is an undeservedly neglected figure though some will remember his Bach LPs from the 1960s. He was married to the fiddler Winifred Small, with whom he also recorded, and we should have examples of his musicianship on CD. End of sermon.
Jesús Mariá Sanroma gives us his excellent Paderewski concerto but unlike the Paul, which has hitherto never been reissued, this is terra cognita. Pearl has an all-Sanroma disc but this Symposium is better done and better pitched as well. Whatever the vicissitudes of his career and reputation I’ve always greatly liked his playing. Maybe he doesn’t have Earl Wild’s leonine magnetism in this kind of work – but then few do - but he’s rhythmically alert and vivacious and has a beautiful cantabile tone in the slow movement. The first movement cadenza is played with romantic finesse and freedom. It’s a slight pity that there’s some flutter in the copy used for the finale as it’s slightly distracting from the performance. Symposium omits the recording date, which was 1939.
There’s not much to be said about the blistering Liszt. This has seen service on APR’s Barere edition but again this Symposium has the better copy. It’s a more immediate transfer, sharper in detail without being graphic; less muffled and indistinct. So a big improvement for Barere adherents. The performance is occasionally accident-prone but the dropped notes are mere bagatelles in the face of such coruscating and occasionally exhausting pianism. Barere’s singing line in the slow movement is a wonder in itself. Symposium is reluctant to credit an orchestra; it was the New York Philharmonic.
Yoking together these three very different pianists and concertos obviously has pitfalls and I can imagine objections. For collectors, though, one could advance counter-arguments as to the desirability of hearing the Paul, and the technical advances in the other two concerto performances. And let me repeat my hopes regarding the rest of the Broadcast catalogue.
Jonathan Woolf



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