The first in an enticing-looking new series from Tahra offers
a trio of French pianists caught on the wing in live performances.
The three are Yves Nat, Lazare-Lévy and Marcelle Meyer, names
that will resonate with collectors. They will know how rare is
live Nat material and how Meyer’s Italian broadcasts are really
only now coming into international prominence. Equally they should
note that there are two anomalous Lazare-Lévy recordings – his
own Prelude and Debussy’s Masques - both from commercial 78s recorded
in 1929, but nonetheless very welcome even if not live.
The Chopin reveals
Nat in crisis. He had retired from concert giving in 1937
and this 17 March 1953 recital, of which the Chopin survives
here, seems to have been his first concert in fifteen years.
This would perhaps go a long way to explaining the torrential
ferment that we hear - a performance of such intense drama
that the legion of wrong notes makes Cortot sound, in comparison,
a paragon of digital control. There’s little sculpting of
phrases and the speed is intense. Much of his playing in the
first two movements is objectively speaking simply catastrophic.
He recovers somewhat for the Funeral March, though the melody
line often disappears. He is better in lyric sections and
best of all in the finale. But obviously one needs to extend
something of a historical-biographical veil over much of this.
taped in 1955 at the age of seventy-three. He was eight years
older than Nat but his playing is of a different order entirely.
The recording quality for the Schumann is pretty reasonable
with only a few splintery moments. Solomon’s teacher has a
splendid array of tone colours, limpidity in the treble, agility
across both hands, and a real ear for Schumann’s sound world.
He doesn’t neglect caprice either, and this is a performance
that will hearten and gladden his admirers, of whom there
must now be more since Tahra’s recent tribute to him, L’Ecole
Lazare-Lévy on TAH 556-558. Any recording by him is to
To complete the
French pianistic trinity we have Marcelle Meyer, now probably
the best known of the three. A great slice of her discography
has been well served by French EMI and other companies have
also served her well, not least Tahra itself which issued
a first class book-sized two-disc tribute on TAH 579-580 earlier
this year and a recommendable single on TAH 564. Now we have
more and it consists exclusively of Chabrier, the product
of a 1955 RAI broadcast. Charming, incisive and witty we are
treated to one piece of nimble characterisation after another.
Though the acetates were apparently in poor shape the restoration
work has certainly raised the level to a most listenable level
– no complaints on that score, though the original seems to
have been a touch airless and treble dampened. Her Impromptu
– to take one example almost at random – is delightfully skittish
in its Schumannesque way. And the Ronde champêtre has
a vocalised gusto that is well nigh irresistible in Meyer’s
This is the first
in a projected series of ten. Production values are very good
and the selection is coherent and of lasting value, if not
always of equal musical distinction.