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This disc is reviewed as documentation of the Hatto scandal and is not currently available.

 

 

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Sonata in D minor op.28 (1907) [36:47]
Nikolaj MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Sonata Reminiscenza in A minor op.38/1 (1918-1920) [13:07]
Tomás Kramreiter (piano)
rec. Autumn 1987, Co-Production with Radio DRS, Studio Zürich
EX LIBRIS CD 6074 [50:38]

The Rachmaninov Sonata was issued in 2005 as the work of Joyce Hatto on Concert Artist/Fidelio CACD 9129-2. 

 


Tomás Kramreiter was born in 1943 in Madrid, the son of the Viennese architect Robert Kramreiter-Klein (1905-1965). His family returned to Vienna in 1950. He studied at the Wiener Musikakademie, the Salzburg Mozarteum and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He made his début at the age of 12 and has been a specialist in the German and Russian romantic repertoire. Previous to the present disc he set down some Tchaikovsky for EMI Columbia; later came Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata for Jecklin and, much more recently (2003), a disc of music by the Swiss late-romantic Paul Juon. He appears to be still active, though not as much as he deserves if he still plays as well as he does here.

Incidentally, something rather strange happened while I was googling around for information. One of the hits led me to a page of the Musical Times of December 1973, listing London concerts in January 1974. I couldn’t find the name of Kramreiter there, but I did find the name of Joyce Hatto, whose Liszt recital on January 11 was listed. Has somebody been having fun? To be fair, though, without authorization I could only view the first of the pages posted so it is possible that Kramreiter played later in the month. Even if this were so, the fact that the hit led to Hatto as well is curious.

I haven’t looked up my original review yet, but I remember being very impressed at the pianist’s ability to “tier” the textures, to create that dialogue between the different strands which is so essential in Rachmaninov. And I mean “dialogue”, not just subjugating one line to another, though would that a good many other pianists could do even that. This is a work that teems with notes, yet every single one is shown to have a purpose and a place.

Equally remarkable is Kramreiter’s control over the structure. Each event is fully characterized, yet he never loses shape of the whole. The music flows, surges, languishes, but always moves proudly onward. Patrician playing based on Rachmaninovian first principles. 

Despite an attractive opening and some fine ideas later on, the Medtner “Sonata Reminiscenza” appeared on first acquaintance to contain some more workaday passages which made it seem a little diffuse. But Medtner’s works notoriously start to haunt you only after several hearings and the work is certainly worth the attention of those interested in late romantic piano music. I am still puzzled as to why anyone should have called him the “Russian Brahms”. I am sure that the performance plays its part in removing any Brahmsian heaviness which is potentially present, for it shows the same textural and structural qualities to be found in the Rachmaninov. Perhaps because I was less engrossed by the music, I got a little tired of the slightly shallow brightness of the Fazioli piano used, something that didn’t worry me in the Rachmaninov.

All the same, a very fine disc. After Nojima, Kramreiter is maybe the most interesting pianistic find among the “Hatto” pianists I’ve investigated.

The Hattification 

No time-manipulation. The sound has been made wetter and softer with a touch of reverb in attempt to make the Fazioli sound like Rachmaninov’s favoured Abbey Road Steinway. The difference at the opening of the second movement is very striking.  With a slightly vaguer sound-picture to boot the attempt may be convincing enough to ears already primed to expect a Steinway. For better or worse, I didn’t question it at the time. Heard alongside each other, the tighter, drier sound of the original is more realistic. If Kramreiter should resume his recording career, I hope a Steinway will be made available to him.

My original review of the “Hatto” Rachmaninov was mainly concerned with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures” – now identified as Campanella – with which it was coupled. Here is the part dedicated to the Sonata:

If you look at the front cover you might think you are getting only the "Pictures", but turn the package over and you find there is the little matter of a fill-up – Rachmaninov’s rare First Sonata. Since many collectors who have at least one "Pictures" may not have this, it provides a strong additional incentive for buying another "Pictures". Here is an expansive, but far from sprawling work (at least as it is played here) from Rachmaninov’s maturity. Hatto has long been a noted exponent of Rachmaninov and she captures finely the ebb and flow of the composer’s inspiration, neither screwing the pressure too manically nor dawdling luxuriantly, and is in complete control of the complex textures, replete with his usual countermelodies. 

I have sometimes found that Concert Artist’s insistence on recordings with a concert hall perspective produces slightly pallid results but the results here are impressively full and should disappoint no one. 

Christopher Howell

 


 


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