Myra Hess Ė Historic Broadcast Recordings Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Carnaval Op.9 (1834) [26:38] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Quartet in F minor Op. 34 (1861-64) [38:36]
Myra Hess (piano)
rec. BBC Broadcasting House Studios, London, 13 October 1950 (Schumann),
National Gallery, London, 25 August 1942 (Brahms) APR 5646 [65:36]
The release of this APR
disc will cause a problem for the collector who knows that
this performance of Carnaval has been recently released
on BBC Legends BBCL4201-2. To ease matters Iíll reprise
my comments on the performance and then add a note on the
visit to the BBC studios produced a performance that doesnít
differ materially in most respects from what we know of her
earlier playing. Naturally, as with all great players, there
are minor differences Ė chord weighting, voice leading, a
certain degree of pedalling as well. But her conception remains
as consistently illuminating and perceptive, as wholly musical
and free of artifice as ever it was. One would only point
to a couple of details to illuminate the way in which Hess
had rethought detail Ė or maybe it would be more judicious
to say that she had rethought detail on that particular broadcast. Eusebius does
however show a tightening up of tempo and also therefore
in its relationship to the preceding Valse noble and
to Florestan with which it is explicitly contrasted.
In her BBC broadcast Hess deliberately strips back the overt
romanticism of her 1938 performance to present something
somewhat more linear, less heavily chorded, less mellowly
pedalled; it unfolds therefore with a somewhat clearer-eyed
strength. In these small particularities we can follow, as
far as is possible, Hessís lifelong association with Schumann
and with Carnaval in particular.
the two transfers that of the BBC is greatly to be preferred.
Itís still not wonderful but is superior in all respects
to that of APR who have clearly not been able to source the
original broadcast tapes Ė theirs seem to be second generation.
APRís transfer is more constricted in frequency response
throughout. If itís Carnival you want you should be
directed to the BBC.
is of course a ďBut.Ē
National Gallery Brahms Piano Quartet performance has been
re-broadcast by the BBC in recent years. Here Hess joined
the Griller Quartet who had supplanted the disbanded London
as Britainís leading string quartet. No real apologies need
be made for the sound quality here, which is perfectly acceptable
for a 1942 broadcast. The most important feature is the performanceís
appearance on a commercial label available to a wide audience.
wouldnít especially matter were the performance merely adequate
but itís not. Itís superb. In strictly linear or temporal
terms it uncannily matches the 1950 performance by the Budapest
Quartet and Clifford Curzon. In fact it matches, in every
movement, almost to the second. Remarkable. But of course
emphases differ materially. The Griller had a leaner and
wirier sound than the Budapest. They were also not obviously
as extrovert as the Russian foursome, nor as inclined to
sentimentality. This gives their reading a core purpose,
a powerful and quivering intensity. True, the sound can be
a trifle congested and very occasionally distorts and surface
noise increases or decreases dependent on where weíve reached
in the acetates. One can hear an acetate switch in one of
the movements but itís not especially obtrusive. Yes, the
strings do go sharp now and then but this is a really powerful
performance and itís intense without becoming glutinous.
And itís gutsy but never over garnished. Definitely one for
leaves one with a dilemma. The BBC has the better transfer
of the Schumann but the Brahms is a unique document. I do
know that if I were a Hess collector - and I am - I would
need this APR.
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