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alternatively Crotchet

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [27:28]
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488 (1786) [24:46]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Italian Concerto in F major BWV971 (publ.1736) [12:33]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Pièces de Clavecin – Les Cyclopes (1731) [3:02]
Monique Haas (piano)
SWF Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud (K467)
NDR Symphony Orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (K488)
rec. 9 November 1956 (K467), Musikhalle 27 January 1956 (K488), Decca, London 1946 (Bach, Rameau)
TAHRA TAH629 [68:41]

Monique Haas fully deserves the extensive discography printed in Tahra’s booklet. It ranges from her first discs, made in 1938, to her last which were made in 1975 though it would be more pertinent to concentrate more on the more fertile years of 1946 to 1970 Charles Timbrell’s affectionate sleeve-note also presents an informative picture of an obviously charming and delightful woman, as well as musician of great stature. There are two colour plates of French magazines of the time – late fifties, a record guide and the local equivalent of Radio Times. This adds personality and representation to the disc and is warmly welcomed.
Looking through her discography is to be reminded of certain nuggets; that early 1938 recording as part of a four pianist team (herself, Ina Marika, Edward Staempfli and Max Vredenburg) in a record of the quarter tone Also sprach Zarathustra by Vichnegradski (reissue anyone?); the Gendron Fauré Second Cello Sonata for Decca in London in 1946; the well-known Ravel Concerto recording with Schmidt-Isserstedt, Hamburg 1948; the Stravinsky Capriccio with Fricsay and the Jochum-led Schumann concerto in Berlin in 1951. From then on her career in the studios clarifies though it would also be good to be reminded of her devotion to her composer-husband the Romanian Marcel Mihalovici – she recorded the Ricercari in 1951 though the Toccata the following year was off–air and issued on Tahra TAH567. His fascinating Op.45 Violin Sonata was taped with Max Rostal later still in 1958. Mozart looms increasingly large in the discography in the later 1950s, and that is the link to this latest disc.
She recorded K488 commercially with Leitner in Berlin in January 1953 for DG but she left behind no such evidence of her way with K467. This latter she performs here with the SWF Symphony Orchestra under Hans Rosbaud, always a dependable and indeed superior accompanist in his concert and radio broadcast performances. Haas reveals a strongly independent left hand, voicings are powerful and communicative and ever alert. It’s a shame that the piano is rather over-recorded relative to the orchestra because it sometimes robs her playing of a true pianissimo but her pellucid, rubato-free and rather aristocratic touch in the slow movement is compensation enough. Maybe the finale strikes ears now as a touch heavy in places but it is consonant with her performance of the concerto as a whole and if the final flourish is not quite as triumphant as it might have been, the performance shows her in very fine light.
K488 pairs her with the conductor who had accompanied her in the Ravel, Schmidt-Isserstedt. His genial and leisurely work accommodates her playing attractively but whilst she plays with distinguished nobility the meeting is not especially productive, the conductor sounding rather over-indulgent throughout. The sound is a little unforgiving in a way different from K467 – it’s a touch cloudy and this can blunt the responsiveness of her tone somewhat, though not enough to dampen the pretty buoyant finale.
There are two commercial extras. The Italian Concerto was recorded for Decca in London in 1946. It’s a relatively sedate performance. The finale has a muffly sound, which indicates that the noisy Decca pressings have given problems to the engineer and that noise suppression has lopped off too much top along with the crackle. Aptly the Rameau, which served as a filler to the Bach on the original two disc performance, is included here.
So a welcome disc – an item new to her discography, another valuable slice of a more known interpretation and the restoration of early post-War Deccas. Plus an important discography into the bargain.
Jonathan Woolf 


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