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A "Hatto Original"
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Scherzo in E flat minor, op. 4 [09:20]
Intermezzo in A minor op. 118/1 [01:54]
Intermezzo in A major op. 118/2 [05:09]
Capriccio in G minor op. 116/3 [03:03]
Intermezzo in E major op. 116/6 [03:26]
Intermezzo in C major op. 119/3 [01:40]
Ballade in G minor op. 118/3 [03:20]
Intermezzo in E flat minor op. 118/6 [05:18]
Rhapsodie in E flat major op. 119/4 [04:36]
4 Ballades op. 10 [19:57]
no recording information
MUNDI QUI 90382 [59:48]
Ten of thirteen tracks from this CD were issued by Concert
Artist/Fidelio as the work of Joyce Hatto. Op. 4 and op. 10 nos.
and 3 appeared on “Brahms: Complete Piano Works vol. 4”,
CACD 9030-2. Op. 118 nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6 appeared on CACD
8001-2 with unidentified performances of nos. 4 and 5 as
the coupling for the performance of Piano Concerto no.
2 now known to be by Ashkenazy. However, on “Brahms: Complete
Piano Works vol. 5”, CACD9031-2, the performances of nos.
1 and 2 were replaced by others, so far unidentified, while
those of nos. 3 and 6 were retained. The present disc also
provided the source for op. 119 nos. 3 and 4, while the “Hatto” performances
of op. 116 nos. 3 and 6 are not those by Ránki. A “Hatto” performance
of op.10 no. 4 does not appear to have been issued.
Dezsö Ránki was born in 1951. While still a student he set down a
Chopin recital for Qualiton – including the op. 10 studies – which
won considerable praise. Later in the 1970s he recorded some
Bartók, including the complete Mikrokosmos, for Telefunken
and, back with Qualiton, Mozart’s duet sonatas with his compatriot
Zoltan Kocsis. It is the latter who went on to enjoy a wider
international career, but a little googling shows that Ránki
gave a recital in Paris in 2005 so he is presumably still
active. This recording was published in 1992, but I have
an idea it may be licensed from an earlier Qualiton/Hungaraton
production. The sound is slightly brittle and shallow, as
their piano discs were inclined to be. It sounds richer and
fuller on headphones for some reason and might respond well
Ránki proves a superb interpreter of early Brahms. His crisp rhythmic
control and clarity of texture turn the op. 4 Scherzo and
the third Ballade into eerie “Erlkönig”-type rides through
the blackest of Black Forests. In the first two Ballades
his tempi are searchingly slow, the one starkly tragic – note
the clarity of the bass-line at the reprise – while the other
is full of gentle consolation. The Schumannesque rhapsodizing
of the last Ballade is beautifully sung.
In the later pieces Ránki is never less than good, but a
little less sharply focussed (perhaps he would do them better
Finest is the G minor Ballade, which seems to me ideally
paced. In a recent review of
Nicholas Angelich’s set of the late Brahms pieces I stated
that “Hatto” is supreme in this piece, so I’m glad we now
have a name for the performer. The other “powerful” pieces – op.
116/3 and op. 119/4 – are excellently done. The Intermezzo
op. 118/2 has an attractive flowing grace but the pianist
who played on the later “Hatto”, by taking it a shade slower,
gets just that little bit more out of it. On the other hand
the “Hatto” pianist is dreadfully slow in op. 116/6 and here
Ránki’s more flowing tempo is surely preferable. Full marks
to Ránki for taking op. 119/3 swiftly, but he becomes a little
frenetic at times and Kempff’s Schubertian lilt remains the
ideal here for me.
The truly superb performances of the early pieces and the general
excellence of the others would seem to warrant a reissue
of this disc, especially if it could be remastered.
Hattification did not involve any time-manipulation, but
the last chord of op. 118/6 has been shortened by 3 seconds.
quality was mellowed down quite a lot. Indeed, when the disc
arrived I went straight to op. 119/3 with clear memories
of “Hatto”, or so I thought, and thought this seemed quite
different. But when I compared the phrasing, dynamics, pedalling – Ránki
has some quite personal rubato in this piece – there was
no doubt they were the same. I can well believe that a critic
in the pre-scandal era, pushed for time and just relying
on memories of the “Hatto”, might have compared this upfront
and brilliant performance unfavourably with the mellower “Hatto” version.
It’s that easy to get egg on your face.
I won’t quote my earlier reviews in full since I heard these
pieces all mixed in with performances by other, as yet unidentified
pianists, so the context is quite different. For those who
wish, here are links to Volume 4, Volume 5
and the earlier op.
118. I will just quote one section from my review of Volume
It was at this point that I began to study
the recording dates given above and realised that nos.
2 and 5, together with op. 117/2, another extraordinarily
beautiful performance, and the op. 118/4 I have already
discussed, are brand new performances. Hatto was surely
in a truly inspired mood that day, achieving, I would say,
true greatness as an interpreter.
In September 1997 she seems to have been
in a rather wayward mood, daring and exploratory but sometimes
going over the top. Whereas the rest, from 1998, are wonderfully
satisfying in their perfectly judged tempi, warm but limpid
textures and natural phrasing. But they don’t quite have
that something-or-other which in February 2004 transformed
the wonderfully satisfying into the truly great.
I also thought I had Concert Artist’s recording
techniques fairly well mapped out, warm and pleasing but
just slightly opaque and two-dimensional. This remains
true of the 1998 offerings; the 1997 ones are surprisingly
brilliant, almost to a fault, while the 2004 ones have
an added bloom and lifelike quality which bodes well for
their future work.
Actually the different recording “dates” do not seem to tally with
what we now know – tracks 15-20 are “dated” 5 and 18 May
1998 yet we know that at least two pianists are involved
since just four tracks are by Ránki. But the principle remains.
I noted these differences yet was evidently not yet mentally
prepared to see where they led. I am pretty sure now that
op. 116 is a composite set, so that makes at least three
pianists on the disc. I got gradually fewer and fewer CA
discs after this, by the way. Perhaps when WBC read this
he thought I was suspicious and sending out a few hints.
I wish I could say he was right.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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