van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in B flat major ("Hammerklavier")
Op. 106 (1817-18) [35:15]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1821-22) [17:03] Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Aufforderung zum Tanze (Invitation to the Dance)
in D flat, J260/Op. 65 (1819) [8:24]
rec. Maison de Radio-France, July 1961 (Op.111); June
1973 (Op.106) and January 1971 (Weber) SOLSTICE
I’m a great admirer of Lefébure but as pompous academics
are inclined to write at the foot of their students’s miserable
efforts, This Will Not Do. She was only sixty-three when she
set down Op.111 and Op.106 followed over a decade later by
which time she was seventy five. It would be tempting to excuse
these frequently violently over-hurried performances on the
grounds of increasing age and possible infirmity – but she
did record or broadcast frequently at the time and this company
has already been prolific in presenting this part of her legacy
to the public.
Granted she was never one to indulge repeats throughout her
career but the torrid way she dispatches Op.111 in seventeen
minutes – even Gould took twenty three in 1956 – is a sound
to hear. We needn’t ponder overmuch about Solomon, Schnabel
and Kempff – whose second movements range from about fourteen
minutes to eighteen. Lefébure takes ten. The sense of engulfing
rush is bizarre, the linear sense she imposes so wilful that
the result is a total mess of articulation, floundering and
mayhem. Sometimes this kind of thing can be the result of
a rhetorical attitude towards a composer – Gould is himself
an example of an executant trying to take a composer down
a peg or two in this repertoire. But Gould at least had a
manifesto, adolescent though it was. Lefébure I suspect was
simply out of her technical depth by this stage; either one
goes slowly to compensate for technical limitations or too
quickly and hers was the latter route.
The Hammerklavier is in terms of timings only three minutes
off Kempff’s 1951 mono recording. One should note however
that Schnabel, Gilels (live, 1984) and Solomon (1952) all
took incomperably longer; forty seven minutes in Solomon’s
famous recording. Even Elly Ney, old, discredited and herself
technically flawed, took eighteen minutes for the Adagio
sostenuto (in 1968) whereas Lefébure takes under fourteen
in this movement alone. Once again things are rushed horribly
and crude. The dropped notes are of less interest than the
gabbled syntax, the lack of sostenuto, and the regrettable
lack of engagement.
After all this the Weber is neither here nor there.
The recordings are middling. Her piano sounds fairly nasty,
clattery and small-toned; it’s more distant in Op.106 than
in the companion sonata. I suspect that in this case that’s
an advantage. A pity because she was a tremendous artist.
These performances simply don’t reflect that status at all.
Re: "A tremendous artist but this will not do..."
There are more than a few madmen within the body of music
critics, and, in 37 years in this business, I've met my fair
share of them. But someone who listens to a disc with stopwatch
in hand and limits himself to the sole criterion of time for
judging it? This is a first!! Perhaps this is Mr Woolf's personal
way of approaching music - or at least trying? Thank God,
Lefébure will remain what she is.... and J.W. too!
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