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alternatively Crotchet

Walter Gieseking
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58 (1806) [30:02]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54 (1835) [28:51]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Plus que lente (1910) [3:35]
Danse (Tarantelle styrienne) (1890) [4:48]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Jeux d’eau (1901) [4:30]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.1 in B flat major – Minuet I and II and Giga BWV825 (c. 1725-31) [5:13]
Walter Gieseking (piano)
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Joseph Keilberth (Beethoven), Günter Wand (Schumann)
rec. Funkhaus Saal 1, WDR Cologne, September 1953 (Beethoven); Essen, January 1951 (Schumann); Concert Hall Stockholm, October 1948 (Debussy, Ravel, Bach)
MEDICI MM017-2 [77:55]

Medici continues its fruitful trawl of the Cologne radio archives with this latest entrant. That, at least, applies to the two concertos; the remainder of the disc derives from a 1948 Stockholm recital.
The Schumann comprehensively trumps the other Concerto performance I’ve been listening to recently, Claudio Arrau’s painfully dull commercial set made with Karl Krueger in Detroit and now on Naxos. Gieseking is everything Arrau is not – mobile, quixotic, flexible, full of fancy and freedom, and alluring tone. There are powerful, thought-provoking exchanges between soloist and conductor, the alert and frequently volatile Wand, and an aura of tensile music making that certainly doesn’t preclude finely judged rubati into slower sections.  The music-making can be trenchant, abrupt, and athletic but it at all times sounds warmly and affectionately phrased and romantically etched. The orchestra does sound somewhat string-light but that lack of weight doesn’t seriously matter when the music making is so vivacious and sensitive – not least those glorious Gieseking trills and alertness to dynamics. The slow movement responds especially well to this sense of the elfin and to the sense of wonder and fancy – everything that lent the Arrau/Krueger its sense of the automatic is here replaced by the alive and the alert.  The finale mirrors the first movement in its mobility and speed, its taut exchanges and the sense of fleet and quick-witted enjoyment.
The Beethoven G minor receives a rather more sober reading under Joseph Keilberth but it shares one conspicuous quality – speed. Gieseking is in no mood to stand around and admire the scenery and in that respect he and Keilberth see eye to eye. There is some no-nonsense even abrupt passagework and some that is rather amazingly reflective of the operatic – together the two men summon up the stage in a rather remarkable way. Elsewhere we hear Gieseking’s own first movement cadenza – rough-hewn, strong, and heavy. Keilberth is his usual responsive, responsible self in the slow movement; unexaggerated, thoroughly musical, taking care to ensure that weight of string tone and dynamic gradients are apposite. The finale flies by.
The 1948 Stockholm recital torso gives us the expected Debussy and Ravel. They add little to what we know of Gieseking’s way with them in concert or in the studio but fortunately the recital was preserved in good sound so we can appreciate his pellucid phrasing and sagacious pedalling. The Bach was a favourite of his – just the Minuet I and II and Giga from the B flat major Partita.
All in all then this is a most spirited and galvanizing slice of Gieseking caught on the wing. In concert he could be something of a dynamo and he proves that to be the case at many moments in these sparkling and successful outings.
Jonathan Woolf 


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