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Géza Anda
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Piano Concerto No.16 in D, K451 (1784) [22:19]
Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453 (1784) [31:37]
Béla BARTÓK (1881–1945)
Piano Concerto No.2 in G (1932) [26:18]
Géza Anda (piano and director), English Chamber Orchestra (Mozart), Géza Anda (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Boulez (Bartók)
rec. 27 November 1968, BBC Studios, London (K451), 9 April 1975, Royal Festival Hall, London (K453), 5 December 1973, Royal Festival Hall, London (Bartók)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL42472 [80:59]
Experience Classicsonline

éza Anda died young – he was only 54 years old – but he left quite a recorded legacy behind – I couldn’t live without this recordings of the three Bartók Concertos (DG 4473992) and the complete Mozart Concertos, recorded between 1961 and 1969, which he directed from the keyboard with the Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum (DG 4695102 - 8 CDs). Anda was the first pianist to record the complete Mozart Concertos. 

Born in Budapest, he studied with, amongst others, Ernst von Dohnányi and Zoltán Kodály. In 1941 he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler, who called him “troubadour of the piano".  He was also a poet of the piano as his Mozart set shows. These performances make an interesting comparison with his Slazburg recordings. K451 starts in a very forthright manner – some may say hard driven – and the tempo is very fast. Despite this the articulation of the English Chamber Orchetsra is superb and as you settle into the performance you realize that the bold nature of the performance is because the recording is so close. Turn the volume down a bit and the sound perspective is much better. Anda enters already running, he holds the tempo and keeps it rock steady for the whole movement. It’s impressive as well as breath–taking; his articulation of the runs is mightily impressive. Perhaps this is just a trifle too fast and a bit breathless – the movement is marked allegro assai, just fast enough, but some interpret assai to mean very so if Anda sees it this way then in his interpretation this is right. But it still just doesn’t “feel” right. The slow movement is perfectly placed, the dialogue between soloist and orchestra is very well done, the music being allowed to speak clearly and delicately. The finale is bright and sparkling. Overall it’s a very fine performance and after a couple of hearings I find that I can live with the tempo for the opening movement, but I think that it’s only fair to warn you about it. 

We leave the studio and go into the concert hall with K453. This is very good indeed. I have no problems with Anda’s tempo for the opening movement here for it is just about perfect. The slow movement is epic in its simplicity, well thought out and superbly executed. The finale is equally well judged, the allegretto tempo being just right, and it allows the delightful chatter of the woodwind to speak clearly. This performance is sheer perfection from beginning to end. The sound is excellent, with a good balance between soloist and orchestra and there’s a real feel of the concert hall, not least because of the few seconds of audience noise between movements and the little bit of applause left at the conclusion of the work is welcome not least because it means that the final chord isn’t chopped off before the reverberation has ended. And it’s good to know that somebody, apart from yourself, has really enjoyed the performance. 

The opening movement of the Bartók doesn’t quite have the bite of Anda’s recording with Fricsay, it’s a bit light textured, although the playing is first rate. Things improve in the slow, second, movement, one of Bartók’s night pieces, with well controlled tension and lots of light and shade; the scherzo middle section is the stuff nightmares are made of! You might not think of Bartók as having a sense of humour but this finale does have quite a lot of fun about it, despite the complicated language and fearsome virtuosity required to play many, many, notes. It holds no terrors for Anda and he throws off the difficulties with aplomb. Another fine performance. 

Despite my few worries concerning tempi this is a magnificent memorial to a great musician and I wouldn’t want to be without it. Thank you BBC for reminding us of what we lost with Anda’s untimely death.

Bob Briggs




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