Géza 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
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