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Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

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Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


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alternatively
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Rudolf Firkušný
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) [29:12]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Drei Klavierstücke D946 (1828) [21:10]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Fantasie et Toccata H.281 (1940) [13:34]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Mazurka Op.63 No.3 [2:20]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Furiant – Czech Dances Volume II (1879)[5:07]
Concert étude (1858) [4:13]
Rudolf Firkušný (piano)
rec. Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 21 February 1980
BBC LEGENDS BBCL42382 [75:54]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is, for once, a complete BBC recital – not one drawn piecemeal from various sources, concert halls and dates. It captures Firkušný in prime, magnificent form, proving every inch the heir to the august standards set down by his fellow Czech, Jan Heřman before the War.

This was repertoire cut to the pianist’s cloth with precision. The Fantasie et Toccata of Martinů was written for him in 1940 and he made a splendid recording of it many years later. This live performance is no less magisterial, no less spellbinding. The tempi differ little between the commercial disc and this QEH performance but there is that extra sense of vitality and adrenalin here. It’s all brilliantly etched and controlled, the bravura unleashed with exemplary command. Firkušný’s colouristic and rhythmic command is acutely deployed and he takes the work and elevates it to the status of a mid-century solo piano masterpiece.

Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke D946 are, in Firkušný’s hands, a feast of lyric intensity. The first is a delicate reverie at heart but the pianist never quite loses his sense of overarching architecture. He points the rhythmic fusillades in the second with exemplary control and finds noble refinement as well.

Mussorgsky’s Pictures was another piece he had recorded. It’s a comprehensively tremendous reading. Powerful, gnomic, brooding, flaring and controlled with superb pedalling and a technique that brooks no obstacles we find the pianist employing all his practised eloquence – and excitement – to characterise the movements with painterly brilliance. The devilish scurry of Gnomus is followed by the terse and eerie Old Castle. The unnerving off centre motion of Bydlo is positively gargantuan, Goldenberg and Schmuyle highly charged, and the Limoges Market a flurry of Gallic suggestiveness and vivacious loquacity. The Catacombs are stark, powerfully measured and chordally immense; you can feel the beads of water sliding slowly down the walls. The Great Gate of Kiev is tremendously exciting – sometimes the very end can be a let down but not here.

There are some encores as well As for the fizzing passion that underlies the Smetana Furiant words will barely do it justice. Heřman himself once made a recording of this, though it was shorn of much of the introduction, but he sounds positively sedate beside his younger compatriot. This was again something of a signature piece for the pianist and slapped wrists to the BBC for not noting the work’s provenance from the second book of Czech Dances. The Concert étude, that bristling Lisztian powerhouse of a work, is no less brilliant in execution and the cheers that greet its end are colossal.

A tremendous recital then that amplifies the pianist’s commercial discography, in the main, but in the most protean and instructive way – glorious playing, excellently recorded.

Jonathan Woolf 

 





 


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