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Géza Anda - Concertos
CD 1
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano concerto no.1 in E minor, op.11 (1830) [38:40]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, op.18 (1901) [32:15]
CD 2
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (1845) [30:55]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat Op 83 (1878-81) [47:15]
Géza Anda (piano)
SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden und Freiburg/Hans Rosbaud (Rachmaninov, Brahms) Ernest Bour (Chopin, Schumann)
rec. 18 March 1952 (Chopin), 3 May 1953 (Rachmaninoff) 12 March 1963 (Schumann), 8 April 1958 (Brahms); Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden
HÄNSSLER CD94.208 [71:08 + 78:25]
Experience Classicsonline

Radio archives are disgorging their treasures almost weekly and German archives are in the vanguard. Sifting them one doesn’t often encounter fool’s gold – and nor does one here in this slimline 2 CD set devoted to Anda and his collaboration with Ernest Bour and Hans Rosbaud in Baden-Baden und Freiburg. The broadcasts were taped in the near-decade between 1952 and 1963.

The earliest of the quartet of concertos is the Chopin, with Bour. Characterful and individualist – there are some personalised touches in the passagework for instance – we find that Anda and Bour take pains to ensure that the polyphonic lines are brought out, and that the limpidity of the slow movement is not compromised by slack rhythmic underpin. Similarly there is verve and buoyancy in the finale which goes particularly well. The companion work in the first disc is Rachmaninoff’s C minor, taped the following year with Rosbaud. This conductor, now achieving a measure of retrospective acclaim that he never quite seemed to garner in his lifetime, was invariably a valued accompanist. His performances with Dennis Brain in Mozart, for instance, seem to me better than Karajan’s. Here we have a Birth of the Cool approach to the romantic repertoire from both soloist and conductor. The piano is just too forward for good balance and there are quite a few finger slips in the first movement, as well as a few uneasy moments of ensemble. The dominant impression however is one of objectified classicism, especially in the slow movement with its lightening of the string textures. The finale sees strong retardation of the rhythmic impetus of the music making, a promotion of treble based sonorities, and a schematic, ponderous approach that loses its way, and its spine, several times. This is, according to the notes, apparently a ‘freeing of the concerto from its ballast of effusive Romantic sounds.’ In that case give me ballast, and give me effusion. It’s telling that Anda dropped the concerto in the 1960s – his earlier commercial recording is out on Testament.

The Schumann concerto comes from the same year in which he set down his commercial recording with Kubelik. Bour is faster in the first movement than Kubelik, and somewhat more emphatic as well. There is a chamber delicacy to many of the exchanges, and a sure realisation of the Bachian elements of some of the passages. Note too how Anda varies his tone, its weight, and the shape of phrasing in his dialogues with the wind principals; the sensitively shaped dynamics in the slow movement too are a masterly touch. The last work is Brahms’s mighty B flat major concerto, taped with Rosbaud in 1958. Things start not unlike to Gilels-Jochum but thereafter diverge. Sonorities nevertheless are commanding, control is paramount and assured. Anda’s tone never coarsens or hardens, and tension is maintained throughout, rubati being integrated and nuanced, never manicured. No extraneous points are being made, unlike in the Rachmaninoff. There’s chamber felicity in the slow movement, not unlike the Schumann in its effectiveness. The finale is playful and maturely musical. Splendid, all round, in fact.

Three out of four hits here, in radio broadcasts of good sound. Anda mavens can happily add this as an ancillary collection.

Jonathan Woolf


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