Pianistes Français
CD 1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto for three keyboards in D minor, BWV 1063 [14:07]
Gaby, Robert and Jean Casadesus (piano)
Orchestra of RAI, Turin/Fernando Previtali
rec. 4 April 1958
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto in A K414 (1782) [23:10]
Robert Casadesus (piano)
Scarlatti Orchestra of Naples/Franco Caracciolo
rec. 28 March 1958
Piano Concerto No 24 in C minor K491 (1786) [27:59]
Robert Casadesus (piano)
NDR Symphony orchestra/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
rec. 22 March 1954
CD 2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [28:37]
Vlado Perlemuter (piano)
Orchestre de Chambre Oubradous/Fernand Oubradous
rec. 16 December 1956
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 (1803) [35:31]
Vlado Perlemuter (piano)
Orchestre National de France/Jean Martinon
rec. 22 March 1956
TAHRA TAH 666-667 [66:07 + 64:49]

This is part of Tahra's unfurling ‘French Pianists’ series and it presents previously unreleased radio archive broadcast performances. They derive from the years 1954-58. Casadesus and Perlemuter have a disc each.

The Casadesus threesome - Gaby, Robert and Jean - essay one of their family favourites, the Concerto for three keyboards BWV 1063. This is a roughly hewn reading with some perhaps predictably monolithic accompaniment. It's a shame that it's next to impossible to differentiate the three musicians one from another but even so and in the context of the performance as a whole, it's a suitably sonorous and expressive experience. The power and vitality of the finale certainly emerge unscathed from any sonic limitations.

Robert can also be heard in two Mozart concertos. K414 is accompanied by the sensitive and efficient Scarlatti Orchestra of Naples. He proves a lucid communicator though there are a few stumbles - there's a baddie at 4.50 into the first movement. Overarching all this is his sense of finesse and colour, the unimpeachable sense of logic and expression, how accompanying figures are just right, how tonal beauty is never promoted as an end in itself. True he does get rather lost at around 4.58 in the slow movement but one can easily overlook this in a live performance and savour instead the nuanced vitality of the finale. He recorded K491 with Szell but this NWDR performance is not in that league. This is a quite stern and roughly driven performance; passagework is especially terse and fiery, though we find refined pianism in the slow movement, and fine orchestral wind statements.

Perlemuter offers Mozart concerto, K467 with Fernand Oubradous. The piano is very forward in the balance and frequently covers orchestral lines - counter themes as well, much to the detriment of the musical argument. He too strikes an uncertain note - around 11.00 in the first movement - and the orchestra sounds hesitant as well, not coming in together at around 11.35 for instance. His left hand accompanying figures are rather heavy in the slow movement, a feature accentuated by the up-front recording balance. The finale is the best played and interpreted movement. There's also the C minor Beethoven concerto and here the balance is much better. Martinon accompanies strongly and sensitively. The actual piano tone may be a touch plummy but the playing itself is commanding, and the slow movement has real nobility, clarity and well judged rubati. There's a charming gracefulness to Perlemuter's playing of the finale and the few miss-hits are of no account. One feels him much more idiomatically focused in the Beethoven concerto than he had been in the Mozart.

Live performances invariably carry sonic or interpretative baggage. But despite the limitations these are valuable examples of the pianists’ work, though ones for which occasional largesse needs to be extended.

Jonathan Woolf