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CD: Colosseum

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat Op 83 (1878-81) [34:51]
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 (1875) [30:54]
Kurt Leimer (piano)
Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra/Erich Kloss
Symphony of the Air/Günther Neidlinger
rec. no details given
Experience Classicsonline

I don’t necessarily always find myself sympathetically drawn to the playing of the executant-composer Kurt Leimer - as previous reviews show. I am nevertheless glad that the Foundation that serves his memory continues to promote him so intelligently and that Colosseum continues to release his performances.

Leimer died in Liechtenstein almost 35 years ago now, at the age of 54. An admired composer as well as a pianist he left behind commercial and off-air examples of his performances. A quick index check on this site will find other performances.

This brace is canonic; Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Colosseum once again hasn’t got to the bottom of the dating game, but the Brahms is with conductor Erich Kloss who died in 1967; the recording is probably from the early 1960s. Leimer’s Brahms opens briskly but authoritatively. Demerits however are immediately evident; an over bright recording in the treble which is unyieldingly glassy. And there’s also, possibly as a result, possibly not, a rather hard hitting and occasionally hectoring quality to Leimer’s playing. The phrasing in the second movement is interestingly ‘unstable’ - an off-kilter, short-winded and destabilised reading that certainly had me thinking if not necessarily approving. The cello solo in the slow movement is decent, whilst Leimer is again hard pressing and terse. There’s not a whole lot of tonal refinement going on here - in truth you wouldn’t be expecting it from the Nuremburg Symphony at this date in this recorded set-up. Doughty and brittle is how I’d characterise it all - but not without a certain sneaking regard.

Tchaikovsky’s B-flat minor is with the Symphony of the Air, the ex NBC outfit that flourished for a good while. I’m assuming this is a pre-Skyline Symphony which would date the performance to pre-1963. Again, I wish these things could be ironed out for us: perhaps someone can help. Not a great deal to say about this really. It’s rather matter-of-fact and brusque in places. There’s what sounds like a bad edit at 11.15 in the opening movement. The notes talk of Leimer’s jazz-influenced approach to the playing, whatever that can mean in the context. I know Leimer was an admirer of jazz and of Gershwin but the evidence is scanty. The bass-light somewhat metallic quality of the playing in the slow movement is perhaps evidence of something, but surely not jazz inflexions.

Is there a market for this kind of thing? I think so - a small and loyal one no doubt. Leimer is hardly a cult figure but he was a worthwhile composer and pianist. He makes one think; but not always like.

Jonathan Woolf 
























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