Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Great Pianists: Alfred Cortot
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) (arr. Henderson)
Minuet in G major [2:21]
Sicilienne in G minor [1:01]
Gavotte in G major [1:09]
Air in G major [1:20]
rec. 26 October 1937, EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) (arr. Cortot)
Concerto in D minor, BWV 596 (after Vivaldi Concerto Op. 3, No. 11) [9:57]
rec. 18 May 1937, EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London
Arioso (Arrangement of Largo from Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056) [3:05]
rec. 18 May 1937, EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Variations Sérieuses, Op. 54 (1841) [10:46]
Song Without Words in E, Op. 19, No. 1 (from Bk.1, (1825-45) [3:32]
rec. 19 May 1937, EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Prélude, Chorale and Fugue (1884) [17:11]
rec. 6, 19 March 1929, Small Queen’s Hall, London
Mats. Cc 15975/78; Cat. DB 1299/1300
Prélude, Aria and Finale (1886-87) [20:54]
rec. 8 March 1932, EMI Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Étude en forme de Valse, Op. 52, No. 6 (1877) [4:32]
rec. 13 May 1931, Small Queen’s Hall, London
Alfred Cortot (piano)
rec. see listing for details.
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111381 [75:47]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Here is another rich vein of recordings from a bygone era, but preserving some of the interpretations for which Alfred Cortot became justly famous. The programme opens with some relatively light repertoire. Purcell’s little dance tunes are a surprise to find in recordings of this vintage, and it was the arranger A.M. Henderson, a former pupil of Cortot, whose mission was to create educational material and resurrect neglected work so that they could be played on the piano. Cortot was in baroque mood, having recorded the Bach transcriptions on this disc in the same studio just a few months earlier. He presents Purcell in an admirably playful and transparent style, unfussy but flexible, teasing out the expressive character and dance mood of the pieces without endowing them with unsuitable weight.

This is less true of the remarkable Concerto in D minor, BWV 596 which Bach had transcribed from a concerto by Vivaldi. As Jonathan Summers points out in his notes for this CD, Cortot’s version sounds like an organ transcription played on the piano, to the extent that some passages are actually quite difficult to get a grip on. The introduction Praeludium is particularly striking in this regard, the exploration of variation over the pedal bass almost turning into an example of lugubrious modern minimalism. Pounding bass and huge chord textures bring us closer to Liszt or Busoni than Bach in this performance, with even the expressive Sicilienne rich in extra octaves in places. This is an impressive example of Cortot’s pianism nonetheless, but revealing of the taste of the period, and very much a recording of its time. The beautiful Arioso which follows has a wonderful vocally expressive melodic line and a restraint in the accompaniment which allows the music to flow with elegance and freedom.

A day after the Bach recordings, Cortot was back for the two Mendelssohn recordings on this disc. This is the first of three he made of the Variations Sérieuses, Op. 54, and, while not without its technical flaws, is still a marvellously intelligent and expressively communicative recording. You can hear the stylistic gears change as Cortot adjusts to Mendelssohn’s more contrapuntal variations, the character of accompaniments lifting melodic lines beyond mere tunes, the extremes of mood portrayed with clear vision and almost tactile imaginative force. This would have been the better of two takes, but without the benefits of editing this has the feel more of a live performance than a cosmetically perfect studio recording. I love the energy though, and few pianists push the music this far to the outer edges of its expressive limits. In this Cortot really is the father of later greats like Horowitz.

Cortot’s recordings of César Franck stand as testimony to his greatness as a performer of this composer’s music. The two recording dates for the Prélude, Chorale and Fugue stem from an intensive series of sessions recorded on a rich sounding Pleyel piano in the Small Queen’s Hall in London. Along with a blistering schedule of other repertoire, the work was recorded complete on the 6th March 1929, and a number of re-takes were done on the 19th. Cortot’s renowned sense of form over the expanse of both of the Franck works is of course well in evidence here, but it is equally interesting to divine the ways in which Cortot is able to create atmosphere and perform with a feel of genuine poetry. Despite the technical blemishes which occasionally arise, there is a sense of balance and sensitivity even where textures thicken and climaxes create genuine musical storms. The same is true of the Prélude, Aria and Finale, where lightness of touch holds at least part of the secret in Cortot’s sympathy and effectiveness in Franck’s idiom. This slightly later EMI recording has less surface noise but a more nasal mid-range to the piano sound. The more clattery effect where dynamics rise is less flattering to Cortot’s touch, but it takes little effort to hear the inner contrasts and vocal lines of phrasing which makes the performance stand out as a true historical landmark. Especially the central Aria holds the attention with its sense of magic, the feeling that the music is being created on the spot – both improvisational and controlled, and very much from the heart. The programme ends with Saint-Saëns’ virtuoso show-stopper, the Étude en forme de Valse, this recording of which should remove any doubt one might have about Cortot’s technical abilities.

These early recordings do of course have their limitations, but with excellent mastering by an un-named expert I was pleasantly surprised at how good the sound was for artefacts of such a vintage. Alfred Cortot looks out at us from the cover with frightening intensity, and the recordings of Mendelssohn and especially Franck reflect this stare, which seems to be able to penetrate the soul and draw deepest from the creative wellsprings of each composer. The squeaky-clean technical expectations of recordings today are a considerable move away from the rough-hewn quality of some moments in Cortot’s playing, but this takes nothing from their historical significance. Anyone interested in the timeline of pianistic history should be aware of Alfred Cortot, and having his legacy spruced up and presented in Naxos’ Great Pianists edition is a real treat.

Dominy Clements


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.