Inspiration - Homage to Maria Curcio
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria (Ellens Dritte Gesang) (1825) arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) S.558 No.12 (1838) [5:54]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Danza (Tarantella Napolitana) (1835) arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) S. 424 No.9 [4:16]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Alma Brasileira; Choro No.5 (1925) [4:46]
Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Variations on a Chaconne Op.3 (1903) [7:12]
Artur SCHNABEL (1882-1951)
Waltzes Op.15 No.3 (1906) [7:23]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Rondo in A minor K511 (1787) [10:16]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1797-1828)
Fantasie Op.77 (1809) [9:11]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise in F sharp minor (‘Tragic’) Op.44 (1841) [10:39]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Mariä Wiegenlied Op.76 No.52 (1912) [2:12]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Widmung Op.25 No.1 (1840) arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886) [3:28]
Anthony Goldstone (piano)
rec.2009, St. John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Concert aria; Ch’io mi scordi di te? K505 (1785) [9:53]
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano): Maria Curcio (piano): Concertgebouw Orchestra/Otto Klemperer, recorded live, 1957
DIVINE ART DDA25086 [75:23]

Maria Curcio was born in Naples in 1919 and died in March 2009. She was best known as an eminent teacher, after health crises ended an active performing career around the time of the end of the Second World War, and she had a fine list of pupils to her name. One of them was Barry Douglas, who contributes an interesting two paragraphs concerning his studies with her. And another was Anthony Goldstone whose ‘International Piano’ journal article about her, and his studies with her, is reproduced in the booklet, and who performs on this tribute disc.

The works are all connected to Curcio; two contain her first name in the title, and of the others, these were works with which she had affinities, and composers with whom she had a strong connection. Casella and Schnabel were among her mentors, and so Goldstone duly performs music by them. The programming is effective, in any case, irrespective of its source of inspiration.

Goldstone starts with two Lisztian concoctions, the first, an obvious starting point - expressively and indeed linguistically - being Ave Maria, and the second La Danza. The first is affectionately spun, heartfelt, limpid and appealing, whilst the second is played with reassuring élan. Goldstone measures and calibrates the B section of Villa-Lobos’s Choro No.5 with precision, ensuring that the outer writing retains intensity; the dance and the melancholy are adeptly held in balance. Casella’s early Variations on a Chaconne is a gripping if somewhat conventional piece, echoing Handel and La Folia, and reminding us of one of the Bach-Busonis in miniature. Nevertheless the characterisation is strong, faster and slower variations are well handled, and the music is stirring. As the variations proceed things are progressively more interesting harmonically.

Three years after Casella’s Variations, Schnabel wrote his Waltzes, delightfully unserious, of which the last of the four is both the most extensive and the most quirky. Its extreme halts gently guy the genre. The three most extensive pieces then follow; a highly expressive Mozart A minor Rondo majoring in exceptional layers of melancholy; then Beethoven Op.77 Fantasie, with its elegant nobility; and finally a mature reading of Chopin’s Polonaise in F sharp minor. These allow a gentle winding down via Reger’s Mariä Wiegenlied and Schumann’s Widmung. To finish there is a bonus track, which features Curcio herself, playing marvellously, with Schwarzkopf and Klemperer live in Amsterdam in 1957, essaying Mozart’s concert aria Ch’io mi scordi di te? The soprano was later, in 1968, to record it with Alfred Brendel, the London Symphony Orchestra and George Szell.

It ends the recital disc on a poignant yet uplifting note.

Jonathan Woolf

A fine tribute to Maria Curcio.