Alfred Cortot – The Late Recordings: Vol. 4
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Moment musical in F minor D780/3 [1:43]
12 Deutsche Ländler D790 [8:59]
Litanie auf das Fest Aller Seelen D343 arranged by Alfred Cortot [3:26]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 S244/11 [4:57]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval Op.9 (1834) [25:38]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in F sharp major Op.15/2 [3:12]
Etude in G flat major Op.10/5 Black Keys [1:42]
Etude in F minor Op.25/2 [1:34]
Etude in G flat major Op.25/9 Butterfly [1:05]
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op 35 – Marche funèbre only [5:45]
Tarantelle in A flat major Op.43 [3:16]
Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58 – Largo only [7:20]
Waltz in C sharp minor Op.64/2 [3:00]
Alfred Cortot (piano)
rec. 1951-54, EMI Abbey Road, London
APR 5574 [72:56]

In their different ways APR and Naxos have been covering something of the same territory in Cortot studies – not that they are alone, as EMI has recently issued capacious boxes devoted to the pianist and Toshiaba and Shinseido amongst Japanese companies have also been busy. But APR has been working structurally through the recorded legacy and now reaches volume 4 of his ‘late recordings’.

This means four composers are represented. Cortot often reprised works in the studio, sometimes multiply so. Both the Ländler and Litanie, for instance, were recorded in London in 1937 and are presented by Naxos [8.112012] and in truth these are artistically superior to these early 50s remakes, fine and enjoyable though they are on their own terms, and despite the noble gravity of Litanie, heard once again in Cortot’s own arrangement. We have a bracing May 1953 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.11. Of rather more significance is the recording he made at the same time, of Carnaval. Cortot set down this work three times - 1923, 1928 and, here, once again, 1953, mirroring the three recordings he left of the Piano Concerto. This last recording is a noble study but vitiated by wrong notes to such an extent that it does intrude; approximations in the Marche des Davidsbündler are the order of the day, not the exception. But if you can listen through these well-worn Cortotisms you will still find much to excite the poetic instinct, albeit the early electric of 1928 is the place to go for a more comprehensive account of his way with the work.

APR groups the works into composer sequences; therefore we are not presented with a chronological run of recordings. Thus it is that we can hear the Chopin recordings of, in the main, June and July 1954 – the exception is the slow movement of the B flat minor sonata, recorded on the same day as Carnaval. Single movements from the sonatas were released, and various pieces were attempted by Cortot, by now beginning to suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, and not completed. The Etudes evince something of his youthful brio and the Tarantelle in A flat major is attractively dispatched.

Documentation is good and the transfers too, though I marginally prefer the competing Naxos Carnaval.

Jonathan Woolf

Much to excite the poetic instinct.