Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Piano Concerto No.4 in C minor Op.44 (1875) [24:45]
Etude en forme de valse from Op.52 (1877) [4:34]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor op.54 (1841-45) [29:47]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Wiegenlied arr. Cortot [2:29]
Alfred Cortot (piano)
Unidentified Orchestra/Charles Munch (Saint-SaŽns)
LSO/Landon Ronald (Schumann)
rec. 1935 (Saint-SaŽns Concerto); 1931 (Saint-SaŽns Valse); 1927 (Schumann); 1925 (Brahms)
ST-LAURENT STUDIO YSL 78-002 [61:35]

None of these Cortot recordings is especially rare in the transfer stakes. In fact the Saint-SaŽns is one of the pianistís best known and most admired concerto performances, and rightly so, given the scintillating wit and ťlan displayed, and the suitably incisive and imaginative support lent by Charles Munch and the uncredited orchestra. At least once this was claimed to be the Paris Conservatory Orchestra but thereís no documentary evidence for it. Full of vivacity and colour, not at all dandified, I might well direct unbelievers to this recording to show them something of Cortotís sense of spirit and joie de vivre Ė the composerís too. Itís also been transferred on Naxos 8.110613 and Philips 456754-2, and Pearl GEMM 9491.

Regarding the Schumann, one must exercise a little more caution as regards provenance. Cortot and Landon Ronald recorded this work three times together, something of a feat of persistence. The first was an acoustic in 1922 with the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra [Biddulph LHW021; Shinseido SGR8107], then came this early electric one with the LSO in 1927 [also on Music & Arts CD717 and Shinseido SGR8106], and finally there was the 1934 with the LPO [Naxos 8.110612; Biddulph LHW003; also on Toshiba and Opus Kura OPK2010]. Thereís a live 1951 broadcast with Fricsay as well. Cortotís recordings make interesting points of comparison with the sole one of the distinguished Clara Schumann pupil, Fanny Davies, whose recording with Ernest Ansermet is well known. Itís a moot point as to which Cortot performance is the Ďbestí. The LPO performance is certainly in better sound and has a more suave orchestral sound, but thereís an individuality and spontaneity about this 1927 LSO traversal that lends it great qualities of its own. The two makeweights are enjoyable and good to have Ė pertinently selected too.

And now to the transfers. This company operates on a minimum intervention policy. I have found it best not to blanket cover their releases but to listen to them one by one, as quality varies according to the state of the original discs. The Saint-SaŽns has a good sound spectrum but there are numerous ticks and clicks, and audible side joins Ė for example at 4:08 and 8:39 in the first movement (i.e. the first two side changes). Thereís whiskery surface noise in the Schumann and again an avoidably poor side join at 4:39. Things here should have been rather better. There are no notes, as usual from this firm.

Jonathan Woolf

This company operates on a minimum intervention policy. The Saint-SaŽns has a good sound spectrum but numerous ticks, clicks and audible side joins.