Inédits Youra Guller III
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 (1805/6) [33:01]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, Op 21 (1829) [31:20]
Youra Guller (piano)
Orchestre National de France/Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht
rec. 15 May 1958 (Beethoven) and 21 June 1959 (Chopin)
TAHRA TAH719 [64:50]
This is the third in Tahra’s Youra Guller series. The others were TAH630 (now deleted by the company) and TAH650. This new disc replicates important repertoire. 650 had a performance of the Beethoven Concerto in G with Ernest Ansermet from 15 January 1958, whilst 630 had a broadcast of Chopin’s F minor Concerto with, once again, the Suisse Romande but this time conducted by Edmond Appia, from 10 June 1959.
My reviews of the two can be read here: Beethoven and Chopin.
It may be helpful just to repeat what I wrote about Guller for this unfamiliar with her. Her biography is told at some length in Tahra’s notes for the earlier discs, and a remarkable, compelling story it is. She was born in 1895 in Marseilles. Her father was Russian and her mother Romanian and at twelve she entered the Paris Conservatoire where she studied under Isidore Philipp. Clara Haskil, who was in Cortot’s class, was a contemporary. After graduating she made the acquaintance of Milhaud and performed his music, and that of the other members of Les Six, as well as specialising in Chopin and toured widely. She fled Paris in 1941 and returned to Marseilles where she met Haskil and her sister Jeanne. Guller seems to have been responsible for aiding Clara Haskil’s escape, though as Guller was herself a Jew she was in particular danger. She was ill for some time – living in Shanghai it’s said or maybe Bali for eight years - before resuming her career in 1955. She returned to London in that year and travelled to New York in 1971 to play at a recital in Carnegie Hall. Martha Argerich admired her and Nimbus recorded her in the studios in 1975. Perhaps typically, given the shrouded and sometimes fugitive nature of her life, the exact date of her death seems to be in some confusion; 1980 or 1981, and the location Geneva, Paris or London, though surely this can be resolved easily enough.
Her performances with Inghelbrecht seem to have generated rather more heat, and greater phrasal intensity, than in the case of the two other collaborators. The actual expressive quotient of her playing isn’t necessarily radically altered but there is, I sense, a rather deeper response in the case of the Beethoven, where her first movement cadenza ranges from feathery in terms of articulation to increasingly bold. The slow movement reprises her equable, non-philosophic responses, once again wholly unsentimental, and never aligning itself with the kind of stasis and introspection, of deep-held depths uttered by such as, say, Emil Gilels. For those for whom he remains nonpareil, Guller will seem somewhat matter of fact. She was in her early sixties when she was taped in the work and although she’s not finger perfect and sometimes she subdues the bass line too much, the playing is direct, straightforward and unaffected. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in both the Beethoven and the Chopin her performances with Inghelbrecht are a good two minutes quicker than the traversals with Ansermet and Appia.
Guller is said to have suffered a crisis of confidence in the post-war years and surely the punishing nature of her life took its toll on her technique. I sense her compromised technique is at the root of the problems in the F minor, which once again seems to discomfort her from time to time. Again, too, the left hand accompanying figures don’t provide as much rhythmic spring as they might — the recording is a little muddy in the bass too, which doesn’t help. But it’s a rather more involving performance than the Appia and better conducted, and better performed by the orchestra (the Suisse Romande had a particularly bad day). Again the slow movement is the highlight – warmer in tone, and more naturally phrased, if again still a little aloof.
These are improvements musically on the previous instalments in this series. Guller divides opinion rather radically, but this brace of concertos certainly shows her in more communicative form than before.
These are improvements musically on the previous instalments in this series.