Gina Bachauer: The first HMV recordings 1949-51
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major BWV564 (1708-17) arr. Ferruccio Busoni [16:00]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses: Funérailles, S173/7 (1845-52) [8:48]
Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in C sharp minor S244/12 [8:28]
Rapsodie espagnole S254 (1863) arr. Ferruccio Busoni [13:28]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1759-1795)
Piano Concerto No.26 in D Major K537 Coronation (1788) [29:34]
Gina Bachauer (piano)
New London Orchestra/Alec Sherman
rec. 1949 and 1951 (Mozart and Liszt-Busoni), London
APR 5643 [76:59]
Gina Bachauer (1910-76) enjoyed a successful career and there will be many who remember her concerts with admiration. Her first recordings were made in Studio 3, Abbey Road, London in 1949 after wartime spent in Egypt, where she’d travelled from her native Athens.
Funérailles was selected as her very first piece, a daunting experience, one would have thought, but a piece through which she drives with maximal accomplishment, leaving behind a performance of finger precision and intense drama. It establishes her as a Lisztian of power and panache, a technician of decided standing, and an interpreter of perception. The Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 followed in June 1949 - though a look at the discography handily printed in the centre pages of the booklet shows that she took no fewer than five attempts at the first part. In the event take two was selected for issue. It doesn’t tell us much about her Liszt playing that Funérailles doesn’t, but it does amplify the range of theatrics in her playing.
A couple of days later she set down the Bach-Busoni Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major and here one can appreciate her sheer depth of her sound - its verticality is tremendous - as well as the phrasal tenderness she cultivates in the central panel. Her chordal playing is weighted splendidly and she generates the requisite organ sonorities when required. The Fugue unfolds with serene control. Truly excellent. The remainder of the programme sees her teamed with her husband, Alec Sherman, and the New London Orchestra, the band he had founded in 1941. Mozart’s Coronation Concerto receives a highly sympathetic reading, never straining for undue effect but never overlooking detail that gives lift and life to the music. Buoyancy of rhythm is one result and an ability to spin long phrases in the slow movement another. Together Bachauer and Sherman take a scrupulous and commanding view of the Liszt-Busoni Rapsodie espagnole. It’s not an incandescent performance but neither is it timid.
This disc shows why Bachauer was so admired as a performer. It helps, too, that the booklet is excellent and that the transfers similarly good.
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Mozart piano concerto 26

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