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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 (1869) [27:38]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.25 (1831) [19:03]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval, Op.9 (1835) [27:55]
Ania Dorfmann (piano)
Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia/Erich Leinsdorf
rec. July 1953, Academy of Music, Philadelphia (concertos) and September-October 1958 and September 1959 (Carnaval), Town Hall, NYC

Ania Dorfmann (1899-1984) is, as Mark Obert-Thorn’s producer’s note suggests, best known for her participation in Toscanini’s only commercial recording of a Beethoven piano concerto: the First - reissued at one time on Andante. Since the expansion of the conductor’s discography through the release of broadcast material, it’s surely time that Dorfmann’s career was seen in a wider context. Indeed her own recordings range from English Columbia 78s, which Pearl reissued in 1999 (GEMM0010), to a series of discs made for RCA Victor.

Interestingly what is now one of her widest distributed undertakings is Mendelssohn’s Concerto No.1, which she recorded with Walter Goehr and the LSO in 1938; available on Dutton. In July 1953 she returned to the work in the performance to be heard in the disc under review, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra – under its summer moniker of ‘The Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia’- and Erich Leinsdorf. Judged by the stopwatch the performance is somewhat different from the 1938 recording, slower in the outer movements but a touch quicker in the central slow movement, which means that it’s just a little less vitalising. Compensation comes from the improvements in sound and in a finely thought-through reading that marries wit with thoughtful and refined lyricism in the Andante. The Grieg Concerto was recorded the following day, once again in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. There’s great clarity and bravura here, though it’s never showy or superficial. She leaves slightly rhetorical caesurae in the cadenza whilst the slow movement is poetic – nice horns in particular – but not indulged in any way. The trumpets blare excitingly in the finale. There’s an odd-sounding, lumpy moment around 7:57 in the finale – an edit on the master possibly.

The final work is Carnaval which comes from her only stereo recording – it was also her last studio LP and also contained the Fantasiestücke. The opportunity to hear her in a solo work is particularly useful, though she emerges here as a somewhat uneven, indeed mannered Schumann player. Some of her phrasing is inclined to be capricious and Pierrot is strangely dull. There sounds like another edit in Arlequin and expressive richness in this work, where called for, seems not to have been her metier. Nevertheless it’s an occasionally provocative reading and worth hearing for that reason. A relatively high level of surface noise has been retained but so too have the performance’s tonal qualities.

Jonathan Woolf



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