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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1 (1891, rev. 1917) [25:54]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 (1901) [33:45]
Mélodie in E, Op.33 No.3 (1892) [4:00]
Prelude in B minor, Op.32 No.10 [5:17]
Richard ADDINSELL (1904-1977)
Warsaw Concerto (from the film Dangerous Moonlight) orch. R Douglas (1941) [8:02]
Cor de Groot (piano)
Pierre Palla (piano)
Hague Philharmonic Orchestra (Residentie Orkest), Radio Hilversum Philharmonic Orchestra/Willem van Otterloo
rec. December 1951, Concertgebouw Great Hall, Amsterdam (Rachmaninov) and 1947 (Addinsell)

Cor de Groot (1914-93) recorded a useful swathe of his repertory and some restorations have appeared in recent years. Both the Rachmaninov concertos here, for example, have also appeared on Challenge Classics CC 72383, a 7-CD set devoted to material from LPs made by Willem van Otterloo and the Residentie Orkest from 1951 to 1966.

De Groot’s career was derailed by an illness which left him with only one functioning arm, and thus we are fortunate that he recorded as much as he did. Complete concerto cycles in the 1950s and earlier tended to be piecemeal, rather than being recorded en bloc as was often to be the case later. Thus the First Concerto emerged in 1951 and the Second three years later. Both are in very decent mono sound indeed, and they’ve been most sympathetically engineered here. One can hear the Hague Orchestra’s characteristically sinewy string tone and the piano’s placement, which is sufficiently far forward for its runs to be heard but not so spot-lit that orchestral themes become swamped. De Groot’s approach to the Second is quite noble, with patrician elements. He takes a far faster tempo for the slow movement than Cyril Smith in his 1947 set, though one feels Smith has the idiom more surely in his bones. By one of those unpleasant coincidences Smith’s professional life was blighted by a stroke and he too was left with only one useful arm. I wouldn’t say there’s much that’s truly distinctive about de Groot’s reading, not like Moisewitsch, say, but the Dutchman was not that kind of player. The finale has one or two questionable ‘lingering rubato’ moments and a rather too insistent paragraphal sense, but one can certainly hear passagework that in other recordings of this time was likely to be sunk under the weight of the orchestra.

De Groot sounds a little more relaxed in the first concerto than in the second. His phrasing is just a touch freer, and in fact he sounds relatively spontaneous in the finale, where van Otterloo sticks to him like glue. In fact the conductor proves a thoroughly efficient accompanist in both concertos.

The Second Concerto was issued on Philips, later Epic, coupled with the Mélodie, Op.3 No.3 and the Prelude (that one), Op.32 No.10 which reprise the concerto qualities; which is to say, a certain objectification. The final piece is not de Groot at all. It’s pianist Pierre Palla, with van Otterloo again, playing Addinsell’s Rachmaninovian ‘tribute’ concerto from the film Dangerous Moonlight. Recorded in 1947, six or so years after the film was released, this comes from a much more constricted sounding Decca/Philips 78-rpm, making for some rather more limited listening pleasure.

The core of the disc, though, is de Groot, and this excellently realised transfer. No notes, as usual from this source.

Jonathan Woolf



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