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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, New York

The recordings of Ania (not Anita) Dorfmann (1899-1984) have had a pretty thin time of it; not for them multiple reissues. She seems to have slipped the net almost completely. This disc of 1950s mono recordings is all the more valuable for that reason and but for its existence I am fairly sure I would not have heard of her. This is a shame as she is clearly an estimable talent.

Associated for some years with Toscanini, recordings of her with him in Beethoven's First Piano Concerto, Triple Concerto and Choral Fantasy have, I am told, been issued at various times. She is well accompanied here by Leinsdorf who allows no slack. The orchestra is never permitted to treat these sessions as routine. The gritty bite and rock-hammer blows of the first movement contrast with the warm playing of the second movement which cosies up rather well in this coaxing acoustic.

The playing in the finale, as in the first movement, is right on the button, with plenty of power and definition. It works very well with Leinsdorf's tempest and tension. Mendelssohn's compact First Piano Concerto flashes along like a summer squall with lightning. It's all quite Beethovenian - those fanfares are redolent of Beethoven 5. I have recently been reminded by BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week about the piano concertos of William Sterndale-Bennett. Hearing this performance of the music of Sterndale-Bennett's contemporary and friend, Mendelssohn I am sure that Dorfmann would have made an elite interpreter of the Englishman's piano concertos (review ~ review ~ review) but in the 1950s they might as well have never been written. I was introduced to this Mendelssohn work courtesy of a 1960s(?) RCA LP where the pianist was Joseph Kalichstein. Kalichstein alo seems to have dropped out of the light although I see he later recorded Mendelssohn's concertos 1 and 2 for Nimbus with Jaime Laredo.

It's a shame Dorfmann, who was born in Odessa like several other musical luminaries, did not record the Schumann concerto. Instead we have this Carnaval which is shot through with playing that is full of forceful, mercurial fantasy - a veritable hall of mirrors. One quibble: really quiet playing seems not have been on the menu. Whether this is down to the microphones or Dorfmann I am not sure. That said, the sound is nothing short of assertively handsome - perhaps a shade hard in Carnaval but very listenable.

Rob Barnett

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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