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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, K. 450 [23:30]
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major ("Alla Turca") K. 331 (K. 300i) [21:40]
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D major ("Trumpet", "Hunt"), K. 576 [13:44]
Solomon (piano), Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Ackermann
rec. 7-8 September 1953 (K. 450); 2-3 December 1952 (K. 331); 9 June 1952 (K. 450) ADD mono
ARCHIPEL ARPCD0226 [59:58]

I had heard of Solomon but was unacquainted with his recordings before buying this remastered historical compilation of his recordings made in1952 and 1953. Along with Clifford Curzon, he was a doyen among British pianists, before a stroke in 1956 paralysed his right arm when he was still only in his early fifties.

The Romanian conductor Otto Ackermann is mainly associated with recordings of operettas written by his friend Franz Lehár but he also accompanied Schwarzkopf in her earlier “Four Last Songs” and frequently partnered his compatriot Dinu Lipatti; both were sadly short-lived, Lipatti dying at 33 at Ackermnn at 50.

Given that history of so much chronic ill-health, we must be all the more grateful for the recorded legacy. This recording remains eminently enjoyable as long as you are tolerant of the thin, clattery mono sound; you can certainly hear the verve, vivacity and dexterity of Solomon’s playing in a composer evidently highly congenial to his temperament, and the orchestral contribution is surprisingly prominent. K. 450 belongs to the first flowering of Mozart’s mature command of the medium and, like its ground-breaking numerical predecessor, K. 449, no. 14, provides a platform for the pianist to display technical prowess in trills and runs, The Andantino is tenderly played, orchestral phrases echoed by the piano prefiguring the opening statement in K.581, the Clarinet Quintet. The rumbustious good-humour of the finale is by no means underplayed, there is plenty of power in the left hand to balance the fluidity of the right.

By all accounts, Solomon had a reputation especially for the poetic delicacy of his pianism; that is immediately apparent from the opening of the first sonata, K. 331; I just wish that the sound were less hollow so we could appreciate the performance more completely; sometimes this sounds more pre- than post-war. The directness and unpretentiousness of Solomon’s playing are winning, however; the variations are all airy lightness and the famous “Alla Turca” tossed off with aplomb. The last and later sonata again provides the opportunity for a great pianist to demonstrate both sensitivity and technical strength; the Adagio is especially refined.

Despite its sonic imitations, this collation of three recordings certainly permits the listener to understand what it was about Solomon which made him so admired.

Ralph Moore

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