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Victor Schiĝler (piano)
The Great Danish Pianist - Volume 4
rec. 1941-66
DANACORD DACOCD867-68 [79:53 +79:58]

The fourth volume of this series charts a quarter-century of Victor Schiĝler’s studio and broadcast recordings. The previous volumes confined themselves wholly to his studio legacy, so this is a welcome expansion to experience this splendid artist on the wing. Four works are orchestrally accompanied, there is one violin sonata and the remainder solo piano, a fair distribution of material given Schiĝler’s equal familiarity with the repertoires.

There’s no escaping the Emperor Concerto, recorded in 1947 on 78s by Tono though for this transfer a subsequent LP issue was used. Ex-violinist Carl von Garaguly directs the Danish State Broadcasting Orchestra. Schiĝler successfully negotiates both the deftness and the leonine nature of the concerto, his trills even, his phrasing warmly expressive but never sentimental. Thus, one would expect the slow movement to be eloquent and refined, and so it is, and the finale to be buoyant but unexaggerated. His left hand animates the rhythms with an engaging dynamism. There are excellent bass frequencies in Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (Tivoli Orchestra/Thomas Jensen, 1942) and despite a couple of blips in the selected 78, plenty of crisp, witty phrasing from the soloist. The previous year he and Tuxen had turned in a nine-minute ‘jazz band’ version of Rhapsody in Blue. Though classically trained, Tuxen had been a pioneering jazz and Big Band musician before moving to highbrow matters – a very similar route to that taken by his almost exact contemporary Hugo Rignold in Britain. There’s a very interesting clarinet player on board Tuxen’s band but it’s not really the pianist’s metier, one feels.

The last concerto is of particular interest. It’s Palmgren’s Concerto No.2, ‘The River’ heard in a live broadcast from Helsinki in 1962. This was a work he’d known well for decades, having played it on a British tour as early as 1925, when it was a little more than a decade old. He and Thomas Jensen mesh superbly, locating its rhapsodic flexibility, its folkloric impetus, and the rippling romance that courses through the keyboard writing. True, there are Grieg-like and Rachmaninovian elements at work but there is some lovely orchestral writing as well as trenchant stormy outbursts. There are more recent, more high-fidelity recordings but none that seem to inhabit the music from the inside as does this one.

The Violin Sonata is Nielsen’s and the performance is the well-known and several times reissued one with Emil Telmányi, from an HMV mono LP. Things could hardly be more authoritative than this. Of the solo items Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor was recorded in London in 1951 and issued on two 78s. Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy comes from a popular TV show that the pianist presented. Taped in 1966 he died less than two months later. He never recorded the work commercially, so this survivor is all the more valuable notwithstanding some trivial slips; the performance retains much of his brio and clarity. The wartime Chopin Polonaise is not blemish-free either but there’s a sonorous Scherzo in C sharp minor from 1950 and a very well-transferred Liszt Valse-Impromptu from the following year. To end there is a brace of curios, two performances on short-lived 7” HMVs from 1957 and 1959 - Schumann and Brahms. Given Bill Haley and Elvis et al perhaps HMV thought they were on to a good thing; they weren’t.

This is another excellently compiled and transferred twofer from Danacord. There is a two-page roundup from Claus Byrith which is well worth reading. I’m hoping for more live material in volume five.

Jonathan Woolf

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 [35:31]
Danish State Broadcasting Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Hungarian Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra [14:55]
The Tivoli Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue [9:08]
Jazz Concert Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 9 [19:57]
Emil Telmányi (violin)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
32 Variations C Minor, WoO 80 [14:55]
Franz Schubert ((1797-1828)
Wanderer Fantasy, Op. 15 D760 [21:26]
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.2 ‘The River’ [20:57]
The Tivoli Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Polonaise in A Flat Major, Op. 53 [6:46]
Scherzo in C Sharp Minor, Op. 39 [6:54]
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Valse-Impromptu [4:46]
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Aufschwung (from Fantasiestücke, Op. 12) [3:49]
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D Flat Major [3:29]

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