Magda Tagliaferro (piano)
The Complete 78-rpm Solo and Concerto Recordings
APR 7312 [3 CDs: 232:00]
Magda Tagliaferro hasn’t been shunned on disc. Some years ago Heritage, in a disc licensed from the original Pearl CD (GEM 0157), mined her discography focusing on 78s made between 1930 and 1934 (see review). There you’ll find Hahn’s Concerto, with the composer at the helm, and his Sonatine, along with Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien Chopin’s Impromptu, Albéniz’s Sevilla from Suite española, two delectable pieces by Mompou, and a brace by Debussy - Jardin sous la pluie from Estampes and the Toccata.
I won’t duplicate comment on these pieces but concentrate instead on the remainder of her legacy on shellac in this 3-CD box. The music is grouped by record labels and largely, though not exclusively, proceeds chronologically. Her recording career began for French HMV in 1928 with a Franco-Spanish repertory. Her Fauré Ballade, with the Gramophone Orchestra conducted by Piero Coppola, was the work’s first ever recording. The orchestral strings are only so-so but Taliaferro’s flair and clarity, her trills and passagework, are paramount. The filler to this was the same composer’s Impromptu No.3, played with idiomatic intelligence and passion. The first two movements from Debussy’s Pour le piano date from March 1930 – the Toccata followed two years later for Ultraphone - and as booklet note writer Charles Timbrell makes clear, she plays the Prélude an octave lower than written. She made a detour to Decca in 1931 making the première recording of Mozart’s Coronation Concerto with the Pasdeloup Orchestra under Hahn. It was a work she’d first performed two decades earlier and was to remain a cornerstone of her concerto repertoire. She plays with most attractive directness and fortunately Decca didn’t insist on many cuts – just a few brief ones – to fit the music onto the four discs. Hahn can be slightly overemphatic in tuttis – and is that him shouting out to the orchestra à la Beecham at 12:36 in the first movement? - but Tagliaferro is marvelously communicative in the cadenza, though not as remarkably dramatic as, of all people, Backhaus in his 1941 recording of the work.
The Ultraphone selection covers the years 1932-33 and played to her reportorial strengths; that Pour le piano recording, a delicious Rondo all Turca – only – from Mozart’s K331, a colour-conscious and lilting Fauré Impromptu No.2, a vivacious Iberian brace of Granados and Albéniz and beautifully balanced readings of Chopin’s Impromptu No.1 and Waltz in A flat major, Op.42. After her Ultraphone contract expired she spent just over four years with Pathé. There’s a rare surviving test of the Allegretto from Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K576. It’s in excellent sound though it’s known that she did record the whole sonata. There’s an ebullient Weber Rondo brillante recorded on the same day as an equally persuasive Mendelssohn brace. Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu shows, as if it were needed, the sheer range of her sense of colour.
The final disc team Tagliaferro with the violinist Denise Soriano. Counterintuitively Soriano’s slightly nervy vibrato suits Hahn’s Romance in A major. The Fauré First Sonata (February 1934) is a major achievement. It’s stylish, confident, idiomatic and fully expressive. There are plenty of quick slides in the slow movement and the pianist promotes the harmonies in the scherzo. Soriano plays throughout with real flair and though she can hardly begin to match Thibaud’s sheer sensuality – Thibaud is on record as having seen Soriano as a successor to Ginette Neveu – this is an exemplary performance. As a bonus there is also a remake in July of the opening movement which appeared on later pressings and the same composer’s Andante, Op.75 where Soriano’s nagging vibrato obtrudes.
The final work breads the bonds of the set’s rubric by transferring her 1954 Philips mono LP of Saint-Saëns’s Fifth Piano Concerto. This has also been reissued by Forgotten Records, so I shall send you there for a few thoughts on the scintillating music-making enshrined in that performance (see review).
Charles Timbrell has written the first-class booklet notes and transfers come courtesy of Ward Marston; a classy combination.
Previous review: Stephen Greenbank
Chants d'Espagne, op.232
» V Seguidillas
Suite espanola no.1, op.47
» III Sevilla
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, op.66
Impromptu no.1 in A flat major, op.29
» no.5 in A flat major, op.42
» no.3 Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the rain)
Pour le piano
Andante in B flat for violin and piano, op.75
Ballade in F sharp major, op.19
» no.2 in F minor, op.31
» no.3 in A flat major, op.34
Violin Sonata no.1 in A major, op.13
Denise Soriano (violin)
Danzas espanolas (12), op.37
» no.6 Rondalla aragonesa
Piano Concerto in E major
Romance in A major
Sonatine in C major
Etudes (3), op.104b
» no.2 in F major
Kinderstucke (6), op.72 'Children's Pieces'
» no.4 Andante con moto
» Jeunes filles au jardin
» El carrer, el guitarrista i el vell cavall
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Piano Concerto no.26 in D major, K537 'Coronation'
Piano Sonata no.11 in A major, K331
» III Rondo alla turca
Piano Sonata no.18 in D major, K576
» III Allegretto
Piano Concerto no.5 in F major, op.103 'Egyptian'
Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival in Vienna), op.26
Romances (3), op.28
» no.2 in F sharp major
Weber, Carl Maria von
Rondo brillante, op.62 J252
Denise Soriano (violin)
Orchestre du Gramophone