Magda Tagliaferro (piano)
The Complete 78-rpm Solo and Concerto Recordings
APR 7312 [3 CDs: 232:00]
Magda Tagliaferro (1893-1986) was a Brazilian-born pianist of French parentage. She studied at the Paris Conservatory with Antonin Marmontel and later with Alfred Cortot. She had a distinguished concert and recording career and worked with some of the eminent conductors of the day including Weingartner, Dobrowen, Monteux, Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Paray and Inghelbrecht, in addition to performing chamber music with Cortot, Thibaud, Enescu and Casals. She also premiered works by Rivier, Pierné, and Villa-Lobos. She held a teaching post at the Paris Conservatoire from 1937 to 1939, and later founded her own school in Paris and later in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. She counted Pnina Salzman and Cristina Ortiz amongst her students. Tagliaferro continued to perform well into her nineties, but it’s these early 78s which capture her at her best.
The recordings fall into the following categories:
HMV France recordings, Paris 1928-1930
Decca recording, Salle Gaveau, Paris 1931
Ultraphone recordings, Paris 1932-1933
Pathé recordings, Paris 1934-1938
Philips recording, Salle Apollo, Paris 1954
Charles Timbrell, in the accompanying liner, speaks of Tagliaferro’s “elegance, flair, warmth and charm”. She possessed an all-encompassing and remarkable technique enabling her to meet any challenge head on. Listen to the marvelous finger dexterity and finesse in Weber’s Rondo brillante in E flat and Mendelssohn’s Étude No. 2 in F. Her kaleidoscopic colouristic range and rhythmic flexibility is ideal for Spanish composers such as Granados Albéniz and de Falla. The Debussy selection is also a beneficiary. I love the way she weights the chords and achieves some radiant hues in the Sarabande from Pour le piano. Mompou's captivating Jeune Fille au Jardin, No. 5 from Scènes d'enfants, was a favorite encore piece of the pianist, and is here evocatively captured by some imaginative honeyed sonorities.
It’s of no surprise that the pianist excels in the music of Chopin and Schumann given her close association with Alfred Cortot. Yet, despite his strong influence, she makes the music very much her own. Part of the success lies in her instinctive and fine-drawn rubato. A perfect example is in the central section of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu, which she’s at pains not to over-sentimentalize. There’s plenty of heat and vivacity in Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien (carnival jest from Vienna), where she’s perfectly attuned to the mood changes.
There are three concerto recordings. The earliest is Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto, K537, dating from December 1931. Tagliaferro is partnered by Reynaldo Hahn and the Pasdeloup Orchestra. This Concerto became a signature work for her since she first performed it in 1910, and she returned to it frequently on her European tours. This was the very first recording of the work. With tempi on the brisk side, there are several cuts, probably to accommodate the 78rpm lengths. The refined delicacy of the passagework and attentiveness to nuance scores high in my book. Hahn composed his Piano Concerto especially for her, and he accompanies her with an unnamed orchestra in this 1937 Pathé recording. It’s a intensely lyrical work, and Tagliaferro fully succumbs to the gorgeous melodies, giving a glittering rendition. Fast forward to 1954 and we have a truly remarkable recording of Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103 ‘Egyptian’ with the Orchestre Lamoureux under the baton of Jean Fournet. For many years this was high on the list of recommended versions. Dexterity, precision and a panoply of colour are strong positives, and the sparkling finger-work in the finale is breathtaking. The only other work featuring orchestra is Fauré’s Ballade Op. 19. It holds the distinction of being the first and last work the pianist recorded. Tagliaferro addresses the work’s rhythmic flow and subtle shades with sensitivity.
There's a superb collaboration with the violinist Denise Soriano from 1934 in Fauré's Violin Sonata No. 1. By coincidence I recently reviewed a recording of the Saint-Saëns' Violin Sonata No.1 the violinist made with the other grande dame of the keyboard Jeanne-Marie Darré. That radio recording was made much later in 1958 (Solstice SOCD363-64). I was disappointed with Soriano's tonal production, which I found monochrome and unvaried. There are no such afflictions here, and her tone radiates warmth and bloom. The opening movement is suffused with burning ardour and passion, and the spiccatos in the third movement are crisp and incisive, with the syncopations metrically punctuated. For some reason, not explained, the first movement was rerecorded several months later and is included in this collection. Soriano also teams up with the pianist in Fauré's Andante, Op. 75, and the delightful Romance in A major by Hahn.
Ward Marston's restoration and transfers have been carried out with expert skill. Charles Timbrell, a renowned authority on French pianism, has provided the erudite accompanying annotations, which are illuminating and most helpful. These refined and musically informed performances should be at the front of the queue for committed pianophiles.
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