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Marguerite Long (piano)
Volume 2: Chopin, Debussy, Milhaud and Ravel
rec. 1929-1952
APR RECORDINGS 6039 [72 + 72]

The first volume in this series was generally very well received here (review review) and now here’s the second volume. It presents Marguerite Long in all-French repertoire once again but this time rather more obviously central, canonic French repertoire, or Franco-Polish if you insist.

The first disc of the twofer is an all-Chopin one. All the sides were recorded between 1929 and 1937. Her Fantasy in F minor is the earliest of these recordings, dating from May 1929, and sounds to me rather inflexible. As Roger Nichols notes in his fine booklet essay, she adds lower octaves, not reprehensible in itself then, but I find the overall performance brittle and unsympathetic. A Mazurka and two Waltzes follow and of the latter the A flat major is notable for the way she puts her foot on the gas, perhaps too precipitately, but excitingly, nonetheless. Some of her most lively playing comes in the Barcarolle. The Berceuse, coupled with the Fantasy Impromptu, was only issued in Japan. The latter is fleet and fluent and is a first take. Recorded the same day, the issued Berceuse is a second take and contains a missing F natural, as Nichols observes. I can only assume the first take was unusable, otherwise it would have surely been issued in Europe in the normal way. Perhaps Long wasn’t informed about the Japanese export release. This disc has a higher ratio of surface noise, doubtless because of its relative rarity and maybe Mark Obert-Thorn had only one copy to work with.

The Scherzo No.2 gets another dramatic, feisty reading though it was recorded almost a year apart, in July 1936 and May 1937. I’m assuming that the second side caused her problems or that the original recording was unsatisfactory for some other reason. The final piece on this first CD is the first ever recording of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2, beating both Rubinstein and Cortot for the honour, and recorded – I assume – to celebrate the centenary of the concerto’s composition in 1829. Six of the seven takes were first ones, a high hit rate. Though the orchestra’s strings are characteristically thin toned, that was a quality of French orchestras of the time tended to project. Philippe Gaubert conducts competently. Though she was to return to the work post-war, as she was to the Ravel Concerto (see below) and Fauré’s Ballade, for example, her first thoughts, however imperfect in relation to the accompanying forces, prove superior. Sometimes she gives the impression of superficiality and a kind of freewheeling fast-fingered élan, but she is, rather, a performer of unsentimental hauteur and the crystalline purity of her right-hand work in the slow movement is distinguished. So, too, her witty responses to the horn calls in the finale.

The recordings on the second disc have all been issued by Pristine Audio, in which form I reviewed them here over a decade ago. I have only two things to add to that review. Firstly, I recant, now and forever, my view that the tempo she takes in the slow movement in her post-war recording of the Ravel with Tzipine is superior to the tighter one, with all its minor orchestral imperfections, with Pedro de Freitas Branco in 1932. And second, despite the higher audible surface noise, I far prefer the natural, realistic work of Mark Obert-Thorn for APR to Pristine’s XR algorithmic technology.

Jonathan Woolf

Contents
CD1
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Fantasy in F minor, Op.49
Mazurka in F sharp minor, Op.59/3
Waltz in A flat major, Op.64/3
Waltz in D flat major, Op.70/3
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op.60
Berceuse in D flat major, Op.57
Fantasy Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66
Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor, Op.31
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21 (1829)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatore/Philippe Gaubert
 
CD2
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto in G major (1931)
Orchestre Symphonique/Pedro de Freitas Branco ¹
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Arabesques 1 Andantino con moto [3:21]: 2 Allegretto scherzando (1888-91)
Estampes - Jardins sous la pluie (1903)
La plus que lente (1910)
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Piano Concerto No.1 op.127 (1933)
Saudades do Brazil Op.67 No.12 Paysandú (1920-21)
L’automne Op.115 No.2 Alfama (1932)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto in G major (1931)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Georges Tzipine

Published: October 20, 2022



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