Three of the greatest recordings of Bartók's Piano Concertos in new XR remasters
"A performance remarkable for its precision of ensemble, clarity and exactness of detail" - Gramophone
REVIEW Concertos 2 & 3
At very long last we have a worthy recording of the Bartók Second Concerto, a work whose previous interpreters (including the admirable Andor Foldes, whose performance received Bartók's own blessing) have all suffered from recording qualities ranging from indifferent to abysmal. This will be valuable in helping to spread a knowledge of an important work in Bartók's output which is rarely heard in the concert hall, probably because of the ferocious difficulty of the solo part - Bartók seems to have had in mind huge hands with permanent built-in octave and thirds mechanisms. The music does not deserve this neglect, and though it is "tougher" in idiom than the more mellow Third Concerto it has in fact had a consistently successful reception ever since its first performance (by the composer) in 1933. A bravura, lithe work, it abounds in motor energy and in contrapuntal vigour and resource (much of the material of the first movement - which is played entirely without the strings - reappears in inversion, or even in retrograde inversion, in the finale): the central part of the Adagio is a brilliantly fantastic delicate scherzo which looks forward to the Sonata for two pianos and percussion. Soloist and orchestra co-operate in exemplary fashion in a performance remarkable for its precision of ensemble, clarity and exactness of detail: Geza Anda in particular is to be congratulated for the way he romps through all the difficulties. The recording is excellent, the stereo even better than the mono.
There is no lack of recordings of the more popular Third Concerto, but the new one is, to my mind, way ahead of the field. Katchen's suffers from a lukewarm and lack-lustre finale; Haas's from a rather veiled recording; Fischer's (a good one) from a balance excessively favouring the piano, and from what I still feel is over-much rubato in the first movement; Sandor's from a rushed first movement, and over-reverberant recording and some muddy piano passages. Here there is a true balance between piano and orchestra and the performance is mostly very good indeed, with a particularly buoyant fugato in the finale . The ensemble has one lapse - the unison wind passage at figure 76 drags behind a little; and I personally don't care for Anda's rather mannered delivery of the opening subject both at the beginning and at the recapitulation; but otherwise this is entirely recommendable.
L.S., The Gramophone, May 1961
Notes on the recording:
These recordings, drawn from a later DGG pressing which brought together Bartók's three piano concertos and the Piano Rhapsody in a 1970s double-LP, are still prized more than fifty years later as among the very finest interpretations of these works. Brilliant performances were captured very well in fine stereo by Deutsche Grammophon's engineers in the Jesus Christus-Kirche in Berlin.
As has previously been the case with the finest recordings of this era, I had to be certain there was more to be brought out of these recordings through XR remastering before committing fully to this project. A series of extensive transfer and listening tests convinced me that, indeed, there was. Careful pitch stabilisation has helped reduce or eliminate wow, flutter, pitch drift and a noticeable edit in the Third Concerto where the pitch drops from one take to the other. The overall sound is now fuller, richer and clearer, with a hint of the musically-sypatheric acoustic properties of Birmingham Symphony Hall filling out the rather artificially-dry original sound to great effect.
notes from Wikipedia
Géza Anda (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈɡeːzɒ ˈɒndɒ]; 19 November 1921 – 14 June 1976) was a Hungarian pianist. A celebrated interpreter of classical and romantic repertoire, particularly noted for his performances and recordings of Mozart, he was also a tremendous interpreter of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Bartók. In his heyday he was regarded as an amazing artist, possessed of a beautiful, natural and flawless technique that gave his concerts a unique quality. But since his death in 1976 at the age of fifty-four, his high reputation has faded somewhat from view. Most of his recordings were made on the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Anda was born in 1921 in Budapest. He studied with some of the renowned teachers of the 20th century such as Imre Stefaniai and Imre Keeri-Szanto, and became a pupil of Ernst von Dohnányi and Zoltán Kodály at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. In 1940 he won the Liszt Prize, and in the next year, he made an international name for himself with his performance of Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2. In 1941, he also made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler, who dubbed him "troubadour of the piano." In 1943, he settled in Switzerland. He was married to Hortense Bührle, daughter of Emil Georg Bührle (owner Schweiz. Werkzeugmaschinenfabrik and art collector), Zürich.
In the mid-1950s, Anda gave masterclasses at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and in 1960 he took the position of director of the Lucerne masterclasses, succeeding Edwin Fischer. His students included Per Enflo, who later became renowned for his work in mathematical analysis.
As a performer, Anda was particularly noted for his interpretation of Schumann's piano music. The New Grove Dictionary cites his "charismatic readings of Bartók and Schumann". He was regarded as the principal Bartók interpreter of his generation, even if other pianists since his death have made more obviously exciting recordings of that composer's concertos. Although he played very little Mozart in his early career, he became the first pianist to record the full cycle of Mozart's piano concerti; he recorded them between 1961 and 1969, conducting himself from the keyboard.
"From the outset of his career, he was what one might call a philosopher-virtuoso. In his lifelong quest for the perfect balance of head and heart, between intellect and instinct, he explored many facets of music-making." He was honored in 1965 by being named a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and he also become an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in 1970.
He died on 14 June 1976 in Zurich, Switzerland. His cause of death was esophageal cancer.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Géza_Anda
notes from Wikipedia
Fricsay was born in Budapest in 1914 and studied music under Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, and Leo Weiner. With these and other faculty at the Budapest Academy of Music he studied piano, violin, clarinet, trombone, percussion, composition and conducting. Fricsay made his first appearance as a conductor at age 15, substituting for his father at the podium of the Young Musicians Orchestra of Budapest. In 1930, at the age of 16, he succeeded his father as conductor of the Young Musicians Orchestra.
On graduating in 1933, Fricsay became repetiteur for the chorus of the Budapest Opera; then, from 1933 to 1943, he was music director of the Szeged Philharmonic Orchestra (Szeged is the third largest city in Hungary); he also served as director of its military band from 1933. In 1942, he was court-martialed by the government of Miklós Horthy for wanting to employ Jewish musicians, and for having "Jewish blood" himself (according to reliable reports, his mother was Jewish). When the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944, the chief editor of the Szeged daily newspaper warned Fricsay that the Gestapo planned to arrest him; he and his wife and three children avoided this fate by going underground in Budapest.
In 1945, secret emissaries offered him the co-directorship of the Metropolitan Orchestra of Budapest (later Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra ); he also became principal conductor of the Budapest Opera. He conducted opera at the Vienna Volksoper and at the Salzburg Festival in the late 1940s, including world premieres in Salzburg of operas by Gottfried von Einem ( "Danton's Tod" in 1947) and by Frank Martin ("Zaubertrank" in 1948). The enthusiastic reception of Fricsay's work on this international stage led to his being appointed Chief Conductor of the Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra and General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, from 1949–1952, performing then in the Theater des Westens. He made his United Kingdom debut at the 1950 Edinburgh Festival, leading the Glyndebourne Opera in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. He made his Buenos Aires debut that year with Carmina Burana. In 1951 he made his debuts in Italy and with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In 1953 he made his debuts in Paris, Milan, Lucerne, and the USA, where he conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. He was appointed musical director of the Houston Symphony in 1954, but resigned halfway through the season over "disagreements on musical policy." He made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic in 1954. He spent much of his time from the 1950s onward in Germany as music director of the Bavarian State Opera (1956–1958) and as conductor of the RIAS Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic. Also in 1956, he was appointed General Music Director of the Munich Court Opera, a position he held until 1958.
Fricsay gave his last concert on 7 December 1961 in London where he conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. He suffered from repeated illnesses throughout his life and finally succumbed to cancer of the stomach on 20 February 1963 at the age of 48 in Basel, Switzerland.
Fricsay was known for his interpretations of the music of Mozart and Beethoven, as well as that of his teachers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. His 1958 recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is featured in the movie A Clockwork Orange. He conducted without a baton, according to the entry in New Grove, but "confounded the adverse critics of this technique by the extreme clarity and precision of his performances," to which it also ascribes "a dynamic spirit" and "vividness of character in familiar classics."
From the 1950s until his death, he recorded for the Deutsche Grammophon record label. He led the inauguration of the rebuilt Deutsche Oper Berlin with a performance of Don Giovanni on September 24, 1961. A video of this performance has been issued on DVD.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferenc_Fricsay