One of the greatest 'lost' musical talents of the 20th Century
Completing our series of Mewton-Wood recordings
FLAC Downloads include PDF score of Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2
*Netherlands Philharmonic is credited here - other issues have credited Residentie Orchestra, The Hague - see below
Review of Stravinsky recording
"...surely the finest performance the work ever received. This particular recording has been on my longer desert island list since it was released.
The music of Stravinsky contains many ironies—ironies of harmony, of rhythm, and, to credit Bernstein, even ironies of style and mood. Stravinsky had had many bad experiences with performers "interpreting" his music, the result of which being that one or more of the ironies would be resolved and the complexity of the work consequently reduced. Just after this recording, he began issuing firm embargos against any "interpretation" loudly criticizing any performance that went beyond playing the notes exactly at the correct tempo and volume. Any performer who attempted to add anything to a Stravinky performance was attached for making errors, and hence Stravinsky performances fell into a frozen routine, and have all sounded alike.
But not this one. Mewton-Wood plays parts of this music as if he's really having fun, but not so much that the ironic solemnity of other parts of the music is in any way compromised. This extremely difficult balance is hereby brilliantly achieved; whether Stravinsky appreciated it or not, I have no word. But for my money this is one of the half dozen truly great Stravinsky recordings of the century and a must for any Stravinsky collector."
Paul Shoemaker, MusicWeb International review of earlier issue
Notes on the recordings:
Although we are lucky to have a handful of recordings which demonstrate the wonderful pianism of Noel Mewton-Wood, it is perhaps to be regretted that these are largely drawn from the LPs made by the Musical Masterpiece Society and its various offshoots. Often, particularly in the early days, rather poorly recorded, the company also kept costs down by simplifying cover designs and information (or lack of it) as well as cheaply pressing lightweight ten inch vinyl discs.
The fact that these two recordings also span the often 'difficult' years as new tape technology replaced established 78rpm disc-to-disc recording methods has created extra work for the modern restorer. Both recordings are lacking in the extreme top end, and the orchestral tone at the beginning of the Chopin leaves a great deal to be desired. Happily this is to a degree rectified as the work progresses, and would have been passable for 78rpm release. Both recordings suffer from a light amount of peak distortion, but this has generally been rendered as unobtrusive as possible. What does shine in both of these recordings is the superb piano playing and generally fine piano tone of Mewton-Wood, for which we can be most grateful!
Notes on the Orchestra: The members of the so-called Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra were drawn from the three Dutch radio orchestras of the day, something since confirmed by various orchestral members.
The following notes were taken from Rolf den Otter's website notes [more here]:
After recording in Switzerland initially, the MMS label turned to the Netherlands for orchestral core repertoire. Several orchestras from the Dutch public radio were recorded under the pseudonym 'Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra'. Another Dutch orchestra that recorded frequently for MMS in the early '50s (under it's own name) was the Utrecht symphony orchestra, conducted by Paul Hupperts. To make things a bit complicated, the Utrecht symphony orchestra merged in the 1980's together with two other orchestras into the... Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra!! Often, these two orchestras, the MMS pseudonym and the present NphO. are mixed up with each other, but there is no connection!!
In 2001 the RFO historic society tried to find out which orchestra and which players contributed to the 'Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra' recordings. Unfortunately, this was virtually impossible. The problem was that the files of the Dutch radio from that time are destroyed, and the organization of these 'odd jobs' were in the hands of the musicians themselves, the so called "hustlers". These musicians kept no records of their side jobs....
Being radio orchestras, Dutch law prevented to record under their own names. The broadcast organizations were aware of the recording sessions, but turned a blind eye to the musicians. Some players remembered that members of the following orchestra's performed in the MMS recordings: 'het Omroep Orkest' (the present Radio Symphony orchestra), the Dutch Radio Philharmonic orchestra and the Radio Chamber orchestra. Not all members of the RFO and OO participated to the recordings, particularly the string players refused to play for the MMS label.
biographical notes from Wikipedia, links to more information
Noel Mewton-Wood (November 20, 1922 – December 5, 1953) was an Australian-born concert pianist who achieved some fame during his short life.
Born in Melbourne, he studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium until the age of fourteen. After further studies at London's Royal Academy of Music, Mewton-Wood spent time with Artur Schnabel in Italy.
In March 1940 he returned to London for his debut performance at Queen's Hall, performing Beethoven's third piano concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham. He later performed in France, Germany, South Africa, Poland, Turkey, and Australia.
At the age of thirty-one, Mewton-Wood committed suicide by drinking prussic acid, apparently blaming himself for the death of a friend. The notes written by a friend of Mewton-Wood, John Amis, for the reissue of the Bliss Concerto recording, indicate that Mewton-Wood was gay and was depressed by the recent death of his lover.
Mewton-Wood's The Times obituary of December 7, 1953 described his playing style at his debut performance:
At once his remarkable control and his musicianship were apparent: the ascending scales in octaves, with which the pianist first enters, thundered out with whirlwind power, but he could summon beautiful cantabile tone for the slow movement and the phrasing of the rondo theme was admirably neat for all the rapidity of the tempo; a true understanding of the relationship in concerto between soloist and orchestra, and of the soloist's part in ensemble, betokened the musician, the potential chamber performer.
In addition to Beethoven, Mewton-Wood's repertoire included:
He also composed chamber music, a piano concerto, ballet music, and music for the 1944 film Tawny Pippit.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Mewton-Wood
See also notes on Mewton-Wood at: