Superlative Beethoven Piano Concerto recordings from Solomon
These new remasters unveil superb sound quality in both recordings
Review (Concerto No. 3)
This is an extraordinarily satisfying performance of the Concerto. Solomon chooses a fairly broad tempo for the first movement and one that seems to me to be precisely right, especially as, whatever his subtleties of mood and speed, he never lets it lose momentum. There is, indeed, an absolutely sure sense of direction in this masterly playing. Masterly playing it is, too, all through, with the shaping of every phrase the result of long experience, thought and depth of feeling. Other pianists might give more sheer glitter to the finale but Solomon's rhythmic and controlled playing is enough to make it fit into his conception of the work as a whole.
Unexpectedly, he does not play Beethoven's cadenza in the first movement but one by Clara Schumann. It is a good one, developed well from the material and keeping very reasonably to the right style and I don't think many will complain of this choice.
As to the orchestral contribution, Herbert Menges is admirable, perfectly judging his opening section in tempo and manner to suit the soloist's conception and accompanying deftly throughout. The recorded sound seems excellent to me.
I have no hesitation in recommending this very strongly as a thoroughly fine performance and, indeed, it has the extra virtue (over some others) of having none of those mannerisms that can become so tiresome on repeated playings of a gramophone record. But should you imagine that that comment suggests any dullness, you will be misunderstanding me. This is the playing of a Master...
Altogether, in fact, a deeply satisfying record—and I think there is no better one of the Concerto.
T.H., The Gramophone, July 1958 - excerpt (link)
Review (Concerto No. 4)
Solomon and the Philharmonia Orchestra play exquisitely. That would be expected, and is in fact achieved. A beautifully clear, limpid style on the part of the soloist is matched by a perfect orchestral partnership; fundamental virtues that would make up for many other sins. In fact there is but one sin, venial and qualified at that, in the picture : a secure and clear recording expounds, presumably faithfully, a surprisingly tinny piano-tone—a point which is of some importance in a piano concerto.
M.M., The Gramophone, February 1954, excerpt (link)
Review (Concerto No. 4)
Perhaps influenced by The Record Guide's sour comments on Solomon's account of the Beethoven No. 4, I have never gone back to hear it again. This time, perhaps because I was not expecting perfection, I have been enchanted. Even the subdued opening which the authors of The Record Guide object to seems to me in character with the thoughtfulness of the rest. It is true that Cluytens could match his soloist better but there is never any doubt that this performance is far preferable to the kind of runthrough (however brilliant) that we had last month from Katchen. So many passages reveal the magical way Solomon had with phrasing...
E.G., The Gramophone, March 1964, excerpt (link)
Notes on the recordings:
Both recordings sound considerably better following the application of XR remastering equalisation, with the greatest gains to be had in the older recording, the 1952 Concerto No. 4, which has revealed far more top end than was apparent on the original LP. Both were generally consistent in pitch, though I have had to smooth out some wow in each recording. Both have been pitched to A=440 as heard in the 4th, whereas the 3rd was sharp.
Notes from Wikipedia
Solomon Cutner, CBE (9 August 1902 – 2 February 1988) was a British pianist known professionally simply as Solomon. He brought to his playing an effortless virtuosity, great respect for the printed score, and deep spirituality.
Solomon Cutner was born in the East End of London in 1902. He was a child prodigy whose talent was recognised at the age of seven when, having had no formal tuition, he performed his own arrangement of the 1812 Overture on the family piano. He gave his first concerts in 1912 at the age of ten, retired from public performance in his teens and then resumed his career as an adult performer. He began making records in 1929. As a child he was sent to live with his teacher, Mathilde Verne, who had studied with Clara Schumann. It is documented that Verne abused and exploited her young charge.
He toured abroad a good deal, particularly during and shortly after World War II, when he gave numerous much-cherished recitals in the United States and Australia. He premiered the Piano Concerto by Arthur Bliss at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Known especially for his Beethoven, which has an almost legendary status (he broadcast the entire cycle of the 32 piano sonatas), he was in the midst of completing the complete cycle of the sonatas for EMI Records when he suffered a devastating stroke in 1956, which paralyzed his right arm. He never recorded or performed in public again, but lived another 32 years. His recordings of Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms are also highly regarded.
He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1946.
He died in London in 1988, aged 85.
"In the Pathétique, Solomon's most familiar virtues are perfectly united with the proper sense of drama and intensity. Rarely can Beethoven's early romanticism have been more concentratedly yet more clearly expressed. The suspense at the end of the famous Grave introduction is created, as is often the case with Solomon, by a scrupulous adherence to the text and whilst others may be more storming and indeed rampant in the following Allegro di molto e con brio few could rival Solomon's overall command."
His recordings, which date from the 1930s, were done for EMI and are all of interest; they have begun to appear on compact disc, either directly through EMI or under license to the Testament label. Despite the onset of his stroke in 1956, Solomon recorded a handful of works in stereo, but whether in stereo or mono, his recordings are all worth hearing, the clarity of his playing overcoming any seeming technical shortcomings in the recordings themselves. His performance of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, in particular, is notable for its poetic lyricism and natural, unforced passion.
These notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_(pianist)