Friday, September 30, 2016

Alfred Cortot Plays Weber & Mendelssohn (LHW 002)

Weber's piano sonatas and particularly the Second in A-Flat (1816) greatly extend one's sense of Weber's genius ; they combine a conversational brio with a romantic imagination striving to break with convention. In the Second Sonata the opening theme rises gracefully into the light above a pulsing left hand tremolo but the beautifully free-wheeling, improvisatory style should not blind us to the distinction and subtlety of Weber's organisation. The tremolo later recurs with menacing overtones as a bridge between the music's continuous development and the reappearance of the opening subject, passing suavely from right to left hand, and the concert-hall brilliance of the conclusion not only crowns Weber's rich diversity but looks forward to the similar end of the first movement of Chopin's Sonata in B minor. Again, the "Andante"’s ominous conclusion varies what has gone before and recalls a similar episode in Beethoven's early Sonata in E-Flat, Op. 7, as well as suggesting, in its most heroic form, some of the grandiloquence of Liszt's "Norma" Fantasy. Operatic yet always pianistic ardour makes this movement in particular as grateful to a great singer as to the most romantic pianist. Weber scholars will note, for example, the way the composer's stress marks often imply an operatic freedom or built-in rubato rather than emphasis. In the Menuetto any possible monotony is delightfully erased by vivacious cross-accentuation resulting from subtly varied phrase lengths, and the graceful undulating "Rondo" finale with its Schubertian grazioso and final wave of farewell provide an unexpected alternative to bustling and opulent bravura.


Mendelssohn's distinctive style and virtuosity owe much to Weber's early brilliance, and his Variations Sérieuses (1841) while unusually thoughtful and introspective are not quite so serious as their title implies. Two later sets of "Variations" failed to achieve the same popularity as Op. 54 which show a passion, variety and compactness that must be counted among Mendelssohn’s finest as well as most ambitious successes. Certainly the theme's "leaning" second beat accent at once suggests something altogether more substantial and interesting than the empty note-spinning of so many other sets of variations written at this time, and so does the inclusion ofa canon, fugue, the haunting cantabile of "Variation 11" and the pensive, hymnal piety of "Variation 14". Elsewhere a more traditional bravura is not forgetten though the storming virtuoso conclusion is offset by a surprisingly reflective end.
Bryce Morrison, from the booklet

Alfred Cortot


Carl Maria von Weber

1 Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65  6:30

Sonata n° 2 in A-Flat, Op. 39
2 I. Allegro moderato, con spirito ed assai legato  9:12
3 II. Andante. Ben tenuto  5:51
4 III. Menueotto capriccioso. Presto assai  3:08
5 IV. Rondo. Moderato e molto grazioso  5:16

Felix Mendelssohn

Variations sérieuses, Op. 54
6 Theme. Andante sostenuto  0:44
7 Variation 1  0:35
8 Variation 2. Un poco più animato  0:27
9 Variation 3. Più animato  0:21
10 Variation 4  0:20
11 Variation 5. Agitato  0:25
12 Variation 6  0:19
13 Variation 7  0:20
14 Variation 8. Allegro vivace  0:17
15 Variation 9  0:24
16 Variation 10 : moderato  0:53
17 Variation 11  0:40
18 Variation 12. Tempo di tema  0:25
19 Variation 13  0:44
20 Variation 14. Adagio  1:00
21 Variation 15  0:22
22 Variation 16. Allegro vivace  0:17
23 Variation 17  1:08
24 Coda. Presto  0:57

25 Song without Words, Op. 19, n° 1  3:30

Piano Trio n° 1 in D minor, Op. 49*
26 I. Molto allegro agitato  8:55
27 II. Andante con moto tranquillo  7:09
28 III. Scherzo. Leggiero e vivace  3:58
29 IV. Finale. Allegro assai appasionato  8:27


Alfred Cortot - p
Jacques Thibaud - vl
Pablo Casals - cel

Recorded in New York ; December 28, 1926 [# 1] ; at N° 3 Studio, Abbey Road, London ; March 10, 1939 [# 2-5] ; May 19, 1937 [# 6-25] ; & June 20/21, 1927

See the complete artwork


Melanchthon said...

matt said...

What a great cover. This looks fantastic. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You have so many surprises for us! Thanks.

Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

Thank you very very much Mel!