Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alfred Cortot Plays Robert Schumann

Like Benno Moiseiwitsch, Cortot confessed to a special affection for Schumann, whose music is at the very heart of romanticism. Biddulph's three volumes include virtually all his Schumann, omitting the ''Vogel als Prophet'' from Waldszenen (recorded in 1948) and offering, unusually, the 1927 rather than 1934 Concerto. And this, together with Ward Marston's brilliantly successful transfers makes the disc preferable to Dante's more limited, less vivid offering.
Once again, and perhaps to an even greater extent than in his Chopin, you realize that for Cortot the most audaciously romantic piano was invariably an apotheosis of song and dance. Few if any pianists have ever matched the haunting sweetness and intensity of his cantabile or equalled the lightness and vivacity of his rhythm. Such qualities illuminate every page of Papillons, from the opening teasingly inconclusive question to the final fading of this miniature Carnaval with its distantly chiming bells and syncopated waltz memories, a true ''melting into air, into thin air''. The Davidsbundlertanze, too, for all its inaccuracy, is surely among the glories of Cortot's recorded legacy, his scintillating play of light and shade creating its own affirmation of poetic forces ready to rout the hated Philistines from the battlefield. The combination of his alternately taut and flexible maintenance of phrase and line with his tireless illumination of detail (of above all, passing rhythmic and harmonic piquancy) was one of Cortot's most priceless gifts and in n° 14 — to name but one instance — he provides a polyphonic magic, a subtle differentiation and entwining of voices that Brendel sees as a virtually lost art. If I had to pick just one short example of Cortot's artistry for my desert island this would be high on my list. His Carnaval (my own first choice when ''Building a Library'' for BBC Radio 3), too, is alive with gaiety and passion. The groundswell in ''Chopin'' is more urgent than usual, more truly agitato, the final march takes off at a cracking pace, and earlier Cortot, in common with Rachmaninov, includes ''Sphinxes'', a witty addition and an amusingly dour presence among the clowns and dreamers of Schumann's masked ball.
He also includes all the posthumous items in his Etudes symphoniques, scattering them freely through the text but playing them with such improvisatory magic that all sense of interruption or slackened structure is virtually erased. In the opening theme his tempo is beautifully natural (a far cry from Pogorelich's stylized drawl, to take an extreme opposite) and if his sautille bowing in n° 3 is less consummately light or mercurial than Geza Anda in his early Columbia recording (10/53—nla), his final pages are of a unique verve and elan. Then there is his account of the Concerto, no less idiosyncratic, and alive with those seemingly improvisatory gestures that enchant or infuriate according to taste. The finale is launched in comically grand, curtain-raiser style and there are several instances of thundering bass reinforcements, or sudden skyward lifts of a treble line that are somehow central to Cortot's liveliness and caprice, to his poetic vitality.
In the D minor Trio, music of a driving, almost Franckian pace, Cortot and his colleagues plunge through the second movement like men possessed. And if the recording remains sadly dim and dated nothing can lessen the impact of what is re-created as an elemental game of tag, each player in hot pursuit of the other. Cortot's partnership with Charles Panzera in the Dichterliebe also provides a discreet yet deeply personal 'vocal' counterpoint, and in the concluding ''Die alten, bosen Lieder'', where Schumann so characteristically illuminates all that has gone before, his crystalline texture and potently expressive phrasing are exemplary. In the remaining solo items you will hear a magical sense of undulation in ''Des Abends'' and in the central langsamer of ''Intermezzo I'' (Kreisleriana) Cortot shows how it is possible to clarify writing which can so easily seem wilfully obscure. In Kinderszenen his ''Kind im Einschlummer'' suggests the journey from innocence to experience, of childhood glimpsed though pained and adult eyes, and has the poet in the concluding ''Der Dichter spricht'' ever spoken with greater eloquence or gravity ?
Bryce Morrison

Source : http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/alfred-cortot-plays-chopin

Alfred Cortot
Robert Schumann


Cd. 1

Papillons, Op. 2
 1 I. Introduzione & I  0:51
2 II. Prestissimo  0:21
3 III. -  0:42
4 IV. Presto  0:47
5 V. -  1:24
6 V. -  0:47
7 VII. Semplice  0:38
8 VIII. -  1:03
9 IX. Prestissimo  0:43
10 X. Vivo  1:27
11 XI. - 1:56
12 XII. Finale  1:43

Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
13 I. Lebhaft, in G major  1:26
14 Innig, in B minor  0:42
15 III. Mit Humor, in G major  1:18
16 IV. Ungeduldig, in B minor  0:50
17 V. Einfach, in D major  1:11
18 VI. Sehr rasch, in D minor  1:34
19 VII. Nicht schnell, in G minor  2:18
20 VIII. Frisch, in C minor  0:38
21 IX. Lebhaft, in C major  1:00
22 X. ('Sehr' and 'Molto' capitalized in 2nd edition) 0:56
in D minor (ends major)
23 XI. Einfach, in B minor-D major  1:30
24 XII. Mit Humor, in B minor-E minor & major  0:39
25 XIII. Wild und lustig, in B minor & major  1:34
26 XIV. Zart und singend, in E-Flat major  1:12
27 XV. Frisch, in B-Flat major  0:59
28 XVI. Mit gutem Humor, in G major  1:02
29 XVII. Wie aus der Ferne, in B major & minor  2:35
30 XVIII. Nicht schnell, in C major  1:08

Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 
31 I. Allegro affettuoso  14:52
32 II. Intermezzo. Andante grazioso  4:52
33 III. Allegro vivace  10:01


Alfred Cortot - p
London Symphony Orchestra/Landon Ronald - dir. [# 31-33]

Recorded between June 22, 1927 & May 18, 1937


Cd. 2

 Carnaval, Op. 9
1 Préambule. Quasi maestoso  2:10
2  Pierrot. Moderato  0:56
3 Arlequin. Vivo  0::37
4 Valse noble. Un poco maestoso  1:01
5 Eusebius. Adagio  1:26
6 Florestan. Passionato  0:45
7 Coquette. Vivo  0:39
8 Réplique. L'Istesso tempo 0:21
9 Sphinxes  0:22
10 Papillons. Prestissimo  0:37
11 A.S.C.H.-S.C.H.A. (Lettres dansantes). Presto  0:33
12 Chiarina. Passionato  0:43
13 Chopin. Agitato  1:14
14 Estrella. Con affetto  0:27
15 Reconnaissance. Animato  1:42
16 Pantalon et Colombine. Presto  0:46
17 Valse allemande. Molto vivace  0:30
18 Paganini (Intermezzo). Presto  1:03
19 Aveu. Passionato  0:53
20 Promenade. Con moto  2:15
21 Pause. Vivo  0:17
22 Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins. Non allegro  3:13

Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 & Op. Posth.
23  Theme. Andante  1:19
24 Etude I. Un poco più vivo  0:48
25 Posthumous Variation 1  0:45
26 Etude II  1:32
27 Etude III. Vivace  0:50
28 Etude IV  0:54
29 Etude V  0:36
30 Posthumous Variation 4  1:26
31 Etude VI. Agitato  0:34
32 Etude VII. Allegro molto  0:44
33 Posthumous Variation 2  1:48
34 Posthumous Variation 5  1:20
35 Etude VIII  1:19
36 Etude IX. Presto possible  0:39
37 Posthumous Variation 3  0:40
38 Etude X  0:35
39 Etude XI  1:41
40. Etude XII. Allegro brillante  6:12

Piano Trio n° 1 in D Minor, Op. 63
41 I. Mit Energie und Leidenschaft  12:16
42 II. Lebhaft, doch nicht zu rasch  4:19
43 III. Langsam, mit inniger Empfindung  6:13
44 IV. Mit Feuer  7:22


Alfred Cortot - p
Jacques Thibaud - vl [# 41-43]
Pablo Casals - cel [# 41-43]

Recorded between June 3,1928 & March 19, 1929


Cd. 3

Kinderszenen, Op. 15
1 I. Von Fremden Landern und Menschen  1:35
2 II. Curiose Geschichte  0:58
3 III. Hasche-Mann  0:31
4 IV. Bittendes Kind  0:53
5 V. Glückes Genug  0:45
6 VI. Wichtige Begebenheit  0:47
7 VII. Träumerei  2:37
8 VIII. Am Camin  0:51
9 IX. Ritter Vom Steckenpferd  0:41
10 X. Fast Zu Ernst  1:46
11 XI. Fürchtenmachen  1:43
12 XII. Kind Im Einschlummern  1:58
13 XIII. Der Dichter Spricht  2:28

Kreisleriana, Op. 16
14 I. Äußerst bewegt  2:00
15 II. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch, in B-Flat major  6:21
16 III. Sehr aufgeregt, in G minor  3:23
17 IV. Sehr langsam, in B-Flat major, D minor  3:43
18 V. Sehr lebhaft, in G minor  2:48
19 VI. Sehr langsam, in B-Flat major  3:33
20 VII. Sehr rasch, in C minor, E-Flat major  2:11
21 VIII. Schnell und spielend, in G minor  2:57

22 "Des Abends" from Phantasiestucke, Op. 12  3:17

Dichterliebe, Op. 48
23 I. "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai..."  1:24
24 II. "Aus meinen Tränen sprießen..."  0:54
25 III. "Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne..."  0:32
26 IV. "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh..."  1:27
27 V. "Ich will meine Seele tauchen..."  0:51
28 VI. "Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome..."  1:56
29 VII. "Ich grolle nicht..."  1:30
30 VIII. "Und wüssten's die Blumen..."  1:14
31 IX. "Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen..."  1:22
32 X. "Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen..."  1:38
33 XI. "Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen..."  0:52
34 XII. "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen..."  1:49
35 XIII. "Ich hab' im Traum geweinet..."  1:45
36 XIV. "Allnächtlich im Traume..."  1:24
37 XV. "Aus alten Märchen winkt es..."  2:21
38 XVI. "Die alten, bösen Lieder..."  4:20


Alferd Cortot - p
Charles Panzéra - bar [# 23-38]

Recorded between July 4, 1935 & November 26, 1937


Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

(As always) great post, thank you very much Mel!

musician3 said...

AMAZING...........................THANK YOU FOR ALL

Melanchthon said...


slr in tx said...

Merci, Mel.

L'Idiot said...

... Thank again!

Quot said...

Thanks for this wonderful set.

Olde Edo said...

Thank you for posting this set. I collected quite a few of the Biddulph instrumentalist sets, and thought their handling of the acoustics in the pre-LP recordings is very nice to listen to. One I regret missing (for the booklet at least) was the expensive one in the Fritz Kreisler series (I forget the name of the set). Haven't seen it anywhere since it went out of print, so I assume it was so well done that no one wants to part with it 2nd hand...
I have these 3 Cortot Schumann discs, but my old wooden house in Japan gets damp and ruins CDs, so it is wonderful to have them again. Thanks again!