Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Alfred Cortot - The Complete Acoustic HMV Recordings (1923)

As to his records, many have likened Cortot’s mastery of Chopin and Schumann to Schnabel’s of Beethoven and Schubert. He set down the Chopin Préludes four times, the Ballades three times, and the Etudes, Sonatas (N° 2 & 3) and Waltzes twice. There is a post-war set of the complete Mazurkas that only ever appeared in a limited cassette edition, Scherzos that never saw the light of day beyond the borders of japan, and three versions each of Schumann’s Carnaval, Piano Concerto and Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite. Works recorded (mostly) once include concertos by Chopin, Saint-Saéns, Bach, Ravel and Brahms (the last as conductor) ; sonatas by Liszt and Weber ; miscellaneous pieces by Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Scriabin and others ; piano trios by Schubert, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Haydn; Beethoven Variations with Pablo Casals ; violin sonatas by Fauré, Franck, Debussy and Beethoven with Jacques Thibaud, and Debussy songs with Maggie Teyte. And although Cortot’s reluctance to practice resulted in countless minor technical slip-ups (nearly always in fairly undemanding passages), his bounding spontaneity provided immeasurable compensation for those not pre-occupied with surface perfection. Cortot’s elegant phrasing, his bell-like tone, lively approach to rhythm and unique rubato make his records — or most of them — indelibly memorable and immediately recognizable. In his hands, Children’s Corner has irrepressible élan (especially in this, his very first recording of the Suite), the Serenade for the Doll, an excitable address rather than the intimate exchange implied by, say, Horowitz. Then there’s Camaval, a dazzling side-show splashed with colour, even though this, Cortot’s earliest and most overtly brilliant recorded performance of the score, omits both "Répliques" and "Sphinxs". The Concerto is again ebullient and stylishly phrased, although reference back to Cortot’s second recording (also under Landon Ronald, 1927 — on Biddulph LHW 003) reminds us of an even finer "Intermezzo". Both versions feature an explosive transition from the second to third movements, wild and wilful but endearingly individual — the sort of gesture that makes even the dustiest of Cortot’s 78s sound freshly improvised, and a welcome contrast to the sanitized perfection of so many modern recordings. Long may his artistry survive.
Robert Cowan, from the booklet

Alfred Cortot
The Complete Acoustic
HMV Recordings


Robert Schumann

Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
1 I. Allegro affettuoso  14:08
2 II. Intermezzo. Andantino grazioso  4:45
3 III. Allegro vivace  9:55

Carnaval, Op. 9
4 Préambule. Quasi maestoso  2:12
5 Pierrot. Moderato  1:10
6 Arlequin. Vivo  1:01
7 Valse noble. Un poco maestoso  1:14
8 Eusebius. Adagio  1:24
9 Florestan. Passionato  0:45
10 Coquette. Vivo  0:39
11 Papillons. Prestissimo  0:42
12 A.S.C.H.-S.C.H.A. (Lettres dansantes). Presto  0:31
13 Chiarina. Passionato  0:43
14 Chopin. Agitato  1:15
15 Estrella. Con affetto  0:24
16 Reconnaissance. Animato  1:39
17 Pantalon et Colombine. Presto  0:47
18 Valse allemande. Molto vivace  0:32
19 Paganini (Intermezzo). Presto  1:05
20 Aveu. Passionato  0:57
21 Promenade. Con moto  2:23
22 Pause. Vivo  0:14
23 Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins. Non allegro  3:16

Claude Debussy

Children's Corner
petite suite pour piano seul
24 Doctor Gradus ad parnassum  1:54
25 Jimbo's lullaby  2:36
26 Serenade of the Doll  1:51
27 The Snow is dancing  2:30
28 The Little Shepherd  2:06
29 Golliwoog's Cake Walk  2:40

30 La Cathédrale engloutie. Profondément calme  4:52
(Préludes, book 1, n° 10)


Alfred Cortot - p
Albert Hall Orchestra/Landon Ronald - dir. [# 1-3]

Recorded at Hayes, (UK) ; November 1 & December 3, 1923 ; [# 1-3] ; London ; May 12, 1923 [# 4-23] ; & May 12 (or December 18), 1923 [# 24-30]


Melanchthon said...

Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

Thank you very much Mel!!
Great music

Adrian said...

Thanks a lot!