These are fascinating and somewhat idiosyncratic recordings, both made by HMV. My colleague, Jonathan Woolf, hit the nail squarely on the head, I think, in describing Moiseiwitsch’s approach as "elegant and poetic… [and] one that’s not devoid of drama but that subsumes it more to a lyric curve."
I must say it took me a while to adjust to Moiseiwitsch’s way with these works and even now I still feel that though the first movement of the Third concerto is efficiently played it’s not projected particularly distinctively, either by soloist or conductor. In his booklet note Jonathan Summers quotes a rather damning verdict on the recording, delivered when it was first issued, by the distinguished critic Andrew Porter. Porter described the interpretation as "shallow" and singled out Sargent’s accompaniment for particular criticism. I’m not sure I’d go all the way with Mr. Porter but the reading of the first movement is not especially memorable and I don’t believe it’s as searching or satisfying as Solomon’s 1944 traversal with Boult. Moiseiwitsch uses the cadenza by Carl Reinecke, which is interesting to hear for a change though, pace Mr. Summers, the pianism sounds a bit splashy hereabouts.
I enjoyed the slow movement much more. Moiseiwitsch’s tone is limpid and beautifully even at the start and, in fact, this sets the tone for the whole movement. Moiseiwitsch plays much of it as though it were a nocturne. Here his poetic vein is heard to best advantage. The "Rondo" finale is enjoyable but it just seems to lack that indefinable "something". The best way I can describe it is to say that it comes across as a trifle cool, though the concluding presto (track 3, from 7’37") is done with spirit
To my ears the earlier partnership with Szell works quite well. I can’t agree with Jonathan Summers’ view that Szell "conducts in his usual fashion of the martinet." The orchestral exposition is laid out with purpose and bite, as befits the music. When Moiseiwitsch joins the argument it’s true that he displays a more lyrical disposition but I don’t feel that his conception jars with that of Szell. This isn’t by any means a barnstorming performance of the movement and those that seek leonine strength in the music should probably look elsewhere. However, there’s much to admire. In particular there are some lovely touches by the soloist. For example there’s a passage in the first movement (track 4, 5’49" – 6’30") where Moiseiwitsch makes the music sound very withdrawn thanks to some delicate playing. Indeed, at this point the thread of tone sometimes fades away almost too much.
The second movement is hushed and inward. Moiseiwitsch gives a musing performance of subtlety and beauty. The transition to the finale is poetically done and that movement opens with lithe vigour. The reading of the finale as a whole is light and a bit puckish. Szell is an attentive and alert accompanist here and throughout the concerto.
In summary I would not prefer these performances to, say, Solomon in either work (No.3 with Boult in 1944 and N° 5 with Herbert Menges in 1955, both for EMI.) Nor among other historic accounts is my allegiance to Gilels’ 1957 reading of N° 5 (with Leopold Ludwig, originally on EMI, now on Testament) shaken. However, these Moiseiwitsch performances have their own strengths and insights and it’s good to have them restored to wide circulation.
The transfers for Naxos are by Ward Marston. The source for the recording of N°3 was the original HMV tape (the recording itself was issued on 78’s by HMV). The sound is clear and has transferred well. For N° 5 he has used a set of American Victor 78s and these transfers also sounded well on my equipment though for optimum clarity this older recording should be replayed at a higher level than is required for N° 3.This is a valuable addition to the Naxos Moiseiwitsch series and it’s well worth hearing.
Source : http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/Apr05/Moisiewitsch_Beethoven_8110776.htm
Ludwig van Beethoven
Great Pianists, vol. 8
Piano Concerto n° 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
1 I. Allegro con brio 16:10
2 II. Largo 9:17
3 III. Rondo. Allegro 8:35
Piano Concerto n° 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73 'Emperor'
4 I. Allegro 20:10
5 II. Adagio 7:35
6 III. Rondo 9:50
Benno Moiseiwitsch - p
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent - dir. [# 1-3]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/George Szell - dir. [# 4-6]
Recorded at N° 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London ; December 20, 1950 [# 1-3] ; in the Kingsway Hall, London ; October 21, 1938 [# 4-6]
After an alarmingly long delay Naxos’s “Great Pianists — Mosieiwitch” continues with vol 9. So here, thankfully, is an incomparable pianist admired this side of idolatry by, among others, Rachmaninov and, later, Bolet in Beethoven. Here, in Beethoven, his performances sweeping all earnestness and solemnity to the winds with a debonair, scintillating ease and elegance. Rarely can the term “lightweight” have come to seem such a super-fine virtue in Beethoven, an approach as far from the Schnabel tradition as possible. Moiseiwitsch was a virtuoso in the most aristocratic sense, incomparably fleet and vivacious in the Pathétique’s Allegro di molto con brio, coolly without falseness or special pleading in the Adagio, sleek and feline in the finale. He eases his way into the Moonlight's Allegretto with typical insouciance and you can only marvel at his dazzling and propulsive spin through the Waldstein.
True, there are many endearingly old-fashioned touches — a luxuriant change of tempo for the second subject, the odd unmarked arpeggiation for added spice — but everything is as true as it is personal. The encores by Beethoven, including the composer’s elaborate first thoughts for the Waldstein’s slow movement, Scarlatti-Tausig and Weber (has anyone ever played the "Moto perpetuo" from the C major Sonata with such nonchalant grace and brilliance or altered the final page so mischievously ?) are all vintage.
Such playing is beyond price and to have Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin and, indeed, everything else on Naxos’s super-bargain price would be musical glory indeed. The sound of the recordings has come up excellently and this issue is another indelible reminder of a sadly far gone age.
Source : http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/beethoven-piano-sonatas-nos-8-14-21
Great Pianists, vol. 9
Piano Sonata n° 8 in C Minor, Op. 13
1 I. Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio 6:51
2 II. Adagio cantabile 4:44
3 III. Rondo allegro 4:33
Piano Sonata n° 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, n° 2
4 I. Adagio sostenuto 5:51
5 II. Allegretto 2:01
6 III. Presto agitato 4:55
Piano Sonata n° 21 in C Major, Op. 53
7 I. Allegro con brio 8:15
8 II. Introduzione - Adagio molto 3:53
9 III. Rondo - Allegretto moderato 9:00
10 Andante in F Major, WoO 57 (Andante favori) 8:31
11 Rondo in C Major, Op. 51, n° 1 4:50
12 Pastorale and Capriccio 6:05
Carl Maria von Weber
13 Perpetuum mobile 3:56
(from Sonata n° 1 in C Major, J. 138)
Benno Moiseiwitsch - p
Recorded at Studio n° 3, Abbey Road, London ; September 11, 1941 [# 1-3] ; October 6, 1941 [# 4-6] ; February 20, 1942 [# 7-9] ; June 15, 1942 [# 11] ; October 25, 1950 [# 10 & 13] ; Studio C, Queen's Small Hall ; February 21, 1927 [# 12]