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EMANUEL FEUERMANN - Rare Recordings 1936 to 1942

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Introduction and Polonaise Brillante;
DVORAK Concerto Op. 104: Slow Mvt.;
HANDEL Adagio and Allegro;
VALENTINI Gavotta and Allegro;
WEBER Andantino;
CHOPIN Nocturne in Eb Op.9 No.2,
MENDELSSOHN Spring Song Op. 62 No.6;
SGAMBATI Serenata Napoletana;
RUBINSTEIN Melody in F ;
SCHUMANN Zigeunerleben Op. 29 No 3;
Victor HERBERT Concerto Slow Mvt.;
BLOCH Prayer from Jewish Life;
DAVIDOFF At the Fountain;
TCHAIKOVSKY Valse Sentimentale Op. 51 No. 6;
SARASATE Zapateado;
POPPER Spinning Song;

Feuermann died in 1942 age 39, and was judged by his celebrated contemporary, Janos Starker, to be "the most important figure for twentieth-century cello playing", adding "If he had lived longer he would literally have taken the place of Casals".

On the evidence of this record there is no cause to doubt Starker's assessment: subtle phrasing, supple bowing and sheer musicality are present in almost every bar. That said, the vagaries of 30s and 40s recording technology could prove something of a hurdle to all but his most dedicated admirers.

None of the fourteen shorter pieces on this record lasts much more than four minutes - some less - and, with the exception of the slow movement from Dvorák's Cello Concerto, the remainder, including the slow movement of Victor Herbert's rarely-heard Second Cello Concerto (previously recorded by George Miquelle and Howard Hanson and also, if I recall correctly, by EMI. Ed.), are arrangements for cello and piano. A degree of surface noise is audible throughout, though it is rarely intrusive. The cello sound is … er, variable, particularly in its lower register but, in the circumstances, reasonably satisfactory; not so the piano which, as usual, suffers most from the primitive recording techniques of the 30s and early 40s. The orchestral sound in the Dvorák is barely tolerable.

Yet there remains much to admire, such as Feuermann's clarity of phrasing and unsentimental approach to what, in his days, were prime examples of the standard cello repertoire. (Let's not forget that the wider musical public did not until recently appreciate even Bach's six cello suites!)

Least successful - perhaps predictably so - are the transcriptions of Chopin's Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante and Nocturne No.2 in B-flat: a cello not only does not sound like a piano - it cannot even pretend to behave like one! The Handel Adagio and Allegro and Valentini Gavotte and Allegro are given what would now be regarded as far from "historically informed" performances, and reflect the gung-ho approach to baroque music which prevailed until comparatively recently.

Feuermann made more than 100 recordings and it is tempting, if rather ungrateful to this new and adventurous label, to wonder whether more substantial fare - say the 1939 Brahms Double Concerto with Heifetz, Ormandy and the Philadelphia - would not be a more enduring memorial to this great artist.

Roy Brewer


Price on the Website is £10.00 plus p&p, payable by credit card, full details on the site:

Cello Classics
38 Chandos Road
London N2 9AP
Tel +44 (0)20 8444 6358
Fax +44 (0)20 88837104

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