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Piano Archives - Alfred Cortot and Vlado Perlemuter
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15 (1797/8) [32:53]
Alfred Cortot (piano) Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne/Victor Desarzens, recorded live on 13 April 1947
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Trio (1915) [25:26]
Vlado Perlemuter (piano), Jeanne Gautier (violin) and André Levy (cello) recorded live on 7 May 1954
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Saint François d'Assise: prechant aux oiseau, S175/R17 (1880) [7:48]
Saint Francois De Paule Marchant Sur Les Flots, Legende S175:2/R17:2 (1863) [8:11]
Vlado Perlemuter (piano), recorded for Lumen 78, March 1939
TAHRA TAH610 [74:56]

This is another important document in Tahra’s ambitious Piano Archives series. It restores two less-well known 1939 Perlmuter Lumen 78s, gives us a live performance of Ravel’s Trio by the Trio de France and most importantly of all, gives us Beethoven’s First Concerto in a live performance by Alfred Cortot, no less.
Cortot never recorded the concerto commercially, which makes the appearance of this 1947 Lausanne concert so vitally important. Firstly collectors will want to know about its state of preservation. The sound is actually rather good; there is some distortion, a few passing moments of recession on the initial piano entry, and during the slow movement some acetate thumps. They’re over quickly and won’t impede enjoyment to any appreciable degree. Tahra has clearly gone to some trouble to make this a generally enjoyable listening experience. And then there’s the performance itself. He’s accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne under Victor Desarzens, an experienced ex-violinist well known to collectors, who has recently been captured by Claves accompanying Clara Haskil live in Mozart. The Cortot performance is one of strong contrasts. It tends to hang fire in the opening movement where we find some of the pianist’s runs have a rather over-perfumed quality to them. The slow movement is attractive but not as pliant or as inwardly subtle as, say, the near contemporaneous studio recordings of Kempff or Solomon. The finale sports plenty of rather capricious handling by Cortot, especially so in the left hand. It’s a reading long on personality and individuality though not always one that sounds ideally balanced. Needless to say that dedicated Cortot admirers, irrespective of these reservations, will find it an absolutely necessary acquisition.
The Ravel Trio was recorded live in 1954 and was a radio broadcast given as part of a series. Perlmuter wasn’t the normal pianist of the trio – that role was taken by Geneviève Joy-Dutilleux. The violinist was Jeanne Gautier and André Levy was the cellist and they, together with Joy-Dutilleux, were to record the work in 1958 for the Pretoria label. The playing here is excellently judged, balancing expressive reserve and a degree of intensity, especially from the cellist, that are most impressive. Dynamics are powerfully etched, especially pianissimi, and the air of perception continues throughout, not least in the terpsichorean lightness of the finale. Perlmuter’s Liszt 78s, so avidly done, were recorded in March 1939 and are extremely well transferred.
The booklet doesn’t shy away from the dirty business of Cortot’s wartime activities, investigating the matter in lucid detail. It also sets the scene for the companion performances and biographies of the principals with admirable attention to detail. This is an excellent disc, vividly done, well programmed and discographically important.
Jonathan Woolf


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