The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus D899 (1828) [15:23]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.18 in E flat Op.31 No.3 (1802) [21:20]
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Piano Sonata No.1 (1907-08) [6:29]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1890-1953)
Toccata Op.11 (1912) [4:00]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Preludes Op.28 Nos. 21-24 [6:07]
Mazurkas Op.33 (1837-38) [9:19]
Polonaise in A flat Op.53 Heroic [5:55]
Fantasie-Impromptu Op.66 (1835) [3:59]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.1 in F minor Op.2 No.1 (1793-95) [23:03]
Piano Sonata No.32 in C sharp minor Op.111 (1822) [27:59]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Variations on a theme of Paganini Op.35 (1862-63) [22:27]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Fantasias for Piano: Scherzo in E minor Op.16 No.2 (1829) [2:50]
Jacob Lateiner (piano)
rec. March 1964, Frick Collection, NYC; January 1977, Juilliard School of Music, NYC
PARNASSUS PACD96051-52 [72:54 + 76:18]
There are two recitals in this two-disc set devoted to Cuban-born pianist Jacob Lateiner (1928-2010). He was brought up in America, studying at Curtis alongside his talented violin playing brother Isidor, and had performed as soloist with the Philadelphia and Ormandy, and with Koussevitzky in Boston, by the time he was 17. He recorded for Columbia, Westminster but most importantly for RCA, and was a distinguished teacher. Perhaps some of his most widely released performances were those in which he anchored the chamber ensemble led by Jascha Heifetz, though as Parnassus’s set makes abundantly clear, he was a pianist of dramatic flair and imagination in whatever context he chose to perform.
The earlier recital was given at the Frick Collection in New York in March 1964. His Schubert is forward moving, perhaps a touch too brisk for some, and with strongly etched rubati; but Lateiner ensures that the paragraphal implications of the three Impromptus D899 are recognised. He remains subtle, even at the slightly terse tempo and rhythm adopted in the G flat. His Beethoven Op.31 No.3 illustrates a comprehensively more successful stylistic acumen; rich voicings, witty inflecting of the Scherzo, rhythmic vitality in the Presto and genuinely con fuoco but without forcing through the tone. Small tape damage-there is some of that at various points during the set - is of little account.
His performance of Berg’s Op.1 is an ear opener. It’s full of control and clarity but whilst not untrue to the idiom suggests a slightly warmer, late Romantic expression that other pianists tend to elide, or gloss. Prokofiev’s Toccata, composed just a few years later, is memorably dispatched, before he ushers in some Chopin-four Preludes from the Op.28 set and the four Op.33 Mazurkas. The Preludes are attractively done, the Mazurkas trim, brisk and terpsichorean. His Polonaise in A flat is leonine and dynamic though there are annoying tape drop outs in the Fantasie-Impromptu Op.66.
Nearly fourteen years separate the two recitals, the second having been given at Juilliard in January 1977. This was a more solidly executed piece of programming - two Beethoven sonatas, the Brahms Variations on a theme of Paganini and ending with Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in E minor. I think it’s also true to note that the playing is at a consistently higher level throughout, not that the Frick Recital shows sloppy playing at all, but that Lateiner’s very best qualities are profoundly explored in this more concentrated and heavyweight recital. His Beethoven sonatas make a prettily contrasting pair - the Op.2 No.1 in F minor and Op.111: First and Last words indeed.
One senses from the cantabile flexibility of phrasing in the slow movement of Op.2 that this will be an especially finely judged performance, and so it proves An abundance of digital clarity is accompanied finesse and finely sustained tempos The far greater challenges of Op.111 are similarly met, with the Arietta unfolding in true Beethovenian style, songful, strange, abrupt and overpowering. His Brahmsian credentials cement his work in the two sonatas. This recital is of consistently elevated merit.
I’ve noted tape glitches but they’re less apparent in the 1977 recital. Parnassus is undertaking excellent work in making available these recitals and I hope their plea for more previously unreleased Lateiner performances is heeded.
Jonathan Woolf
Lateiner - a pianist of dramatic flair and imagination.