Noticing the word Schnabel in the head note might lead to a
few heads being scratched, a few chins being stroked. No, it’s
not a recording of Artur and Karl Ulrich Schnabel. They did
record and they are beloved recordings. In fact the Schnabels
left behind a record, with Adrian Boult conducting, of the Double
Concerto, K365, that’s also played on this Forgotten Records
disc. These recordings are in fact by Karl Ulrich and Helen
Schnabel, his wife, made in Vienna with Bernhard Paumgartner
directing, in 1955. They offer a considerable amount of satisfaction
and musical reward.
Karl Ulrich had had a great deal of experience playing this
work with his father and he and Helen Schnabel make for a good,
dramatic when necessary, team. Those who may recall later performances
in the LP era, such as those with Brendel and Klein with Angerer
conducting, also in Vienna, or the less well-known duo team
of Sancan and Pommier on Nonesuch wil know that the work was
pretty well served in this era, with performances to suit all
tastes. The duo playing tended to be, in most cases, more stylish
than the accompaniments, but that’s not quite the case
here. Paumgartner provides sturdy, tidy support. The duo is
joined by pianist Ilse von Alpenheim for a recording of the
Concerto for three pianos, K242. This has a stately introduction
and some good moments but is an example of Mozart coasting.
Paumgartner tries to get some swagger into the thing, at which
he’s moderately successful, but the concerto remains too
muddy with three concertos banging away. How on earth can you
tell who’s playing what and when? Even Sancan, Pommier
and Silie in the Nonesuch referred to earlier, sound little
better in this respect, though it’s no fault of the musicians.
Paumgartner was an arbiter of taste in Salzburg and the sound
of his ensemble there is subtly different from that of his Viennese
ensemble for the Divertimento recordings. The band was drawn
from the Vienna Symphony, and is forwardly recorded. There’s
a big, confident sound, and whilst Paumgartner was seldom the
ultimate in sensitivity, the results are very communicative.
An enjoyable restoration, therefore, but it’s probably
of interest to a rather specialised audience.
Masterwork Index: Mozart Concerto
for two pianos ~~ For