Excelling in the piano works of Schumann and Brahms, Anda’s
Beethoven recordings were never as prolific as one might expect. Had
he not died in 1976, at the age of fifty-four, the balance might have
been redressed. Three piano sonatas were all he left to posterity
in his commercial discography. Yet he had intimated to Joachim Kaiser,
a professor of music history in Stuttgart, that he would one day like
to perform all of them. Sadly it was not to be. Of the piano concertos,
the first became his favorite. Apart from the performance here, there
is a studio recording from 1956 with the Philharmonia and Alceo Galliera.
Two airings exist on Orfeo, one from the Salzburg Festival with Maazel
from 1963 that I have never heard, and a terrific performance from
Munich dated 9March 1968 with Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian
Radio Symphony Orchestra (Orfeo C 271 921B). Piano Concertos three
and four were also taken into the studio with Knappertsbusch (1962)
and Keilberth (1964) respectively. Concertos two and five seem to
have taken a backseat. Number two was performed with more frequency
when he was a young man. He performed all the concertos in concert
in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn in 1970. The performance of number five
here is a first in his discography.
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is here directed by Anda from
the keyboard. He first became acquainted with the Camerata Academica
Salzburg in 1952, when he played Mozart at the Salzburg Festival under
Bernhard Paumgartner. He would later make his complete survey of the
Mozart piano concertos with this same band, again directing from the
keyboard. Here he starts with a buoyant tempo. Phrases are well shaped
and articulated. There is crystal-clear playing in the fast passages.
The slow movement is poetic and expressive, and he conjures up a beautiful
rounded tone. Pianissimos are exquisitely achieved. There is verve
and vigour in the third movement, and a great display of sparkling
fingerwork. Throughout, Anda is more cautious than in the Munich reading
with Kubelik, where a minute is shaved off each of the movements.
Also, the Munich performance has the added advantage of much brighter
Beethoven’s Op. 73, sees Anda at the end of a fruitful collaboration
with Hans Rosbaud. It produced such gems as the Rachmaninov, Brahms
and Mozart concerto recordings. The Beethoven, as a whole, is marred
by less than ideal sound, with the piano recessed, resulting in some
lack of detail. Yet despite the sonic limitations, the performance
is engaging. Tempi are within limits, though the third movement appears
a little less energized than one has come to now expect. The highlight
is the slow movement, where Anda delivers a poignantly expressive
reading, fervent in its realization.
Booklet notes are in German and English. Written by Wolfgang Rathert,
I presume that the English notes were translated from the German by
him, there is nothing to state otherwise. They are not an easy read,
and the translation is far from wonderful. One sentence I found completely
incomprehensible. In a couple of places they are factually incorrect.
Reference is made to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major Op.
10 no. 4 (should be no. 3). The live recording of Beethoven’s
Piano Concerto no. 1 conducted by Kubelik is incorrectly dated 1962.
It is actually from 9 March 1968, as stated above. It is the Brahms’
Second, also on that Orfeo disc, that is from 18 October 1962.
This disc is, however, indispensable to those lovers of Anda’s
art who want his take on Op.73. With regard to Op. 15, the Munich
recording with Kubelik offers a far better alternative.
So there we have it: two Beethoven concerto recordings, new to the
Anda discography. A must for completists, yet I found them generally
Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano concerto
1 ~~ Concerto