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Walter Gieseking: His first concerto recordings
rec. 1936-1939
APR 7308 [3 CDS: 206:26]

APR has been adopting a schematic approach to Walter Gieseking’s recorded legacy. On APR 6013 it investigated his Homocord recordings, adding some rarities to the mix, whereas on 7042 it collated the 1950s solo recordings of music by Brahms, Schubert and Schumann. Now it turns its attention back once again to 78s and to his first concerto recordings, which in the context of this 3-CD box is a sequence inaugurated in 1932 in London, and ending in January 1939 with Beethoven’s G major Concerto. There is a bonus of a few solo pieces along the way. All the recordings were made for Columbia.

I should note at the outset that these transfers were previously issued on APR 551, 5512 and 5513 back in 1994-95 and so their reappearance now, after getting on for 25 years, is in a consolidated box form. I’m not aware that the transfers have been revisited since inaugural release, but they sound excellent in any case.

Gieseking was almost 37 when he made his first concerto recording and hardly a stranger to the recording studio, as his earlier discs attest. He had the good fortune to be partnered by some of the most astute and penetrating of accompanists available: Hans Rosbaud, Bruno Walter, Karl Böhm and Henry Wood. Mozart’s E flat major Concerto, the Jeunehomme, is directed by Rosbaud whose delineation of the wind lines is a constant joy and whose contribution, as ever, is of inestimable benefit to both soloist and the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera alike. The melancholic depth of the slow movement, with refined tonal beauty richly embodied, is countered by the joyful finale.

There are three Beethoven Concertos. The First, again with Rosbaud and with Beethoven’s cadenzas, is crisp and taut and at a decided remove from Schnabel’s more magisterial and almost contemporaneous recording with Malcolm Sargent. The Fourth Concerto with Böhm and the Saxon State Orchestra (January 1939) is dispatched with a certain refined limpid quality at a tonal and stylistic remove, once again, from the performances of great contemporaries such as Fischer and Schnabel. Interestingly in the first movement he plays Beethoven’s less-often encountered second cadenza. The Emperor is the famous inscription in Vienna with Bruno Walter where Gieseking is given resplendent orchestral support – the Vienna horns are in magnificent form – and the Musikverein’s ambience pervades this splendid recording, a somewhat scrappy Gieseking start to the finale excepted.

Gieseking’s concerto odyssey had begun in October 1932 in London with the newly founded LPO, not directed by Beecham, but by Henry Wood. The recordings of Liszt’s E flat major Concerto and Franck’s Variations symphoniques are among his best-known: the former played with seriousness and structural acuity, the latter powerfully lyrical. The Grieg Concerto, with Rosbaud in Berlin in 1937, is the only disappointment here; a stop-start, worryingly brusque reading.

The smaller items include Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major, K570, which is superior to the more straight-laced post-war reading, made as part of the complete sonata cycle, as well as the Menuets I and II and Gigue from Bach’s Partita No.1and two of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces which were recorded as fillers for the last side of the Grieg Concerto – and fortunately are far better performances.

Bryan Crimp’s transfers and booklet notes, which come complete with full discographical details, are admirable and the box matches the high standards set by the recent Giesking trawl on this label.

Jonathan Woolf
 
Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

Contents
CD 1 [74:52]
MozartPiano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K271 ‘Jeunehomme’
Berlin State Opera House Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
recorded in Berlin in 29th September 1926
Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 17 in B flat major, K570
recorded in Berlin on 20th September 1936
BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
recorded in Berlin on 28th April 1937
Berlin State Opera House Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud

CD 2 [68:32]
BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Saxon State Orchestra/Karl Böhm
recorded in Berlin on 2nd January 1929
BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor'
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Bruno Walter
recorded in Vienna on 10th-11th September 1934
Bach, JS: Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV825 - Menuet I & II; Gigue
recorded in Vienna on 10th September 1934

CD 3 [63:02]
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Henry J Wood
recorded in London on 31st October 1932
Franck, C: Symphonic Variations for piano & orchestra, M46
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Henry J Wood
recorded in London on 31st October 1932
GriegPiano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Berlin State Opera House Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
recorded in Berlin on 28th April & 13th October 1937
Grieg: Lyric Pieces Op. 68: No. 5 - At the cradle
Lyric Pieces Op. 62: No. 3 - French Serenade
recorded in Berlin on 29th April 1937

 

 




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