GRIEG: Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 16; MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in g minor; SCHUMANN: Carnaval – Ania Dorfmann, piano/ Robin Hood Dell Orch. of Philadelphia/ Erich Leinsdorf – Pristine

GRIEG: Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 16; MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in g minor, Op. 25; SCHUMANN: Carnaval, Op. 9 – Ania Dorfmann, piano/ Robin Hood Dell Orch. of Philadelphia/Erich Leinsdorf – Pristine Audio PAKM 066, 74:26 [avail. in varioius formats from] ****:

Another of the fabulous Odessa-born piano virtuosos, Ania Dorfmann (1899-1984) survives in the minds of keyboard collectors as the collaborator with Arturo Toscanini in the 1945 rendition of the Beethoven C Major Concerto for RCA (LM 1039).  Even besides the fact that Dorfmann appeared with Toscanini  three other times in the music of Beethoven – including the Choral Fantasia and the C Major “Triple” Concerto –  Dorfmann enjoyed a long teaching career at Juilliard and a series of RCA recordings that embraced an extensive, if not prodigious, repertory that included Beethoven, Ravel, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and Menotti.

Mark Obert-Thorn resuscitates two important Dorfmann discs from the RCA archives, inscribed July 1953 (concertos) and 1958-1959 (Schumann). Dorfmann’s earlier concerto recording, the Mendelssohn (7 July 1953), with Erich Leinsdorf’s leading the summer “version” of the Philadelphia Orchestra, bustles and  bristles with fine energy, certainly requisite for this glistening, bravura showpiece.  Dorfmann had recorded this work prior in her career, with Walter Goehr on the British Columbia label. The Grieg Concerto (8 July 1953) will certainly please even veteran auditors of this oft-recorded masterpiece, given the thoughtful and efficient phrasing Dorfmann realizes in the outer movements, and the affective sentiment she brings to the Adagio.  The original label for the pairing of the concertos, RCA Bluebird (LBC 1043), often featured Leinsdorf in symphonic repertory he would repeat later in his long association with the RCA label.

The Schumann Carnaval (October 1958 and September 1959) appeared on Dorfmann’s one stereophonic LP (LSC 2207), coupled with her Fantasiestuecke, Op. 12.  Her playing remains fleet, aggressive, and poetic, by turns. Typical of her generation, she excludes the “Sphinxes” in whole tones. I find her “Pierrot” a bit heavy, her “Alequin” and “Valse” light but serious. The harmonization of “Eusebius” Dorfmann achieves with a hint of passion. “Florestan” skitters with the same florid imagination we find in the Op. 2 Papillons. Dorfmann captures the seductive antics of “Coquette” perfectly. The sequence devoted to “Papillons” proper offers some hectic butterflies, indeed. Schumann’s play on anagrams of his own name and the town of Asch gain urgency and girth from Dorfmann. Dorfmann emphasizes the base contours of “Chiarina,” while “Chopin,” in rather pesant terms at first, makes his the latter half of his nocturne undeniably dreamy. “Estrella” pirouettes hastily across the stage. Deft fingers keep “Reconnaissance” moving, its middle section rife with glamorous harmony. “Pantalon et Colombine” strike out in the manner of Punch and Judy, but the middle section exhibits a bit of tenderness. The “Valse allemande” explodes to “Paganini” in a blaze of piano-equivalent bariolage, indicative what Dorfmann might have made of knotty Liszt and Brahms. “Aveu,” along with its successor, the maerchen “Promenade,” may be the most “typical” Schumann of the poetic items of the suite, and Dorfmann caresses the phrases in both sections.  A lightning “Pause” takes us directly into Dorfmann’s passionate assault on those Philistines who insist that great music exists only for its soporific power.

Perhaps Obert-Thorn and his colleagues will consider more Dorfmann reissues, including healthy portions of her complete Mendelssohn Songs Without Words from the RCA vaults. [I’ve visited the vaults in Hollywood, and if the others are anything like that it may be lost unless some collector has it…Ed.]

—Gary Lemco

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