Albert Ferber: The Decca Recordings 1945-1951 – Decca Eloquence

by | Jul 2, 2021 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Albert Ferber Decca Recordings 1945-1951 = HAYDN: Fantasia in C Major; MOZART: Minuet in D Major, K. 355; Gigue in G Major, K. 574; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a “Les Adieiux”; SCHUBERT: Imrpromptu in F Minor, D. 935, No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major, D. 664; MENDELSSOHN: 6 Songs without Words; SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen, Op. 15 – Albert Ferber, piano – Decca Eloquence 482 9390, 76:45 (4/30/20) [] ***** 

Yet another “sleeper” album that eluded me in its original issue in 2020, this special recital features Swiss pianist Albert Ferber (1911-1987), a pupil of Karl Leimer and Walter Gieseking trained in the line of Alfred Cortot, who performed for Rachmaninoff in 1939 and with Adelina de Lara in 1951 Wigmore Hall for Schumann’s Andante and Variations, Op. 46 for two pianos. This release offers a number of previously unpublished performances, all of which testify to an artist of fleet digital power and musical intelligence and grace.

Ferber’s program opens with the first publication of his May 8, 1947 Haydn Fantasia in C Major from 1789. A late piece, the demands upon the pianist prove quite daunting, given the composer’ twice cited instruction, Tenuto intanto, finché non si sente più il suono – hold until the sound is no longer heard, which on a modern piano quite disrupts the flow. In quick Presto tempo, the work calls for octave glissandi near the finale; and, during the course of its five minutes, Ferber negotiates crossed hands between registers and double third filigree. Haydn based his work on a popular tune, Do Bäuren håt d’Kåtz valor’n, “The peasant woman lost her cat.” Ferber imbues the whole with dashes of energetic color, brilliant and adept.

The two Mozart pieces from 1946, more noted for their transposition into orchestral colors by Tchaikovsky in his Mozartiana Suite, Op. 61, derive from a test pressing never issued. The passing dissonances of K. 355 prove intriguing, to say the least. The Gigue is a contrapuntal study of some compression, dexterously rendered. The 1809 Beethoven Les Adeiux Sonata (17 July 1946) receives the attention that reminds us what a through-composed work it represents, with its three-note “Lebewohl” motif’s permeating virtually every aspect of the musical tissue. Ferber invests a relatively bright energy to the context, which reflects departure and loss. The minor key Andante espressivo proceeds by diminished sevenths and sforzatos, in a chromatic, plaintive motion from Ferber that suddenly allows major key sunshine into the dolor of absence. The last movement Vivacissimamente initially explodes with renewed fervor for life, and the secondary theme permit us to hear what Ferber can do with quicksilver 16ths. If the pianissimos impress us here, listen to Ferber’s application of soft dynamics in Schubert.

Portrait Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder

Franz Schubert,
by Wilhelm August Rieder

The 1827 Schubert F Minor Impromptu, here played briskly without any sacrifice of its delicately driven, harmonic motion, may well remind auditors of Walter Gieseking’s own, haunted approach to this dazzling study, which always maintains its sense of improvisation in dialogue form. Little touches, as in Ferber’s insistence on the repeated notes in the bass in various degrees of dynamics, quite imbues personality on  this rendition. The 1819 Sonata in A Major projects much of the same lyrical innocence many us know from the famed 1928 recording by Dame Myra Hess. A music-box sensibility permeates Ferber’s sunny rendition from 17 May 1946. The rising scales of the Allegro moderato that convey a darker affect receive their full weight. Schubert’s second movement, the Andante in D, gives us the very model for Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words. Ferber’s G Major modulation over triplets gives us piano magic. The last movement, Finale: Allegro delights in shifts between A Major and E Major, though, like Mozart, Schubert capitalizes on the affect of the relative minor in F-sharp. Again, Myra Hess seems nigh in this superbly contoured realization, that adds a degree of passion to the snappy rhythm that dominates the movement.

Ferber set his Mendelssohn Songs without Words down in late May 1951, and they well echo much that Walter Gieseking likewise achieves in these brief character pieces, especially from the outset, in the E Major “Sweet Remembrance,” Op. 19, No. 1. For silken legato playing, this one selection stands repeated hearing, perhaps as an ultimate pedagogical moment! The Sighing Wind in G Minor of Op. 102, No. 4 no less manifests the master’s touch. No. 4The E Minor, Op. 62, No. 3 “Funeral March” stands out, as does the lovely F-sharp Minor, Op. 30, No. 6 “Venetian Gondola Song,” with Ferber’s elegant trill. For lightness and firmness of touch in these opera, some might recall Ignaz Friedman while listening to Ferber.

Portrait of Schumann

Robert Schumann

From the same session, 28-30 May 1951 Ferber recorded the Kinderszenen suite of Robert Schumann, issued on a 10-inch LP along with some of the Mendelssohn. Always, Ferber’s tempos capture the maerchen sensibility in Schumann, martial bed-time morals. A teardrop sonority invests Bittendes Kind. Does it seem fitting to mention Vladimir Horowitz when alluding to Träumerei, or perhaps Cortot here proves more apt? When at last Der Dichter spricht, we feel the voices of both Schumann and Ferber in consultation about a past never quite recaptured.

The accompanying essay on Albert Ferber by Jonathan Summers makes fascinating reading; besides, he informs us of Ferber recordings with the Paris-based Ducretet-Thomson label that we need reissued.

—Gary Lemco

Albert Ferber on Deca


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