Geza Anda 5 CD set – Piano Concertos and Solo Piano Works – DGG

by | Dec 16, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Geza Anda = SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54; Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 (1943; 1963); Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Fantasia in C Major, Op. 17; Davisbuendlertaenze, Op. 6; CHOPIN: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Polonaise No. 6 in A-flat Major, Op. 53; Etude in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 5; 2 Mazurkas; SCHUBERT: Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960; BEETHOVEN: Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; LISZT: La Campanella Etude; Forest Murmurs Study; BARTOK: Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1; BRAHMS: Piano Concerto no. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; FRANCK: Symphonic Variations – Berlin Philharmonic cond. Rafael Kubelik (Schumann)/ Berlin Philharmonic cond. Ferenc Fricsay (Brahms)/ Berlin Radio-Symphony Orchestra cond, Ferenc Fricsay (Bartok)/ Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam cond. Eduard van Beinum (Franck)

DGG 00289 477 5289 – 5CDs. 75:55; 76:53; 75:45; 81:18; 75:06 (Distrib. Universal) ****:

Geza Anda (1921-1976) earned the accolade “troubadour of the piano” from Wilhelm Furtwaengler, after having played Franck’s Symphonic Variations in Berlin in 1941. The maintenance of a strong singing line in all he played certainly characterized Anda’s elegant style, a sense of both declamation and polyphony, which illuminated his many interpretations of Schumann and Bartok. The Brahms B-flat Concerto launched his career in 1940, when he debuted with Willem Mengelberg, and Anda frequently programmed the epic concerto with various conductors like Fricsay, Klemperer, and Karajan. Anda’s 1960 inscription of the Brahms with Fricsay captures the big technique and sound Anda projected, with a whiplash approach to the D Minor Scherzo movement, in the manner of a Hungarian Horowitz.  If knotty pyrotechnics are required, then Anda’s 1966 Schumann Kreisleriana fills the bill superbly, in ravishing color counterpoint, with no loss of Schumann’s eerie innigkeit, that inwardness and melancholy intimacy which defines his style. The rarities in this marvelous DG set are the Schubert B-flat Sonata, in a volatile, literalist reading from June 1963, and the stately Symphonic Variations under Eduard van Beinum from 1943, unfortunately in hiss-ridden sound. Anda later became a noted Mozartian, the first to inscribe the full survey of concertos; but he was no less a fine Chopin player, having set down the Op. 25 Etudes for EMI. We have a 1943 Etude in E Minor, whose mystery we might mistake for Dinu Lipatti’s artistry. The two A Minor Mazurkas from Op. 67 and Op. 68, as they sound at the time, insinuates a lament for beleagured Poland. The legato middle section is pure silk, despite the worn acetate source.  The 1959 recording of Chopin’s 24 Preludes supply several moments of  deft virtuosity to collectors, like the F# Minor, B-flat Major and D Minor, which exude power, grace and passion.

The earliest inscriptions, from 1942-1943, combine a classic sense of architecture with a Romantic’s penchant for the individual line and phrase-breath. Witness Anda’s detail in the Schumann Symphonic Etudes, into which Anda inserts two of the liquid posthumous etudes.  The 1942 La Campanella dazzles with lightning touches and pungent leggiezza. When Anda wants thunder, he has it to spare. Lightness and plangent wit characterize his 1961 Diabelli Variations, which seem all along to have been waiting for the quip on Mozart’s Notte e giorno faticar. The diaphanous variation just prior to the entry of the fugue is the soul of expressiveness. Transparency of sound, clean articulation of the musical line, and propulsive power mark the 1963 Schumann Concerto under Kubelik, which some may find precious and others the quintessential expression of passionate lyricism. Equally buoyant is Anda’s Schubert B-flat Sonata, the original LP of which I recall from my youth in Binghamton in the Harpur College music library. The dynamic shadings of the opening flourishes of the Scherzo, the thoughtful, idiosyncratic marcato in the trio, provide dissertations among themselves. Anda takes the finale swiftly, biting into his attack note and repeated notes so that the emergent, singing bass line emerges almost accidentally out of the contrapuntal filigee.

Anda drives his Chopin, sometimes losing the plasticity of the line for the symmetry of the arches. But the color-scheme and harmonic variety of Chopin’s palette Anda preserves with meticulous care, as in the A Minor, C Minor, and E Minor preludes. The D Major is a pearly etude; the B Minor makes us wish Anda had inscribed the nocturnes and the Barcarolle. The 1959 Polonaise had independent life as a 7-inch DGG LP, and I hear it now as a highly charged individual approach to this noble piece, rife with pride and national, rhetorical zal.  Aficianados, however, will gravitate to this generous set for the Schumann, for whom Anda possessed a special gift.  The 1966 reading of the Dances of the David-Leaguers imparts an intimate aura of initiation, of perceiving the suite as tempos pertinent to votary’s rite of passage. Alternately dreamy, poetical, aggressive, and nostalgic, the suite permits Anda no end of dynamic nuance and contrapuntal, rhythmic articulation. His renegotiation of Symphonic Etudes (May 1963) utilizes the same edition, with the two posthumous etudes, as he employed in 1943, with the exception of better sound and a generally broader, more rubato-laden canvas. Finally, the magnificent Fantasia in C, Op. 17 (14-17 May 1963), a mighty reading if ever there were, along with my old favorites from Backhaus, Casadesus, and Horowitz. Again, some may find the music over-pedaled and too finicky in the matter of projected counterpoint and interior syncopation at the expense of the high melos, some of the similar complaints leveled at Anda’s Mozart. Playful yet emotionally urgent, the Fantasy is Schumann’s exotic homage to Beethoven and to Romanticism itself, the Nostalgia for the Dream. Chacun a son gout. I find Geza Anda, along with most of Artur Rubinstein and Robert Casadessus, among the most consistently satisfying keyboard artists.

–Gary Lemco

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