Julian von Karolyi = TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23; SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54; LISZT: Hungarian Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra – Julian von Karolyi, piano/ Bavarian Radio Orchestra/ Gika Zdrakovitch (Tchaikovsky)/ Robert Heger (Schumann)/ Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/ Edmund Nick (Liszt) – Doremi DHR 7984, 78:22 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
Julian Károlyi (1914-1993) — 9th Prize winner, 2nd International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw (1932). Julian (Gyula) Károlyi began learning the piano in early childhood with Margit Varró in Budapest. He then emigrated to Munich, where his teachers included Josef Pembaur Jr., Max von Pauer, Alfred Cortot and Ernő Dohnányi.
He made his first public performance at 19 playing a Chopin program. The works of Liszt and Chopin would soon become his specialty. In 1932, Károlyi came to Warsaw at the age of eighteen to participate in the Chopin Competition, where he took the 9th Prize. The Warsaw press wrote: “Károlyi’s serious relationship with music set him apart from other competitors and made him the audience favorite. . . .If Károlyi’s development as an artist follows its natural course then undoubtedly the world will talk of him.”
Doremi restores Karolyi performances inscribed 1948 (Liszt) to 1956 (Tchaikovsky and Schumann) in fair to good sound. The Tchaikovsky Concerto with Gika Zdravkovitch (1914-2001) impresses with its fluid unmannered approach, at least in the piano part. The conducting occasionally becomes precious in the accents and use of marcato. Karolyi favors long, sculpted lines that capture Tchaikovsky’s desire to follow Schumann in achieving “classical” architecture by having every phrase played twice. The Andantino semplice strikes me as the most successful movement in term of mutual collaboration: gossamer, light, ardently vocal in its laying out of the often balletic impulses. The Allegro con fuoco packs some juice, but it remains tempered and opts for lyrical beauty rather than purely manic bravura. The model for conductor Zdravkovitch may well have been his teacher Vaclav Talich’s inscription with W. Wolf. The last pages by Karolyi demonstrate a grand line, an exalted nobility that lavishes upon Tchaikovsky a heartfelt respect and resounding heroism.
For the Schumann Concerto, Karolyi has for his collaborator veteran opera conductor Robert Heger (1886-1978), a true representative of the “old school.” The approach in the first movement, quite literalist, moves graciously but without the Affetuoso that Schumann calls for. A restrained beauty reigns, and Karolyi does relish his attractive keyboard tone. It might be appropriate to call this performance a salon-scale reading, meant for a large drawing-room. The transition to the recapitulation in the first movement occurs at a leisurely pace, but it refreshes us to hear the tympani’s contribution. Some muscle informs the crescendo to the cadenza, which Karolyi renders introspectively, musing. The Intermezzo pours forth with the same gentility and demure grace as the first movement. The last movement, however, breaks the leash and reveals some real fioritura in which Karolyi clearly takes flight. Heger, too, seems to feel the urgency and responds in kind, so even the fugato evinces undeniable pep. The technical fluency Karolyi demonstrates makes us wish we had a substantial Schumann legacy in which to savor his level of silken refinement.
Karolyi combines with conductor Edmund Nick (1891-1974) in the 1852 Liszt Hungarian Fantasia, from c. 1948. The arrangement of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14 allows Karolyi to exploit at least three styles of scales: lassan, cziffra and friska. The cadenza and subsequent (verbunkos) martial materials, based loosely on the tune “Mohac’s Field,” show off Karolyi’s glissandi and roulades to advantage. The modal scale, reminiscent of the Aeolian mode rather than A Minor as such, carries some solid gypsy schwung and zal, authentic evocations of the zither and cimbalom that impart such wonderful character to this style. Of the three “concertos” gathered on this disc, the Liszt testifies to a first rate virtuoso in Karolyi, certainly a master of his native Hungarian (gypsy) style.
Kubelik soars, in response to the “Prague Spring” of 1968…