Lili Kraus plays MOZART Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 18 – Goehr & Susskind, cond. – Dutton

by | Dec 28, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Lili Kraus plays MOZART = Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271; Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat Major, K. 456; “Unfinished” Violin Sonata, K. 404; Bonus: Eileen Joyce plays Rondo in A Major, K. 386 –  Lili Kraus, piano/ London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Walter Goehr (K. 456)/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Walter Susskind (K. 271)/ Szymon Goldberg, violin/ Eileen Joyce, piano/ Orchestra cond. Clarence Raybould (K. 386) – Dutton CDBP 9811, 68:05 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] **** :
Hungarian pianist Lili Kraus (1905-1986) always brought refinement and elegant taste to her readings of the Classical masters, and hers was the first inscription of the lovely Concerto No. 18 in B-flat Major (25 March and 13 April 1938), recorded in England with the reliable Walter Goehr (1903-1960).  Kraus had contracted to perform the concerto with Beecham for his all-Mozart Covent Garden concerts, but illness kept Beecham home, and Boyd Neel substituted. The training she enjoyed with pedagogue Artur Schnabel imbued in Kraus a clean virile acumen in Mozart, and her rendition of the B-flat moves with seamless fluidity and canny nuance. The homogeneity of lightness and balanced phraseology sets a high mark for this concerto, which Kraus recorded again for RCA with Pierre Monteux and the Boston Symphony. Kraus performs Mozart’s own cadenzas in this concerto and in the E-flat as well, with Walter Susskind (1918-1980).
After the mock-militant figures of the Allegro vivace, the second movement of the 1784 B-flat Concerto, Andante un poco sostenuto in G Minor, provides us a haunting theme and variations, here making its debut on records. The LPO contribution from the wind ensemble, particularly the flute and bassoon, must be lauded, especially as Mozart loves to score his variations in the form of a wind and string cassation. The Kraus capacity for both muscular assertiveness and music-box sonority assert themselves with grace and molded finesse. The key change to G Major by the flute has been noted as one of Mozart’s countless magical moments. The Rondo enjoys a marvelous mixture of bubbling themes, each of which garners quicksilver pacing and breathed phraseology from all participants. True to Michael Dutton’s high standard of restoration, the old shellac source of this transfer remains virtually invisible.
The E-flat Major Concerto (25 April and 2 June 1948) with Walter Susskind and the then three-year-old Philharmonia Orchestra proves highly streamlined, given the energetic tempos Susskind chooses. The playing from Kraus bespeaks sparkling wit and elegant control at every bar, from her initial entry. When Kraus executes a legato, the phrase sings with especial luxury. The encounters with horn Dennis Brain in transition passages makes for stellar memories. The swift éclat of the cadenza by Kraus shimmers with the lucid droplets of Mozart’s first supernatural alchemy in a piano concerto.  The C Minor Andantino often gleans praise as among the “wonders of the musical world.” Kraus and Susskind accord this unearthly music the proper degree of mystery and studied empfindsamkeit beauty it demands. For sheer, fleet execution of the beguiling Rondo, one need go no further than this collaboration, which rings with mental acuity as well as good musical invention at every turn. Even the “circuitous routes” of harmonic “digression” delight us in themselves and when they find their way back to the accepted path.
The series of recordings Lili Kraus made with Polish virtuoso Szymon Goldberg (1909-1993) continue to beguile and enthrall listeners. We hear their wonderful ensemble in miniature (21 April 1937), their playing the abbreviated Andante and Allegretto, K. 404. If salon intimacy can be placed in a can, the Goldberg-Kraus duo accomplish this feat of musical “marketing” with transcendent charm. The childlike melody with its accompaniment in delicate runs plays like a rare musical box rescued from the Habsburg Empire.
I have prior commented on the too often unheralded talents of Australian virtuoso Eileen Joyce (1912-1991), who recorded (5 February 1936) the first uncut edition of the Rondo in A, K. 386 with Clarence Rayboult (1886-1972). Once Joyce made the delicious beauties of this piece known, other Mozarteans like Annie Fischer and Carl Seemann were quick to follow suit. The unaccredited orchestra is likely members of the LPO.
—Gary Lemco

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