Marguerite Long plays RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G; BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37; D’INDY: Symphony on a French Mountain Air, Op. 25 – Marguerite Long, piano/ Orch. cond. Pedro de Freitas Branco (Ravel)/ Paris Conservatory Orch./ Felix Weingartner (Beethoven)/ Colonne Sym. Orch. / Paul Paray (D’Indy) – Dutton CDBP 9815, 75:16 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The artistry of French pianist Marguerite Long (1874-1966), often credited as the most celebrated musician of her era, finds representation in these three concertos, recorded 1932-1939. The Ravel Concerto in G (April 1932), dedicated to Long, suffers some sound compression and distance in the orchestral definition, but it rings with vivacious authenticity, perhaps attributable to the presence of the composer at the session. Despite the sec, dry quality of the acoustic and the approach, Ravel’s sparkling work communicates wit and savoir faire, especially as Portuguese conductor Pedro de Freitas Branco (1896-1963) adds verve and color to the collaboration. The Adagio assai proceeds with a simple songfulness in fine relief to the outer, busy movements that blend jazz, Gershwin, and Spanish elements into one hothouse mix.
The most “lamentable” inscription remains the Beethoven Concerto (10 June 1939), in which Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) leads a surprisingly under-prepared ensemble that miscues in several respects, not the least of which is their voice entries. The strangely meandering, even vapid, cadenza by Ignaz Moscheles performed by Long does not help matters. Weingartner enjoyed a reputation for clean, articulate lines that eschewed emotional tricks and slides, but he cannot effectively maneuver an emotional whole from the brisk but superficial reading bequeathed us.
The D’Indy Symphony No. 1 “On a French Mountain Air” (24-25 May 1934) has the lean athletic temperament of Paul Paray (1886-1979) at the helm of the Colonne Symphony Orchestra to lend color and rhythmic vitality to a well-wrought, cyclic concerto in the manner of Cesar Franck. The affect, dry and economical, makes its most palpable presence in the Assez modere, which sings without sentimentality. Long possesses mighty technical prowess; and when she wants a fast passage, it hustles. Rather spectacular battery, trumpet, and string effects illuminate the last movement, Anime, which often moves in brilliantly coordinated counterpoint, even becoming a spirited hunting song. The last pages romp and whistle with abandon and no small intensity, a coda triumphant and eminently decisive.
“Perhaps the most fluently consummate performer on the keyboard of all time…”