RAMEAU: Les Cyclopes – Monique Haas, piano/SWF Sinfonieorchester/Hans Rosbaud (K. 467)/NDR Sinfonieorchester/ Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Tahra TAH 629, 68:41 [www.tahra.com] ****:
Pianist Monique Hass (1909-1987), when she is recalled, occupies a special place in French keyboard artistry for her adherence to a modernist aesthetic, and her advocacy of the post-Ravel classicists: Messiaen, Mihalovici, Webern, Stravinsky, Roussel, Hindemith, and Bartok. Yet, Haas maintained a decided allegiance to “traditional’ composers Debussy, Mozart, Schumann, Couperin, Haydn, and Ravel. A pupil of Lazare-Levi, Haas refined her legato playing to embrace the atonal and neo-classic schools, providing a rich gloss on otherwise a purely digital tradition. As lovely to look at as she was gifted at the piano, Monique Haas might have passed as the sister of Annabella, the French actress who married Tyrone Power.
For the C Major Concerto (9 November 1956, previously unissued) Haas joins master Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962), himself noted for his EMI inscriptions of two Mozart concertos with Walter Gieseking. Together, they produce a liquid account of the C Major, both rarified in spirit and lyrically gracious in the legato parts and the exquisite runs. The Andante, with its famous leap of the seventh, stands out as particularly rewarding for its balance of texture and diaphanous mists. The A Major Concerto (1 January 1956) unites Hass with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900-1973) with whom she had recorded since 1948, when they performed the Ravel G Major Concerto in Hamburg. This reading of the A Major Concerto is the second Haas made, the first having been cut with Leitner in 1953 Berlin. The upward sweep of the first movement proves exceptionally captivating, as though Mozart’s figures, even in repose, seem to aspire to a higher plane. The long, fluid lines evolve ineluctably to the cadenza, played by Haas with musicbox celerity and clarity. The gorgeous Adagio in F-sharp Minor plays like a suave piano quintet with winds at several points, the polished transparency of motion remaining the most dominant trait. The Allegro assai bubbles, froths, scampers, all but climbs off the music page with the woodwinds and curls in your lap. The constant motion never wavers, the lyrical impulse in full pursuit of Parnassus.
Tahra closes out the tribute to Monique Haas with two inscriptions she made for Decca on 20 February 1946, the first a noisy set of shellacs of the Italian Concerto of Bach, through which some pearly and free-spirited style shines forth. The brisk, light action at the treble and steady bass pulse finds equal suppleness in the trill, shades of the young Glenn Gould. Some surface swish intrudes on the clean, arched line of the Andante, but a noble conception it remains. The Presto might be an exercise in legerdemain, so elastic and seamless are Haas’s polyphonic figures. The little Les Cyclops of Rameau plays like a frenetic etude that alternates staccati and shifts in hand position in non-legato pulsation. We might think it a brilliant toccata by Scarlatti, for its inventiveness and stylistic demands rush at us with fervent, buoyant energies. A delightful disc from an intelligent, under-appreciated master of her art. The edition contains a Haas discography worth our attention.
— Gary Lemco