EMI Classics 3 53211 2, 78:45 ****:
The Mozart year continues to resurrect classic renditions of his works; here, the legendary British artist Solomon Cutner (1902-1988), whose amazing artistry was silenced by an untimely stroke in 1956, plays three concertos impeccably. The Testament label has been no less generous in restoring Solomon’s Mozart and Beethoven to the active catalogue. The B-flat Concerto, inscribed 7-8 September 1953 with Otto Ackermann has remained a personal favorite: a blithe spirit informs every bar of this inspired showpiece for Mozart’s own keyboard talents. Chastity of style always marked a Solomon performance, a pearly resonance and sobriety of articulation. The Andante of the B-flat Concerto perhaps best exemplifies the silken delights of such an approach, a modified theme and variations which permits Solomon to access his liquid color palette. The outer movements demonstrate no less refinement of tone and dynamic balance. The notes fly off the page in the Allegro finale, a scintillating display of subdued fireworks.
The two concertos with Herbert Menges 10-12 May 1955 have been Solomon staples for many years. I cannot name a single performance by Herbert Menges in unaccompanied work, but he did some solid assisting with Solomon and with violinist Joseph Szigeti. The A Major Concerto flows like spun glass, a thoroughly polished realization, but entirely musical in spite of its utter sense of preparedness. Delicacy and elasticity provide the rubrics for this enchanting performance, whose F Sharp Minor Adagio is a pearl worthy of repeated hearings. Listen to the bassoon part in the opening measures of the Allegro assai as Menges spins out the charming rondo theme tutti. Solomon’s filigree proceeds so naturally that the music plays itself, such a transparent medium has his art become. What is remarkable in the C Minor Concerto is the degree of intensity and lean girth Menges and Solomon can conjure in the face of their previously light hands in Mozart. The Concerto emerges darkly, a frightening descent into the composer’s personal abysses, the cadenza courtesy of Camille Saint-Saens. Tempos are generally brisk in the major-key concertos, more deliberate in the C Minor. The color elements abound in the C Minor, especially in the woodwind interplay with the keyboard part. Rarely has divine melancholy had such gossamer wings. Recommended.
— Gary Lemco