HDTT restores Polish pianist Andre Tchaikowsky’s most famous concerto recording, but even in fine sound, it’s all alone.

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503 – Andre Tchaikowsky, p./ Chicago Sym./ Fritz Reiner – HDTT, 33:00 [avail. in various formats from www.highdeftapetranfers.com] ***:

Polish piano virtuoso Andre Tchaikowsky (nee Krauthammer), 1935-1982, made his reputation as a gifted pupil of Lazare-Levy, Stefan Ashkenase, and Annie Fischer. His friendships with Radu Lupu and Stephen Kovacevich earned him their respect, which they lavished both on his keyboard gifts and his talent as a composer. On 11 February 1958, Tchaikowsky replaced an indisposed Clara Haskil, who had been scheduled to perform with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony works by Bach (f minor Concerto) and Mozart (C Major, K. 503).  Tchaikowsky, unfamiliar with both scores, bought copies of the music at local music store before appearing for Reiner at the first rehearsal. When Tchaikowsky admitted to Reiner that he had been sight-reading the music, Reiner became incensed. By the time of the performance, Tchaikowsky had memorized the scores, and he improvised his own cadenza for the Mozart’s first movement. The recording session occurred on 15 February, but Tchaikowsky would not authorize release of the Bach concerto. While critic Claudia Cassidy found favor with Tchaikowsky’s performance, critic Roger Dettmer found fault. Tchaikowsky’s own career he tended to short-circuit via his abrasive personality and often unconventional life style. Altogether Tchaikowsky recorded several hours of music, including some important pieces, like the Bach Goldberg Variations.

HDTT here remasters the original RCA recording (LSC 2287), but without either the Mozart Overture to Don Giovanni that replaced the Bach, or any of the Mozart sonatas and fantasias Tchaikowsky recorded for RCA at another session and had appeared on the “Forgotten Records” label (with the Concerto) some years ago. In several respects the record collector has much delight in store for him, given the warm level of response Reiner elicits from his Chicago players.  We may well recall the all-American orchestral ensembles Reiner coveted, and the Philadelphia Orchestra remained his main goal. No great marvel, then, that the string and woodwind sonorities in this massive Mozart concerto surround Tchaikowsky, who himself appears lean and poetically efficient in his own right.  The periodic, ascending rocket figures come off remarkable well in the first movement Allegro maestoso, with a fervor and nobility of span that I find both fluid and effective. Tchaikowsky’s pearly play in all three movements enjoys a spirited, natural articulation; and though his cadenza has an ungainly “experimental” quality, it fits the occasional suitably enough.

With the latter two movements, Reiner sails in his most pastoral, bucolic sensibility, which might have suggested to HDTT the possibility of pairing the Concerto with one of the divertimentos Reiner recorded. The polished sound of the Andante flows gracefully into the energetic, high-powered Allegretto, which often explodes well beyond its tempo indication into a fiery allegro.   If the temperaments of the two principals clashed in person, their collaboration – unlike the famous Rubinstein/Reiner conflicts – bears no trace of anything except a rapt sense of the Mozart style. What may keep collectors wary lies in the extreme brevity of the disc, which could have borne another set of Tchaikowsky readings.

–Gary Lemco