Noel Mewton-Wood, piano – First & Last Recordings: BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 8; Albeniz España: Malagueña; SHOSTAKOVICH: Con. for Piano, Trumpet and Strings – with Ida Haendel, violin /Sevenstem, trumpet/Concert Hall Sym. Orch./Walter Goehr – Pristine

by | Jan 16, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Noel Mewton-Wood – First and Last Recordings: BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 8 in G, Op.30, No.3; Albeniz España, Op. 165, No. 3: Malagueña (arr. Kreisler); SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C minor, Op.35 –  Ida Haendel, violin / Noel Mewton-Wood, piano / Harry Sevenstern, trumpet / Concert Hall Society Symphony Orchestra / Walter Goehr, conductor – Pristine Audio PASC135, 39:29 (download or CD-R available) ****:

Recorded in 1941 and 1953, these recordings represent both ends of the lamentably short career of Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953). Decca recorded Mewton-Wood in a number of pieces, including two Weber first two piano sonatas, still very highly regarded today. He also made two recordings with Ida Haendel, then a 12 year old child prodigy.

Their performance of the Albeniz is a fine calling card for the two young musicians, Haendel’s tuning and mature control very impressive. Beethoven’s eighth sonata gets a fine performance, too, no allowances needed for the youth of the performers. Mewton-Wood and Haendel worked very well together judging from this recording; they produce a musical reading with plenty of character without egocentricity. Haendel’s grazioso playing in the second movement is delightful to hear, and her brilliance in the final vivace shows her technique off to a tee.

Just thirty years old when he made his final recording – the concerto for piano, trumpet and strings by Shostakovich – Mewton-Wood’s command of the keyboard had unsurprisingly matured further. Pristine Audio describes this performance as a “scorcher”; I agree completely. Mewton-Wood’s dynamic range is controlled and all the more impressive for that, his pianissimos delicate, his fortissimos big, bold and strong. The trumpeter, Harry Sevenstern, also produced a virtuoso reading; the variety of tones he got from his instrument colour the work so effectively. This is as fine a performance as I have heard.

Walter Goehr conducts the Concert Hall Society Symphony Orchestra on this recording; this was a Dutch pick-up group for recording, and if they are not in the Berlin Philharmonic’s league, they accompany efficiently enough, no doubt inspired by the terrific music-making of the two soloists.

Pristine Audio’s transfers are, as usual, excellent; the shellac-sourced pieces with Haendel have low surface noise though retain the higher frequencies, and the later Shostakovich recording sounds very good indeed for its age. I listened to the ambient stereo release through headphones where the process’s benefits are easily audible. For those who prefer straightforward mono, an alternative issue is available, as is a CD-R for those who do not download.

People who have been following Pristine’s welcome releases of Noel Mewton-Wood’s art will need no recommendation from me! Others wanting to sample for the first time may well be won over by this fine release.

Detailed TrackList:

ALBENIZ: Enspaña, Op. 165, No. 3: Malagueña (arr. Kreisler)
Ida Haendel, violin. Recorded 2nd April 1941, Decca Studios, London. Decca 78: K.1073

BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 8 in G, Op.30, No.3
Ida Haendel, violin. Recorded 18th February 1941, Decca Studios, London. Decca 78s: K.959-960

SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C minor, Op.35
Harry Sevenstern, trumpet, Concert Hall Society Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Walter Goehr.
Recorded 1953. Concert Hall Society LP: H.4

 — Peter Joelson

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