BBC Legends BBCL 4247-2, 80:59 [Distrib. by Koch] *****:
More brilliant musicianship from “the troubadour of the piano,” Geza Anda (1921-1976), here captured in brisk and effusive Mozart from two different concerts: the D Major Concerto comes from a studio session 27 November 1968; the G Major from a Royal Festival Hall concert 9 April 1975. In the Mozart concertos, Anda leads from the keyboard, which does nothing to slow down his lightning, quicksilver interplay with the orchestral tissue. The scintillating runs and spun-out melodic contour testify to the elastic nature of Anda’s color palette, which embraced the virtuosic and bravura style as fluently as his operatic vocalizations of the Mozart bel canto. The D Major Concerto flies at us with vigor, an aggressive muscularity we well know from the Serkin-Mitropoulos collaboration twenty years prior. The Andante has the woodwinds in lyric relief against a rather hard piano patina. Although Anda’s commercial Mozart cycle for DGG could be prissy and fussy, an uneasy cross of pedantry and spontaneity, here the ebb and flow of Mozart’s extroverted energies proceeds without Anda’s having second-guessed himself on the rightness of his tempos. The last movement, Allegro di molto, laughs with unbuttoned humor and the sheer, smoothly rounded delight in the often explosive and dancing figures, the same, natural elan that characterizes Dylan Thomas’ paean “Fern Hill.”
The G Major Concerto extends Mozart’s “merely” sensational pyrotechnics into swaggering poetry, a combination of whimsy and deeply felt, ecstatic meditation. If keyboard supremacy dictates the progression of the D Major Concerto, a thorough primus inter pares philosophy reigns in the G Major, a lyrical colloquy of often bucolically inspired grandeur. The piano plays against moments from oboe, bassoon, and flute of elegant beauty and evolving sense of panorama. More than once, Anda’s rolling arpeggios and sweet legato remind us of the Beethoven concerto in the same key. Anda’s first movement cadenza enjoys that music-box sonority that converts the keyboard into a glass harmonica. Mozart’s Andante proceeds in “olden style,” a wind divertimento of pre-classical poise and beauty, rife with pregnant pauses and dramatic, harmonic shifts. Anda’s keyboard contribution amounts to one long, dream sequence, an aria indebted more to Gluck than to the wiles of instrumental, digital prowess. The consummation of collaborative radiance comes in the final movement, Allegretto–Presto, a series of clever variations on a theme that become a marvelous volley from a fox hunt with echoes of Papageno. The superbly nervous chatter from piano and winds at the false–then-true-coda is Mozart’s wit when speaking of epics with Homer.
The Bartok G Major Concerto (5 December 1973) remains the most brightly lit of the three concertos, heraldic and fanciful, certainly a more than passing homage to both Liszt and Debussy. Vivacious and graceful at once, Anda drives the massive, “orchestrally” conceived piano part forward, a percussive force, then a purring cat. The BBC trumpets deserve a deep bow, their muted or resonant punctuations providing a perfect foil for Anda’s steamy glissandi and brittle octave passages. The Adagio has Anda mixing perfect, “night” stillness and manic furies, the middle section twittering and pining in eerie, lurid harmonies. The da capo resumes the modal dewdrops over a tympanic threat, Magyar, parlando and declaimed harmonies whispering or muttering over a desert. The virtuoso Allegro molto finale is all bluster, swaying rhythms and fierce dynamic shifts, crescendo and decrescendo. The BBC trumpet and horn section announces a Roman triumph of a twisted kind, and all the colors of the spectrum pour into a Magyar color inferno. This spicy goulash is a wonder of speed and dizzying flavors!