Symposium Records 1353, 70:14 (Distrib. Albany) ***:
Rather a weird compendium, this, since there is no theme or necessary connection between three randomly selected concertos and their performers–except that they are old and rare. Simon Barere (1896-1951) is a Russian virtuoso of often startling power and facility who performed the Liszt E-flat Concerto given here on 17 May 1946 at Carnegie Hall. This interpretation has already appeared as part of the Appian series of documents (APR 5621) devoted to Barere. In crinkly and sometimes shattered sound, the blazing fury of the realization comes through, with Barere’s accelerations in double octaves still a wonder. There are pitch variations and distortions in this transfer, but the heartiness of the musicianship is quite electric, and the audience revels in the last bars.
Most new to our ears is the artistry of Reginald Paul (1894-1974), another of the star pupils of Tobias Matthay. Paul became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music from 1927-1960. The nimble performance of the G Minor Saint-Saens comes from c. 1930 with a London-based group of players. The acetates are noisy, rife with swish and crackle, but the delicacy and facility of Paul’s glimmering scales and runs proves him a worthy rival to luminaries in this piece like Rubinstein, Moiseiwitsch, and Darre. Paul almost manages to turn the second movement Allegro scherzando into a rippling fox-trot. Chapple (who went on to conduct in St. Louis) gets some warmth from his players in the Stoll Theatre, although balances tend to be treble-heavy. The tarantella finale is quite fleet, lucid, and spirited in the acrobatic manner Saint-Saens requires. Nice horn volleys and woodwind punctuations for the final pages, homing in for the final series of blocks chords and wicked runs that conclude a virtual whirlwind for the keyboard.
Paderewski’s A Minor Concerto (1888) still packs a mighty dazzle for those who enjoy a solid, virtuoso showpiece. Jesus Maria Sanroma (1902-1984) was for many years the RCA house pianist, playing full concertos or popular chunks with equal aplomb. Sanroma had plenty of both warm tone and sterling technique, enough to warrant his making some fine chamber music inscriptions along with his large-scaled repertory. Connoisseurs may recall that Sanroma studied with both Cortot and Schnabel. No recording date is provided for the Paderewski inscription, but the noisy, swishy shellacs point to wartime recordings. Severe flutter mars the otherwise lovely first movement orchestral tutti, although the significant tympani part shines, beckoning Sanroma’s first, brief, arpeggiated cadenza. The oboe comes through, then more flourishes with running woodwinds and openwork that reminds one of the Rubinstein D Minor Concerto. The last pages of the first movement blaze with a heart that bespeaks a very different Arthur Fiedler than the populist supplier of musical schlock that was at its best trite. Superb cadenza by Sanroma in spite of every acoustical distraction the acetates can offer. The heart of this work, the lovely Romanza, glows with unsentimental affection. Persistent flutter and wow in the acetates, though. Intricate musical curlicues for the knotty finale, all rambunctious fun. I must take exception, however, with Symposium’s choice of originals from which to work–maybe Dutton could have done these sources better.
– Gary Lemco