The Curzon Emperor Concerto is not only one of the finest performances on record of the great Concerto, it's one of the greatest performances on record, period.
Sir Clifford Curzon is one of a handful of English pianists that can be compared with the best of the continent and the USA. I'd add Dame Myra Hess and Solomon to the mix. The difference between Curzon and many others that he made magic not only on stage but in the studio. No more than on this famous record.
Curzon's playing exudes refinement but allied to a wonderful technique, the mighty Emperor and its famous technical demands hold no fears for him. The opening has weight and gravitas but also demonstrates his fleet passagework. Both Curzon and his wonderful accompanists, the Vienna Philharmonic, launch into the Concerto with passion and total control. It's in the very difficult opening accompanying orchestral passages where conductor Hans Knappertsbusch shines. Not the most charismatic of conductors, yet his choice as accompanist was inspired. Only in the transition between the last two movements is their some inelegant playing. Ahem, 2nd horn. Just a slight intonation disagreement with the first. And even pp, heard clearly on this recording.
The technique in the opening movement's passagework is crystal clear and Curzon's transition to the gorgeously rhapsodic slow movement is sublime. Such a delicate touch -- Beethoven's meanderings are putty in his hands. And the boisterous finale positively romps in a quick 6/8. It makes for a sensational ending to a sensational record.
Gordon Parry's recorded document from the large Sofiensaal (home to many famous Decca/VPO LPs) is superb. Warm but detailed, but powerful and supremely delicate and refined when needed.
Typically expensive for a Speakers Corner reissue at USD$34.99 and at just over 30 minutes, should you still purchase? Absolutely. A must for any good vinyl collection .
- Sir Clifford Curzon
- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
- Hans Knappertsbusch (conductor)
Recording: June 1957, Sofiensaal, Vienna by Gordon Parry
Production: Erik Smith
Speakers Corner (Decca)
180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed
Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor") In E Flat Major, Op. 73
First Movement: Allegro
Second Movement: Adagio Un Poco Mosso
Third Movement: Rondo (Allegro)