brahms falla casadesus maestro

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major Op.83 (1881)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Noches en las Jardines de España (1911-15)
Robert Casadesus (piano)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray (Brahms)
Cleveland Orchestra/Georg Szell (de Falla)
rec. live, 1962/66, Ford Auditorium, Detroit; Severance Hall, Cleveland
Maestro Editions ME031 [66]

Maestro Editions is a label which has grown from the same tree as the Antal Doráti Edition. Each is presided over by a team headed by Richard Chlupaty who has done and continues to do exhaustive and valuable enjoyable work for Doráti . Fashion may have turned a Medusa stare on Doráti but the Doráti Edition ploughs its own furrow and has issued tens and tens of Dorati conducted discs. No doubt there will be more. Maestro Editions looks at other music directors both famed and well enough treated such as Barbirolli, Kempe, Kletzki and Muti and those dust-laden and maltreated such as Celibidache, Garaguly, Dixon, Eliasburg and Kord.

I associate French pianist Robert Casadesus (1899-1972) with Mozart. There are all those CBS-Sony LPs and CDs of Mozart concertos. That said, his and Paray’s Brahms 2 deserves not to be forgotten. In the 1930s, in his mid-30s, he played it with Toscanini and you can experience that on a Guild double – welcomed by Jonathan Woolf. I have not heard that version but, recorded some three decades later, when he was in his sixties, his reading with Paray, while not unmixed in the results, is bound to impress. It is a work I first connected with through a CBS box (CBS 77372) of Serkin, Rose and Stern in all the Brahms concertos. Before that I had lusted after the DG Gilels set of the two piano concertos but having heard them I still find that while superbly recorded they are devoid of the buffet and regal mind to be experienced in this Casadesus and in the Golden Age Serkin.

If you are in the mood for a live performance of the Brahms as an antidote to what can sometimes seem well-behaved then do hear this version. You will have to overlook an underlay of analogue hiss, a light splash of coughs in the second movement and a roar of applause and bravo. In return you will hear two artists and an orchestra pressing passionately forward. It seems a good bargain. Paray and Casadesus give every appearance of being of the same mind. There is no dysfunctional clash of minds and temperaments. An exhilarating sovereign tumult and a joy that brooks no foot-dragging suffuses every moment. Those of a fragile disposition might want a little liedown after the first and second movements. Passion is still in play in the idyllic third movement. Then again, if you must draw on the best among the few modern recordings I have heard, I rather side with Rudolph Buchbinder.

After a good long-separating silence – the mark of an artist in the production ‘control room’ – the De Falla work enters the lists. Charms are there but I cannot find myself singing this reading’s praises to anything like the same extent as the Brahms. Szell is strong on painting surging dynamics but, in the end, this is a good respectable performance rather than a devastating magical one. For the full measure of magic and tension I await a reissue of a glamorous recording that I still favour from the days of the LP (Classics for Pleasure CFP40234: Alexander Iokheles, Moscow Phil/Rozhdestvensky). I suspect it will be a long time before that happens. Again, there is applause and, this time, a radio announcer gives the concert details.

The liner-notes are scant and are not the attraction here; nor do they need to be.

Rob Barnett

Availability: Maestro Editions