Lateiner The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner Vol 2 Parnassus

Jacob Lateiner (piano)
The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner – Volume 2
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ‘Waldstein
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Valses nobles et sentimentales
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Fantasie in C major, Op. 17
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Grande Étude de Paganini, S. 141 No. 3 ‘La Campanella’
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
rec. 1972-84
Parnassus PACD96081-2 [71 + 67]

The pianist Jacob Lateiner (1928-2010) was renowned as a teacher both at the Juilliard and the Mannes School of Music. Beethoven was central to his repertoire, and he was a renowned Beethoven scholar. My only previous encounter with him was via his collaborations with the Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts series. So, it’s a treat to be able to hear him as soloist in these lovingly restored concerts, taped between 1972 and 1984.

CD 1 focuses on a recital given at the prestigious Frick Collection in New York on February 17, 1980. He kicks off with Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata. This is accommodated over two tracks on the disc; Lateiner considered the “middle movement”, marked Introduzione, as a slow introduction to the finale rather than an independent movement.  There’s no shortage of energy and excitement in the first movement, with much dramatic tension generated along the way. Pacing is well-judged, and technical precision and rhythmic punch make for a vital reading. There’s a sense of expectancy generated in the opening hushed whispers of the Introduzione. The final Rondo is played at a steady pace yet flows with great suppleness. Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales are delicately performed and imbued with myriad colours and tonal shades. Lateiner takes a very poetic approach to the Schumann Fantasie in C. The first movement is rhapsodic and overflowing with passionate intensity. I like the crispness of the dotted rhythms and syncopations in the middle movement. The finale is tender and intimate and transports us to another world.

The Paganini-Liszt La Campanella derives from a recital given at Hunter College in November 1972. It sounds as though it was taped from the audience. Although it’s a piece that demands a lot from the pianist technically, Lateiner rises to the challenge admirably with a vital and sparkling rendition.

CD 2 features a recital the pianist gave at the Juilliard School of Music, New York on 16 December 1984. Lateiner performs Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas. Immediately noticeable is the better sound quality than that found on CD 1, which was a bit rough around the edges. Here there’s more warmth and radiance to the sound. The opening of Op. 109 feels improvised and free-flowing, whilst the Prestissimo is kept rhythmically tight. The variation movement is beautifully sculpted, probing and deep yet with simplicity. In Op. 110 Lateiner voices the opening chords impeccably. The sombre Adagio is laden with doubt and despair, with the fugal section clearly delineated. In Op. 111 the pianist makes the contrast between  struggle and conflict in the opening movement and the serenity and calm in the Arietta. The cumulative effect of each subsequent variation is palpable, with the ‘jazzy’ third variation seductively brought off. At the end, resignation, peace and calmness reign. The enthusiastic applause at the end says it all.

This two-disc set is a revelation, and does great service to a distinguished pianist who deserves to be better known. There’s a previous volume which has been enthusiastically reviewed in these pages that I’ve just bought, so I’m looking forward to hearing that. The excellent booklet notes come courtesy of Leslie Gerber, the producer of this very desirable release.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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