COR DE GROOT PLAYS RAVEL
Miroirs (Noctuelles.  Oiseaux tristes.  Une barque sur l'ocÈan. La vallÈe des cloches).  Gaspard de la nuit (Ondine.  Le gibet.  Scarbo).  La Valse (with pianist GÈrard Blerk).  Piano Concerto in G (with Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond.

APR 5611 (F) (ADD)  TT:  73:21
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Dutch pianist (and composer) Cor de Groot (1914-1993) had a distinguished, although rather short, professional career.  Emil von Sauer, a pupil of Franz Liszt, said, "Now that I have heard Cor de Groot, I can die in peace."  This was at the 1936 Vienna Piano Competition for which Sauer was a juror, de Groot one of the finalists. In 1956 de Groot was on the prestigious jury of the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition of Brussels which awarded the prize to Vladimir Ashkenazy.  Four years earlier Leon Fleisher had won the prize at the beginning of his  career which was to be cut short about a decade later by a right hand affliction that for many years limited his performances to repertory for the left hand.  Cor de Groot suffered the same problem with his right hand, identified as Repetitive Strain Injury [RSI] in 1959; he also continued his career for a time with left-hand repertory.  When his condition improved, for some reason he did not resume his previous concert career.  Instead he worked  for the Dutch Radio making many recordings for them, some of which are included on this fascinating CD.

De Groot was particularly fond of Impressionistic music and included Ravel's Jeux d'eau at the 1936 Vienna Competition, one of several performances that so impressed Von Sauer.  These recordings of Miroirs and Gaspard de la nuit were made at the Dutch Radio in 1951.  The pianist mentioned that the piano had a "heavy sound," obvious from what we hear on these mono recordings.  La Valse, recorded in stereo in 1974, features de Groot partnered by GÈrard van Blerk (1924-1997).  According to CD notes, Van Blerk was "one of the few pianist-colleagues able to endure the strain of working with de Groot the perfectionist."  There is no sense of effort in this somewhat relaxed performance which is quite removed from the briefer, volatile Argerich/Freire Philips version. Of great interest is the live recording of Ravel's Concerto in G from 1940 (specifically, Nov. 28 according to the Q Disc issue)  with Eduard van Beinum and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.  The concerto, written just a decade earlier, is given a brilliant performance -- no question whatever of De Groot's virtuosity and understanding of Ravel's masterpiece.

This is listed as Volume I in a projected series; a future release will include the live performance from November 9, 1942 of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with the Concertgegbouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg.  This has already been released in Volume 8 of The Mengelberg Edition issued by Hubert Wendel. This is a powerful performance to say the least with conductor and soloist on the same Olympian level, in surprisingly good sound.  It will be interesting to hear how APR handles the one interlude from the second movement and three from the third movement which were apparently damaged and missing on the original acetates.  Wendel solved the problem by artfully splicing in the pianist's recording of the concerto from his early Philips mono LP with the Hague Residency Orchestra under Willem van Otterloo, who also conducted de Groot's recordings of Beethoven's Third and Fourth concertos and the Rachmaninoff Second.This APR issue is well worth owning, and we look forward to future issues in the series.  Collectors are indebted to Cor de Groot.  When he was with the Dutch Radio he discovered many historic concert performances by Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw and arranged for the Dutch Radio Archives to preserve them..  Thank you, Mr. de Groot!

R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)