PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 15. RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G.
Yundi Li, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON B0010175 (F) TT: 51:14
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PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 15. SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35. CHASINS: Three Chinese Pieces. POULENC: Toccata. STRAVINSKY: Circus Polka. BEETHOVEN: Bagatelle in G minor, Op. 119 No. 1.
Shura Cherkassky, pianist; Philharmonia Orch/Herbert Menges, cond.
MEDICI ARTS MM013 (F) TT: 70:04
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HUMMEL: Le retour de Londres - Grand Rondeau brillant, Op. 127. Variations and Finale in B flat, Op. 115. Oberons Zauberhorn, Op. 116. Variations in F, Op. 97.
Christopher Hintenhuber, pianist; Gävle Symphony Orch/Uwe Grodd, cond.
NAXOS 8.557845 (B) TT: 66:14
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MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 595. WEBER: Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79.
Robert Casadesus, pianist; Kölner Radio Symphony Orch/George Szell & Romanus Hubertus, cond.
MEDICI ARTS MM010 (F) TT: 71:53
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor." CHOPIN: Nocturne in C# minor, Op. Posth. Waltz in E minor, Op. Posth.
Walter Hautzig, pianist; Jerusalem Academy Symphony/Hans Schul, cond.
AMERICUS RECORDS AMR 20071948 (F) TT: 56:51
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CHOPIN: Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Nocturne in B flat minor, Op. 9 No. 1. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. Fantaisie-Impromptu in C# minor, Op. 66. Prelude in D flat and G minor, Op. 28 Nos. 15 and 21. Polonaise in C minor, Op. 42 No. 2. Waltz in F minor, Op. 70 No. 2. Waltz in C# minor, Op. 64 No. 2
Walter Hautzig, pianist
AMERICUS RECORDS AMR 20061045 (F) TT: 75:35
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Composed in 1913, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 was reconstructed by the composer ten years later, of necessity as the score was lost—how fascinating it would be to hear the original version—was it wilder, more diabolic? We'll never know. In March 2001 I saw Arcady Volodos perform it with the Baltimore Symphony, and since then have heard air-checks of several other performances by him—all stunning, each slightly different. There is an air-check of Evgeny Kissin with Yuri Temirkanov on the podium from the about a decade ago from the Proms—surely one of the best performances ever—which whets the appetite for Kissin's projected recording of the concerto (along with No. 3) for EMI with the Philharmonia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Although magnificently played, this new DGG live recording of Concerto No. 2 from May 2007 with Yundi Li isn't quite up to the dazzling standard set by Volodos and Kissin, lacking that extra bit of fire and steely brilliance so essential in this score. Nor does Shura Cherkassky in his recording made in London's Abbey Road Studios November 15-16, 1954 and April 5, 1955. It indeed would be intriguing to know what parts were redone in the later session. Cherkassky's Scherzo is slow-motion compared with Li's (2:41/2:17), as well as Volodos and Kissin.
Cherkassky is better suited to the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 in which Harold Jackson is the sterling trumpet soloist, and the disk is filled out with other recordings by the pianist showing his wide-ranging interests: Chasins, Poulenc, Stravinsky and Beethoven.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) was so impressed by Weber's Oberon that he wrote a major fantasy for piano and orchestra based on the familiar horn theme of the opera. The five sections include many horn calls and virtuoso writing for the soloist. Hummel's music is always melodic and inventive, and in addition to Oberons Horn (sometimes called Oberons Zauberhorn), we have two major sets of variations, and Le retour de Londres, composed 1833 written to celebrate Hummel's return to that city for the first time in 40 years. Pianist Christopher Hinterhuber tosses off all of this music with the greatest of ease and style, strongly supported by the excellent Swedish orchestra conducted by Uwe Grodd. Naxos' audio is, as usual, first-rate.

A gem is the Medici Arts issue of Mozart and Weber played by Robert Casadesus in live recordings from Cologne. Casadesus recorded all of these works commercially, but these live performances are remarkable, and very well recorded. George Szell, with whom the pianist recorded both of these concertos commercially (No. 24 twice), is the perfect accompanist. Concerto No. 24 was recorded June 27, 1960, No. 27, September 8, 1958, the Weber, a Casadesus showpiece, March 3, 1954. Recommended!

Pianist Walter Hautzig was born in 1921 in Vienna and came to the United States in 1939. His teachers included Artur Schnabel. Hautzig won many prizes and awards, concertizing extensively throughout the world and made many recordings, although few of these remain in the catalog. He was Professor of Piano at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1960 to 1987 (a position held since then by Leon Fleisher) and continues to teach master classes and give occasional concerts. Americus Records (www.americuscd.com) has issued two recent recordings. The first is a Chopin collection recorded in February 2006 in Norway, featuring the Sonata No. 3 and Ballade No. 4 along with several shorter works. The second is a live concert performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 recorded on the occasion of Hautzig's 85th birthday November 20, 2006 with the Jerusalem Academy Orchestra conducted by Ilan Schul. The Beethoven CD contains two short Chopin encores, and a brief, touching closing commentary by the pianist. Hautzig's performances reflect his lifetime of devotion to music. There's no question that in previous years he probably would have played the Emperor with a touch more bravura, and doubtless the scherzo from the Chopin sonata would have been less cautious, but what is heard here is quite remarkable, a memento of a legendary elder statesman in the pianistic world.

R.E.B. (December 2007)