Tag Archives: Fritz Lehmann

The Singles

Shura Cherkassky, Fritz Lehmann, Rita Streich, Andres Segovia, Koeckert Quartet, Irmgard Seefried, David & Igor Oistrakh, Eugen Jochum, Ferenc Fricsay, Vegh Quartet, Nicanor Zabaleta, Leopold Simoneau, Helmut Zacharias, Andor Foldes, Kim Borg


DG 474 576-2
TPT: 2:36:45

reviewed by Neville Cohn



For any record collector over sixty years of age, the 1950s are sure to be remembered as the decade which saw, for the first time, 45 rpm discs which were know as EPs – extended play records. The 7-inch discs seldom ran for more than ten or twelve minutes but for those on limited budgets, in particular, it was a cheaper way to get a record collection started than by purchasing the significantly more expensive LPs.

In this milieu, Deutsche Grammophon was the big player, turning out quality recordings by some of the most prominent musicians of the day. Most of these little records, if they exist at all nowadays, are gathering dust in some lounge room corner or in cardboard boxes in backyard store rooms.

Resurrecting some of the best and placing them on CD will rekindle memories of the fifties for many and are certain to attract younger listeners who weren’t even born when 45rpms took the music world by storm.

Much of the material here recorded is of the encore variety, musical bon bons that this or that musician or ensemble might have offered at the end of a concert in response to prolonged applause.

Listen to Shura Cherkassky, then (1955) at the height of his powers, in Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude, given high-octane boogie treatment – or the Koeckert Quartet offering Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade. The latter is one of DG’s less well-recorded offerings. The playing is beyond criticism in the conventional sense but the microphones sound far too close and the sound is unhappily dry and grainy. But there are compensations aplenty, not least from Finnish bass Kim Borg who is in magnificent in two settings – one by Beethoven, the other by Mussorgsky – of Goethe’s famous Song of the Flea. For once, the usually impeccable DG sound engineers got it wrong in that Erik Werba’s piano accompaniment is far too faint in the Mussorgsky setting, barely audible at times. But the sound balance in Beethoven’s setting is perfect.

Celebrated Spanish harpist Nicanor Zabaleta is frankly wonderful in Salzedo’s Chanson dans la nuit, not least for finest filigree ripples of sound. Father and son team David and Igor Oistrakh provide rather meatier fare in a trio sonata in F by Tartini. Also more musically substantial is the Vegh Quartet’s account of what had originally been thought a work of Haydn – Quartet in F “Serenade” – but is now believed to be by Roman Hoffstetter. Whoever wrote it is a secondary consideration; the music is a delight and the playing borders on the sublime. It’s a high point of the compilation; so, too, is the artistry of Andor Foldes, the now-almost-forgotten Hungarian pianist who does wonders with Stravinsky’s galumphing Circus Polka (written as accompaniment to dancing by an elephant troupe from the Barnum and Bailey Circus). And his account of Albeniz’s Tango in D makes this most hackneyed of piano pieces sound newly minted.

The liner note booklet includes colour reproductions of the original sleeve covers.

This is a fascinating compilation which, hopefully, will be followed by more in similar vein.

Copyright Neville Cohn 2004







MOZART Coronation Concerto K537

Concerto for two pianos K365* 

Rondos for piano and orchestra K382 & 386

Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes* (pianos)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Fritz Lehmann (conductor)DG MONO 474 611-2
TPT: 1:17:56

 reviewed by Neville Cohn


Some of the most enterprising and fascinating compilations on Australia-generated compact discs can be found on the MOVE label. The intriguingly titled ensemble, Woof!, offers what is claimed as the first ever complete recording of Percy Grainger’s Tuneful Percussion. Played on authentic instruments, which include the composer’s own bells and marimba, this compilation – 16 tracks on MD 3222 – includes a number of works never placed on record before.Stereo buffs, who avoid listening to anything that isn’t preserved by state-of-the-art recording equipment, will probably not deign to expose their ears to this 1953 recording – and mono at that. It’s their loss.Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes are not nearly as well known now as they were in their heyday. Foldes is particularly remembered for his trailblazing work in bringing the piano music of Bartok to a wide international audience in the 1950s – and Seeman was a pianist of distinction in the standard classical repertoire.In this all-Mozart compilation, the two feature as soloists in the Concerto for two pianos, K365; it’s music – and music making – of near-untrammelled delight. True, recorded sound borders on the tinny at times, and elsewhere the instruments remind one more of fortepianos than modern concert grands.

But the clarity and fluency of the playing make this a performance to cherish. Listen to the precision with which the two synchronise their trills and even the most rapid passagework. At the same time, there is nothing in the least mechanical or rigid about the playing. On the contrary, it has a winning freshness and vitality, a sense of spontaneity. And at its most chromatic, the performances border on the euphoric but invariably within the line and contour of the 18th century. Certainly, the inherent joyousness of much of the writing is splendidly evoked.

I very much admired, too, the quality of string playing in the introduction to the Coronation Concerto. With its rhythmic bite and graceful strength, it comes across as Mozartean playing par excellence. And Seeman’s performance is a joy to listen to, giving, as it does, point and meaning to what in lesser hands could so easily sound like vacuous note spinning.

Recorded sound tends to dryness but there are many compensations, not least the integrity of Seeman’s playing with its trademark clarity. There is no hint here of the sort of sentimentality favoured by some and which can so easily bring an unwanted cloying, honeyed quality to the music.

Fritz Lehmann takes the BPO through exemplary accompaniments to the concertos – and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Seeman’s account of the Rondos, K 382 and K 386. These charming pieces seldom figure on concert programs but they are certainly worth listening to, especially, as here, when given such stylish treatment.

© November 2003