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Icon - Alfred Cortot - The Master Pianist

Cortot,Alfred
Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 17304  
Composer:  Frédéric ChopinLudwig van BeethovenFranz SchubertClaude Debussy,   ... 
Performer:  Alfred CortotJacques ThibaudPablo Casals
Conductor:  Alfred Cortot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pablo Casals Orchestra
Number of Discs: 7 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 8 Hours 2 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

EMI’s ‘Icon’ series has proved to be, on balance, a good one though it’s perpetuated some less than optimum transfers. My experience of this particular edition devoted to Cortot is that the transfers are very acceptable. Some were made in 2006 – the Preludes for instance – whilst others are credited to the 1997 work that EMI France carried out on, say, Debussy and Ravel that are contained in disc three. Still others date back to 1989 – the Franck, Fauré and Debussy violin sonatas, whilst others – the trios - come from 1991. So the net has been spread widely. I certainly found the 2006 restorations rather more to my liking than some of EMI’s recent GROC work, a lot of which I find metallic and wearying; not all, of course, as the Read more Beethoven-Busch quartet performances are strongly excepted.

The run down of the recordings in this seven CD set shows the expected recordings so there will be little surprise for collectors. For the generalist with a hankering for historical performances by a master such as Cortot the good transfers and the repertoire – especially its completeness in terms of the trio recordings with Thibaud and Casals will vie with the set’s good value as double inducements.

A few specific words about transfers, then. Regarding the Kreutzer sonata I prefer the work here to the old Biddulph [LAB028] by Mark Obert-Thorn; there’s greater tonal depth in EMI’s work. The trios are all on Naxos of course – the Schumann and Mendelssohn on 8.110185, the Haydn and Schubert on 8.110188. EMI’s work is generally more open, and preserves greater treble, though the Naxos is warmer and has a touch more tonal bloom. To take another example the 1933 Impromptus are on Naxos 8.111023 in a 2005 transfer. The 2006 EMI transfer has a touch more clarity and presence and I happen to prefer it. I think the 1949 Berceuse is totally clear-cut. The Naxos is muffled against the clarity of the EMI.

These solitary examples should give one some indication of the strengths of this set and a look at the head note will reveal the depth of repertory covered. The majority of pieces were recorded between 1926 and 1933 though there are obvious exceptions. Jeux d’eau is the solitary acoustic recording, made in New York in March 1923 and the post-war ’49 sessions are represented by the Chopin items in the first disc.

The Op.28 Preludes are the 1933 recordings. There will be partisans of the 1926 set – on Naxos 8.111023 (see review) – and maybe less so of the wartime 1942 traversal as well. But this mid point cycle is in many ways the most consistently illuminating. The second disc is devoted to the Archduke about which I’ve written in its Naxos guise [8.110195] – a very fine though not, for me, truly outstanding reading – where it’s coupled with the Kreutzer sonata. The Schubert is definitely a great performance though and the Mendelssohn, Haydn and Schumann are joined by the two sets of variations that made up the small corpus of recordings set down by a trio that made do with a really exceptionally limited repertoire.

The Debussy and Ravel performances are self-recommending even to those who adhere to other of Cortot’s contemporaries in this repertoire. The Franck Sonata is a classic French performance, comparable to the later Francescatti-Casadesus and the Belgian Dubois-Maas duo (on Biddulph and a must-hear) in terms of stylistic acumen. So too the Debussy sonata and the Fauré in A, long admired staples. Cortot and Thibaud and Casals joined forces in the famous Barcelona recording of the Brahms Double Concerto, Cortot caught here in his only expedition - in this set - as conductor.

The final disc gives us some explosive Liszt, his 1929 recording of the Sonata being one of the tersest and fastest on record, whilst the New York recorded Hungarian Rhapsodies are full of dynamism and leonine wit. They make a wonderful, glamorous and virtuosic end to a finely selected box.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 28 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836-1839; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 1933-1934 
2.
Prelude for Piano in C sharp minor, B 141/Op. 45 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 11/04/1949 
3.
Berceuse for Piano in D flat major, B 154/Op. 57 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 11/04/1949 
4.
Impromptu for Piano no 1 in A flat major, B 110/Op. 29 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 07/05/1933 
5.
Impromptu for Piano no 2 in F sharp major, B 129/Op. 36 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 07/05/1933 
6.
Impromptu for Piano no 3 in G flat major, b 149/Op. 51 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 07/05/1933 
7.
Impromptu for Piano no 4 in C sharp minor, B 87/Op. 66 "Fantaisie-Impromptu" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 07/05/1933 
8.
Barcarolle for Piano in F sharp major, B 158/Op. 60 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 07/05/1933 
9.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 7 in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1810-1811; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1928 
10.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in B flat major, D 898/Op. 99 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano), Pablo Casals (Cello), Jacques Thibaud (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1926 
11.
Variations (7) for Cello and Piano on Mozart's "Bei Männern", WoO 46 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/21/1927 
12.
Children's Corner by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1908; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1947 
13.
Préludes, Book 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 1931-1949 
14.
Sonatine for Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 05/1931 
15.
Jeux d'eau by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; France 
Date of Recording: 03/01/1923 
16.
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, M 8 by César Franck
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Date of Recording: 05/28/1929 
17.
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; France 
Date of Recording: 06/07/1929 
18.
Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 06/07/1929 
Notes: Arranger: Hartmann. 
19.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in A major, Op. 13 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; France 
Date of Recording: 06/23/1927 
20.
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G major, H 15 no 25 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; London, England 
Date of Recording: 06/20/1927 
21.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 9 in A major, Op. 47 "Kreutzer" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano), Jacques Thibaud (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802-1803; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1929 
22.
Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102 "Double" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello)
Conductor:  Alfred Cortot
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pablo Casals Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1929 
23.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in D minor, Op. 49 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/1927 
24.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in D minor, Op. 63 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1928 
25.
Trio for Piano and Strings no 11 in G major, Op. 121a "Kakadu Variations" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jacques Thibaud (Violin), Pablo Casals (Cello), Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803/1816; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/06/1926 
26.
Sonata for Piano in B minor, S 178 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1852-1853; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 03/13/1929 
27.
Hungarian Rhapsodies (19) for Piano, S 244: no 2 in C sharp minor by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1926 
28.
Hungarian Rhapsodies (19) for Piano, S 244: no 11 in A minor by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846-1847; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1930 
29.
Paraphrase on Quartet from Verdi's "Rigoletto", S 434 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 1927 
30.
Légendes (2) for Piano, S 175: no 2, St Francis de Paule walks on water by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 1937 
31.
Concert Etudes (3) for Piano, S 144: no 2 in F minor, La leggierezza by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alfred Cortot (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1848; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/21/1930 

Sound Samples

Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 1 in C major (Agitato)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 2 in A minor (Lento)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 3 in G major (Vivace)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 4 in E minor (Largo)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 5 in D major (Allegro molto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 6 in B minor (Lento assai)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 7 in A major (Andantino)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 8 in F sharp minor (Molto agitato)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 9 in E major (Largo)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 10 in C sharp minor (Allegro molto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 11 in B major (Vivace)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 12 in G sharp minor (Presto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 13 in F sharp major (Lento)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 14 in E flat minor (Allegro)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 15 in D flat major (Sostenuto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 16 in B flat minor (Presto con fuoco)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 17 in A flat major (Allegretto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 18 in F minor (Allegro molto)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 19 in E flat major (Vivace)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 20 in C minor (Largo)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 21 in B flat major (Cantabile)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 22 in G minor (Molto agitato)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 23 in F major (Moderato)
Preludes Op. 28 (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 24 in D minor (Allegro appassionato)
Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 45 (2006 Digital Remaster)
Berceuse in D flat Op. 57 (2006 Digital Remaster)
Impromptus (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 1 in A flat Op. 29
Impromptus (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 2 in F sharp Op. 36
Impromptus (2006 Digital Remaster): No. 3 in G flat Op. 51
Fantaisie-impromptu in C sharp minor Op. 66 (2006 Digital Remaster)
Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60 (2006 Digital Remaster)
Piano Trio in B flat 'Archduke' Op. 97 (1991 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro moderato
Piano Trio in B flat 'Archduke' Op. 97 (1991 Digital Remaster): II. Scherzo (Allegro) & Trio
Piano Trio in B flat 'Archduke' Op. 97 (1991 Digital Remaster): III. Andante cantabile, ma però con moto
Piano Trio in B flat 'Archduke' Op. 97 (1991 Digital Remaster): IV. Allegro moderato - Presto
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D898 (1991 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro moderato
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D898 (1991 Digital Remaster): II. Andante un poco mosso
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D898 (1991 Digital Remaster): III. Scherzo (Allegro) & Trio
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D898 (1991 Digital Remaster): IV. Rondo (Allegro vivace - Presto)
7 Variations on Mozart's 'Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen' from 'Die Zauberflöte' WoO46 (1991 Digital Remaster)

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