Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E?,
Symphony No. 5
Rudolf Serkin (pn); Ernest Ansermet, cond; Suisse Romande O
CASCAVELLE VEL 3126 mono (73:13) Live: Geneva 4/27/66
Here are two high-quality performances, one notable for its consistency, the other quite remarkable for its inconsistency. Rudolf Serkin made four studio recordings of the “Emperor” Concerto: in 1941 (with Bruno Walter), the early 1950s (Eugene Ormandy), 1962 (Leonard
Bernstein), and in 1981 (Seiji Ozawa). I have not heard the Ozawa recording, which is part of a cycle that was completed in 1984, but I have heard the others and the differences between them are, by my recollection, minuscule. In addition, there are “unofficial” ones with Guido Cantelli and Rafael Kubelík. I was able to make a direct comparison between his 1941 recording and this 1966 Radio Suisse Romande broadcast and, while this one is just a bit more flexible in tempo, it’s basically the same performance he produced back in 1941; for what it’s worth, that’s the recording I learned the piece on (Columbia MM-500). Unfortunately, while it is a more vivid recording than those 1941 78s, the piano/orchestra balance favors the piano to the point that some orchestral detail gets lost and Ansermet’s fervent collaboration is slightly weakened.
Except for the fervor, the Beethoven Fifth is quite another matter. One characteristic I have noticed with Ansermet’s recordings is that, once he made up his mind how a piece should go, he pretty much stayed with that approach, so that his older recordings and his remakes are remarkably similar in detail. He made his studio recording of the Fifth Symphony sometime in 1958, I believe, and what a remarkable change in eight years—could it have been the presence of an audience that caused him to make so many subtle tempo adjustments and stretch various cadences for tension? This broad, free-wheeling treatment of the music runs nearly three minutes longer than the studio one and he observes (movements one and three) and ignores (movement four) the same repeats that he did back in 1958. He does this without compromising his usual standards of clarity and rhythmic verve; it’s a very impressive performance, though not for those who prefer something more rigid and driven. Some may be uncomfortable with the bright sound of the orchestra, but here it seems to have been recorded more vividly and one gets used to it.
FANFARE: James Miller
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Suisse Romande Orchestra
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria
Length: 33 Minutes 33 Secs.
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