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Nadia Reisenberg - Live In Concert

Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Roméo Records   Catalog #: 72934   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnGabriel FauréModest MussorgskySergey Rachmaninov
Performer:  Earl CarlyssNadia ReisenbergJoel KrosnickRobert Mann,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 21 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

NADIA REISENBERG: LIVE IN CONCERT Nadia Reisenberg (pn); 1-3 Joel Krosnick (vc); 2 Earl Carlyss (vn); 3 Robert Mann (vn); 3 Samuel Rhodes (va) ROMÉO 7293/4 (2 CDs: 141:46)

MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition. Read more class="COMPOSER12">RACHMANINOFF Nocturne . Melodie in e . Humoreske No. 5 in G. 1 Cello Sonata. MENDELSSOHN 2 Trio No. 1 in d. FAURÉ 3 Piano Quartet in c

The CD era has, much more than the LP era, fostered the production of comprehensive surveys devoted to the artistry of a host of important musicians, as well as to the unearthing of hitherto unknown live performances, making them available to the music-loving public. The present two-disc recital combines recordings drawn from two of Nadia Reisenberg’s commercial Westminster recordings with several live chamber performances with members of the Juilliard Quartet to produce a rewarding overview of her artistry. The live recordings were made in 1980, rather late in her life, which spanned the years 1904–1983. They were drawn from the holdings of the International Piano Archives at Maryland, the repository of Reisenberg’s papers and recordings, and suggested for inclusion by the indefatigable curator or the archive, Donald Manildi. The items herein, both studio and live, are receiving their first CD release.

Even though Reisenberg had a substantial career as a soloist on the concert stage (she has been, for instance, the only pianist to perform all of the piano concertos of Mozart in a weekly coast-to-coast radio series), she had a special place in her heart for the performance of chamber music, considering it the means of bringing the performer “closest to the pure sense of music-making.” Consequently, she appeared many times in the 1950s and 1960s with the Budapest String Quartet, and often also with cellist Joseph Schuster and violinist William Kroll, and of course with her theremin-playing sister, Clara Rockmore.

From the opening notes of the Mendelssohn D-Minor Piano Trio, the listener recognizes that he is hearing the collaboration of three consummate masters of their instruments. Not only is every note in exactly the right place, with beautiful weighting and balance, but Reisenberg and her colleagues interweave the singing lines that Mendelssohn has masterfully combined to produce an exquisite musical tapestry. Earl Carlyss, who was normally heard as second violinist in the Juilliard Quartet, proves that he was more than capable of leading an ensemble. This performance belies its being a live performance. I’ve never heard a commercial recording of this Trio that has surpassed the result that I hear here, and few that match it in passion and flawless execution. The audience was electrified by the rendition of the Scherzo: its quite palpable (applause-less) reaction was left in between the third and fourth movements, although I do wish the coughs between several of the tracks had been excised.

All of the passion and precision heard in the Mendelssohn is likewise evident in the performances of the Rachmaninoff G-Minor Cello Sonata and the Fauré C-Minor Piano Quartet. In the former, I especially like how Reisenberg pushes the tempo ahead shortly into the exposition of the first movement, and then relaxes it for the second theme. Krosnick was a superb cellist, and I’m delighted to hear him in a solo capacity in this gorgeous and lush Sonata. In the Fauré, Juilliard’s first violinist, Robert Mann, assumes the violin part, and the violist of the Quartet, Samuel Rhodes, also joins the ensemble. Like that of the preceding two works, the blend and the balance of this piece is simply not to be bettered all the way to its dramatic conclusion. Issues of this sort are usually not meant to fill in repertory gaps in a collector’s collection, but should you happen to be lacking any or all of these works, you may safely buy this set to gain superior performances of these three masterpieces, assuming that you don’t mind a few seconds of audience noise between movements (the audience is mostly very quiet when the music is being played).

When it comes to recordings of Pictures at an Exhibition, I divide them into two groups: Before Richter and After Richter. The performance of Sviatoslav Richter, recorded during a recital in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1958, marked a watershed in recordings of the work. Needless to say, the BR recordings, of which Reisenberg’s 1954 recording is one, are vastly outnumbered by the AR recordings (in a ratio of something like 320 to 20). I find these early recordings especially fascinating, because I consider them to have been made before the establishment of any real performance practice for the work. The result is that the early recordings by Brailowsky, Moisseiwitsch, Reisenberg, Kapell, Horowitz, and Janis are all quite different from each other. I rather doubt that most of these artists had even heard other recordings of the work before they made their own, which means that they would have been approaching the piece as a tabula rasa.

The lack of established performance practice by the time of this recording shows up in a number of places in Reisenberg’s reading of Pictures , beginning with the opening Promenade, where there is no staccato played in measure 10 and other places where most pianists nowadays attempt to shape the melodic line through such means. Reisenberg’s staccato in the left hand lines in “Il vecchio Castello” also is quite downplayed, unlike that of most current pianists. More evidence of her having to feel her own way comes in the concluding 32nd-note run in ”Limoges,” in which Reisenberg brings out the left hand much more than the right. Almost all current pianists weight the two hands equally in this passage. It makes for an interesting, if unexpected, effect. She is clearly working from an old (i.e., slightly bowdlerized) edition of the piece, in which Rimsky-Korsakov most notoriously changes the A? in the left hand of measure 98 of “Il vecchio” to a B, effectively destroying Mussorgsky’s beautiful chromatically descending line.

In “Baba-Yaga” there is a curious relaxing of the tempo in measure 43 that continues until measure 58. Most contemporary pianists would be rather aghast at the breaking of the momentum of this exciting section, but Reisenberg somehow makes it work, although many portions of her reading of this work would be considered “mainstream” even today. This is not true of her omission of the fifth Promenade, which (fortunately) most pianists rightly consider de rigueur. The only semi-serious drawback in this recording is Westminster’s tubby recorded piano sound, most pronounced in the deep bass chords of “Byd?o.” The disc is filled out with three exquisite miniatures from Rachmaninoff’s op. 10, to which Reisenberg brings a most sensitive touch and inquisitive probing.

There are no notes about the works in this set, but such would almost be superfluous for these well-known pieces. Instead, we are treated to an informal and informative essay by Reisenberg’s son, Robert Sherman. Sonics throughout the live pieces are very aurally and musically satisfying, the tape-to-disc transfers and restoration having been expertly accomplished by engineer Seth Winner, who has also done what he could to the less-than-stellar original Westminster recordings. This set, in fact, is all around a “winner.” No pianophile or lover of chamber music will want an empty spot on his shelf that could be filled by this most rewarding set.

FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in D minor, Op. 49 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Earl Carlyss (Violin), Nadia Reisenberg (Piano), Joel Krosnick (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/29/1980 
Venue:  Live  The Juilliard Theater 
Length: 30 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Quartet for Piano and Strings no 1 in C minor, Op. 15 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Robert Mann (Violin), Nadia Reisenberg (Piano), Joel Krosnick (Cello),
Samuel Rhodes (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876-1879; France 
Date of Recording: 04/29/1980 
Venue:  Live  The Juilliard Theater 
Length: 30 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Pictures at an Exhibition for Piano by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Length: 30 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Sonata for cello & piano in G minor, Op. 19 by Sergey Rachmaninov
Performer:  Nadia Reisenberg (Piano), Joel Krosnick (Cello)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1901 
Date of Recording: 04/29/1980 
Venue:  Live  The Juilliard Theater 
Length: 33 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Piano Pieces, Op. 10: No. 1. Nocturne in A minor by Sergey Rachmaninov
Performer:  Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Piano Pieces, Op. 10: No. 4. Mélodie in E minor by Sergey Rachmaninov
Performer:  Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Length: 4 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Piano Pieces, Op. 10: No. 5. Humoreske in G by Sergey Rachmaninov
Performer:  Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1954 
Length: 3 Minutes 40 Secs. 

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