Notes and Editorial Reviews
Invaluably expands our appreciation of Lamond’s art.
The lineage of the Great Beethovenian Pianist has something of the mythic about it. It is both superlative and necessarily elective, something Schnabel alluded to in ‘My life and music’, where he refers to the displacement of d’Albert by Frederic Lamond and then the Scotsman, by implication, by himself. Each King flourishes for a time and is then ruthlessly supplanted.
Though Rachmaninoff is often cited as the great loss to the Beethoven sonata discography (he was either not formally asked, or declined) it’s interesting to consider how different things might have been had Lamond been asked to record the sonata cycle for HMV rather than
Schnabel. He was certainly considered for the responsibility, though in retrospect it’s easy to see how Schnabel, who conquered London with the cycle in 1930, should have proved so attractive a prospect. There was something about Lamond’s ruggedness and wildness that spoke of the late nineteenth-century; Schnabel by contrast was the contemporary who had long been awaited. He married the intellectual with the pianistic, whereas there was - again in contradistinction - a sense that Lamond was intuitive and subject to an overly rough-hewn Beethovenian vision. Yet Lamond’s credentials were outstanding. Born in 1868, he was successively a pupil of Max Schwarz, von Bülow and for the final two years of his life, Liszt. He was, indeed, one of Liszt’s last surviving pupils. His Berlin debut came in 1885, and though his career was to be truncated by the Second World War, when he returned from Germany (where he had spent his adult professional life) to the country of his birth, he was performing until fairly shortly before his death in 1948. In truth, Lamond had seemed outclassed by the younger technicians with their more streamlined aesthetic long before. He was effectively dropped by HMV and few recordings were made after 1930. Yet the mere fact of his displacement, and the fact that his recordings were for so long absent - hardly anything was reissued for 70 years or so - shouldn’t persuade one that Lamond was merely a representative of retrogressive emotionalism. On the contrary he was a remarkable musician whose insights will richly reward the perceptive listener who wishes to take a long-term perspective on the history of Beethoven (here, mainly) and Liszt performance on disc.
The vast majority of his recordings were made for HMV in London, a sequence that began in 1919 and ended in 1930; three discs were issued by Electrola in the mid-1930s and then just one 1941 Decca. His discography, not unsurprisingly, is dominated by Beethoven and Liszt. There was very little evidence of Lamond on CD until Biddulph released two outstanding single discs in the late 1990s, which contained the
Emperor Concerto, recorded acoustically in 1922, and the sequence of electrically recorded sonatas, some of which replaced his acoustic recordings (Biddulph LHW042 and LHW043). APR also released an invaluable all-Liszt CD [APR5504]. Much earlier, back in 1991, Pearl issued a miscellaneous Lamond disc which did well to include music by Glinka, Brahms and Rubinstein in addition to a lot of Liszt.
What were largely missing were the acoustic sonata sides, and this is what Marston has now restored. The
Moonlight sonata reveals Lamond’s somewhat objectified approach to slow movements - he’s never the most overtly expressive of pianists - but also an impetuous-sounding slant to the finale. He’s more paragraphal, and less frenzied, in the 1926 remake. His 1923
Appassionata is imbued with a tremendous sense of drama and vivid wildness - again rather more so than in the case of the 1927 electric recording - and graced by a ringing treble and perfectly audible left-hand pointing of harmonies; de-synchronous often in chording, but never subordinated. The E-flat sonata, Op.31 No.3 is represented only by the
Menuetto, recorded over a year apart, and thus a composite; in the latter he makes no attempt to be ingratiating, or
grazioso, as marked - instead there’s a rough-hewn, choppy sense of rhythm which is truly doughty Beethovenian projection. He’s slightly freer and more communicative - and faster - in this acoustic 1922
Waldstein sonata than in the later recording. Interpretatively it conforms to a small yet distinctive pattern over a very short period of time, as he drew toward his 60
th year, and beyond. The acoustics preserve the more trenchant and monumental part of his sonata discography.
When Lamond returned to England his agents, Ibbs & Tillett, promoted him in a number of recitals across the country. His solo recitals included an all-Chopin sequence, which may well surprise those who think he didn’t play the composer’s music. On the contrary - he did, and he recorded a little too. It’s a pity that a Fauré recording for HMV was never issued. That, most certainly, is not repertoire one would ever associate with the rugged Lamond. Early in the War, perhaps to ensure a full house, Lamond was teamed with Britain’s leading violinist, Albert Sammons, for two recitals, in Wolverhampton and Liverpool. They played the
Kreutzer and the Strauss Violin Sonata. Both men were on the books of Ibbs & Tillett, and both - significantly - had recently contracted to record for Decca. My fanciful imagination wishes that someone at the company had had the foresight to team the two to record the Strauss. Sammons’ long-time sonata partner, William Murdoch, was then mortally ill with Bright’s disease. Though Murdoch and Lamond could not have been more different as musicians - they recorded the
Pathétique weeks apart in 1926 and the results are wildly divergent aesthetically - a studio meeting of Lamond and Sammons playing Strauss, whom Lamond had known well for decades, might have been something to hear. A few years later and Lamond‘s technique was to become frail. But as it is, very little survives from Lamond’s days in the Decca studios; he recorded the
Waldstein and four Liszt pieces, and two Chopin Mazurkas. Of this haul, only two Liszt pieces were released. Very valuably the Chopin Mazurkas survive in the form of a test pressing and this is what Marston has released; some of the only extant examples of Lamond’s Chopin - he did record a single Nocturne - however much of a sliver it is.
Marston adds something else that can be considered invaluable. The two live concerto recordings are of very considerable interest, adding to that solitary studio
Emperor Concerto with Eugene Goossens. The Beethoven C minor (October 1939), with van Beinum conducting the Concertgebouw, shows some digital frailties but more importantly, despite a slightly ‘spread’ piano sound and some ticks and scratches, Lamond’s fascinating rubati, which are so prominent a feature of his musical armoury. The slow movement has integrity; the finale is rugged with some propulsive entries. The Liszt Concerto is in scuffier sound but powerfully conceived. At a stroke the release of these two concert performances increases to three the number of Lamond’s concertos preserved. I’m not aware from any discography that anything else survives. Lamond’s 1945 BBC talks, first released on LP (RRE161), retain their interest through their recall of the young Lamond’s meetings with Liszt, and of the older man’s continuing legacy. It’s a delight to listen to his scripted but evocative descriptive prose. Alas, the Liszt pieces he recorded at around the same time show a distinct technical decline - but then we are fortunate they were preserved at all.
The two CDs come with a detailed note from Jonathan Summers and there are some excellently reproduced photographs. This is a historically important set, impeccably presented, that stands beside the earlier discs already noted, and invaluably adds those two live concerto recordings to expand our appreciation of Lamond’s art still further.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Frederic Lamond (Piano)
Eduard van Beinum
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 10/29/1939
Concerto for Piano no 2 in A major, S 125 by Franz Liszt
Frederic Lamond (Piano)
Eduard van Beinum
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Written: 1839/1861; Weimar, Germany
Date of Recording: 2/7/1937
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