Notes and Editorial Reviews
NADIA REISENBERG CARNEGIE HALL RECITAL 1947
Nadia Reisenberg (pn)
BRIDGE 9304, mono (2 CDs: 94:41) Live: New York 11/21/1947
Suite No. 9 in g.
Sonata No. 8 in a.
Piano Sonata No. 3. Nocturne in c#.
Étude in F#.
Étude in d.
In the Village.
This recital does not seem to have caused much of a stir when it took place in 1947. Certainly, it didn’t impress Howard Taubman who, pontificating in the
New York Times
, found the evening wanting in “vitality.” Reisenberg had spent too much time playing concertos and chamber music, he said; having gained a presumably well-earned reputation as “a dependable and self-effacing musician,” her solo performances consequently “lacked a personal sense of style.” Sixty-odd years later, it’s hard to understand his apathy—or even, for that matter, his meaning. Did he mean to emphasize a lack of personality, suggesting that in contrast to pianists like Horowitz, she didn’t stamp everything with her own brand? Or did he mean to emphasize a lack of sensitivity, an inability to tap into the stylistic demands of the solo music before her?
In any case, this is a sensational recital—one that’s a lot more personal
a lot more responsive than Taubman suggested. Certainly, the disarming shots of sweetness in the second movement of the Handel, like the vertiginous impishness in her mercurial dart through the Weber (arguably worth the cost of the entire set), show a pianist who is more daring than “dependable,” more assertive than “self-effacing”: this is a recital full of surprises. More important, the ability to change her tone of voice from piece to piece throws you off balance in a way that hardly reflects the lack of vitality that Taubman decried. It’s hard to believe that the pianist who so lovingly caresses the languorously curving phrases of Scriabin’s op. 42/2 is the same one whose sharp accentuation and brilliant articulation so strikingly bring out the rhythmic crosscurrents of the first of Barber’s excursions. It’s similarly hard to believe that the pianist who smashes through the Prokofiev with such youthful abandon is the same one whose musing in the slow movement of the Chopin Sonata shows such delicacy of dynamic shading. Or, that the pianist who plays the middle movement of the Mozart with such tough-minded integrity is the same one who gives such unexpected bounce to the last movement of the Handel. When this set was first released a few years ago, Boyd Pomeroy, in a detailed review (
33: 5), waxed enthusiastic over her “prodigious versatility in the widest-ranging repertoire”—and I think that phrase sums it up well.
Does everything work equally well? Not quite. The swirls on Scriabin’s op. 43/5 may hold no terrors for her, but the balances are a bit cluttered; the Stravinsky, a hard piece to bring off, never quite takes flight. But the overall level is exceptionally high, and the technique—whether in the repeated notes of the Khachaturian, or clarity of gesture in the second movement of the Chopin—is stunning throughout. Seth B. Winner’s expert mastering provides far more natural sound that you might expect; and the recollections by Gary Graffman do an excellent job of conveying Reisenberg’s spirit. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
Bridge's reissue of Nadia Reisenberg's Westminster Chopin recordings included a bonus selection, the B minor sonata from the pianist's live November 21, 1947 Carnegie Hall concert. I claimed it to be one of the most ardent and committed performances of this warhorse I knew. Bridge now brings us the complete recital, and evidently Reisenberg was hot to trot from the start.
Her secure fingers and innate musical sense breathe life and character into each of the Handel Suite's movements, and if Mozart's A minor sonata's first movement goes too fast for comfort (the audience's, not Reisenberg's!), the slow movement more than compensates for its liquid, boldly projected phrasing, flexible yet perfectly proportioned tempo fluctuations, and trills that define definition. She tosses off Weber's fluffy and pianistically effective Rondo Brilliante with pointed insouciance and just enough roughing up to catch the listener off guard.
The concert's first half concluded with the aforementioned Chopin, and I'll simply reiterate (that is, recycle) my earlier comments here for your convenience (and mine!). "The ease and inevitability with which Reisenberg shapes transitions helps her sectionalized treatment of the first movement cohere. The Scherzo's outer sections fly like the wind with just about every note in place, buttressed by stinging left-hand accents. Tremendous finger power and poise offset Reisenberg's slightly disconcerting speed-ups and slow downs in the Finale. However, the pianist reaches her expressive peak in a fluid, three-dimensional, gorgeously sung-out Largo."
The second half's opener, Barber's Excursions, gets a spunky, mostly idiomatic treatment, save for the overphrased Blues movement. A few miscalculations (rushed phrases, congested textures, and premature builds) don't take anything away from Reisenberg's obvious sympathy for Scriabin's molten sound world in a set of six etudes. The Stravinsky and Prokofiev etudes and the Khachaturian Toccata are appropriately motoric and steel-fingered, while the limpid, multi-leveled Chopin Nocturne and Tchaikovsky encore ravishingly showcase Reisenberg's sensitive and achingly poetic side.
Although the quality of the original source material varies in terms of surface scratch, Seth Winner's fine transfers wring plenty of musical information and tonal realism. However, a few instances of unstable pitch could have been solved, such as the Weber selection's ever-so-slight drop in pitch as it progresses. Gary Graffman's wonderful booklet notes paint a smile-inducing lifelike portrait of Reisenberg the friend and colleague.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Suite for Harpsichord in G minor, HWV 439 by George Frideric Handel
Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Written: by 1733; London, England
Date of Recording: 1947
Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York
Etudes (12) for Piano, Op. 8: Excerpt(s) by Alexander Scriabin
Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1894; Russia
Notes: Six of the twelve Etudes are performed on this recital.
Toccata for Piano by Aram Khachaturian
Nadia Reisenberg (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1932; USSR
Suite No. 9 In G Minor: I. Allemande Suite
Suite No. 9 In G Minor: II. Courante
Suite No. 9 In G Minor: III. Gigue
Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310: I. Allegro Maestoso
Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310: II. Andante Cantabile
Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310: III. Presto
Rondo Brilliante in E-Flat, Op. 62
Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: I. Allegro Maestoso
Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: II. Molto Vivace
Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: III. Largo
Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: IV. Presto Non Tanto
Four Excursions, Op. 20: I. un Poco Allegro
Four Excursions, Op. 20: II. In Slow Blues Tempo
Four Excursions, Op. 20: III. Allegretto
Four Excursions, Op. 20: IV. Allegro Molto
Six Études, Op. 20: I. Étude In F-sharp Major, Op. 42, No. 4
Six Études, Op. 20: II. Étude In C-sharp Minor, Op. 42, No. 5
Six Études, Op. 20: III. Étude In F Minor, Op. 42, No. 7
Six Études, Op. 20: IV. Étude In D-flat Major, Op. 42, No. 10
Six Études, Op. 20: V. Étude In B-flat Minor, Op. 42, No. 11
Six Études, Op. 20: VI. Étude In D-sharp Minor, Op. 42, No. 12
Étude in F-Sharp Major, Op. 7, No. 4
Étude in D Minor, Op. 2, No. 1
Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor, Op. Post.
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