Notes and Editorial Reviews
CASALS FESTIVALS AT PRADES
, Volume 2
Various soloists and ensembles
MUSIC & ARTS 1187, mono (12 CDs: 815:23)
BACH, BEETHOVEN, BRAHMS, CASALS, MENDELSSOHN, MOZART, SCHUBERT, SCHUMANN
What follows is an overview of a remarkable set having unquestionable historical and musical worth. Not only does it encompass first-rate performances, drawn from the years 1953–59, but it also deepens the profile of many of the artists involved.
In some respects the third CD of this release is particularly valuable. Devoted exclusively to Rudolf Serkin, it commands interest on two counts. On the one hand it enriches his discography with a superb performance of Schumann’s
. On the other, it complements the pianist’s studio efforts with readings of Beethoven’s sonatas, ops. 109 and 110. The disc is completed with Bach’s
, in a more ruminative performance than one Serkin recorded at Prades for Columbia. Similarly, this 1953 Casals-conducted concert account of Mozart’s
K 364, if similar in its broad pacing to his studio effort of a year earlier (with Stern and Primrose) gains from the superb brother/sister collaboration of Joseph and Lillian Fuchs. Especially welcome is the broad representation given to Mieczyslaw Horszowski, a superb pianist who never gained the representation in the studio that his artistry deserved. Here he is featured on one disc in Beethoven’s first two piano concertos, with Casals conducting, and on another CD devoted to solo works by three composers: Bach (three excerpts from Book II of the
, Mozart (aptly intense accounts of the C-Minor Fantasy, K 475, and Sonata, K 457), and a superbly sculpted Beethoven, op 111. The two Beethoven piano concertos feature some unusual tempos—the first movement of No.1 rather fleet, that of No. 2 uncommonly broad, yet both are interesting in their unorthodox but nonetheless musical projection. And if you think Wilhelm Kempff was too reserved a pianist, try his collaboration here with Christian Ferras in Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, a tightly controlled yet animated and vital account.
Other items include Bach’s partitas and sonatas for solo violin, with Yehudi Menuhin proving more convincing in this repertoire than he did in the studio, Casals in Bach’s C-Major and C-Minor unaccompanied suites, and conducting the Third and Fourth
and the Fourth Symphony of Beethoven. There are also excerpts from Bach Cantatas and a complete Cantata BWV 202 featuring Maria Stader. Chamber performances include Mendelssohn’s C-Minor Trio with Casals, Kempff, and Ferras, the Mozart G-Minor Quintet with the Vègh Quartet, and Schubert
featuring Victoria de Los Angeles accompanied by Horszowski.
If I have failed to cite every item in this set or comment more fully on some of those I have mentioned, it is only because to do so would require far too much space for a set that—important as it surely is—may not generate the broad appeal that other releases command. But for those fascinated by the history of performance practices or having an interest in the artists involved, this release will prove touching and revealing. It is certainly a tribute to a group of superb musicians who collaborated with Casals in a series of summer festivals of major significance. Hats off to Music & Arts for perpetuating them. Harris Goldsmith’s exceptionally informative annotations are a welcome bonus. Throughout, the mono sound, if variable, is light years ahead of what the Columbia engineers produced at Prades in 1950. And as a practical matter, it should be noted that the 12 discs in this set (12 for the price of 8) come neatly packaged in individual sleeves housed in an inch-wide sturdy box.
FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank