Notes and Editorial Reviews
A previous double album from Bridge showcased Artur Balsam's exceptional Mozartean prowess in the two C major concertos K. 246 and K. 415. The present set offers four previously unpublished Mozart concerto performances, transmitted live on the BBC in June, 1956. While the sound quality does not match the era's finest studio recordings, it nevertheless does justice to Balsam's cultured and marvelously nuanced pianism. Each and every phrase is clear, vocally informed, and full of life. His tempos avoid extremes and are steadily but not rigidly held. Subtle accents and dynamic inflections address Mozart's harmonic sleights-of-hand and dramatic mood shifts, as well as Balsam's occasional left-hand anticipations (the kind Paderewski made notorious) to point up the climax of a phrase. The latter effect always sounds purposeful rather than mannered in Balsam's hands.
For all of conductor Harry Newstone's sympathetic and heartfelt podium support, the Haydn Orchestra is an erratic ensemble. For example, you'll hear beautiful, tastefully pulsating string tone in the slow movements alongside some lackluster woodwind ensemble playing.
Two solo works fill out the discs. The C major K. 330 sonata stems from a Concert Hall LP release circa 1954 (no date is given). Its outer movements have a sense of sparkle and forward impetus that Balsam didn't quite recapture when he remade it for L'Oiseau-Lyre in the early 1960s as part of a complete Mozart sonata cycle (never reissued, by the way). The latter also included short works such as the A minor Rondo in a particularly eloquent interpretation. A live 1980 concert performance (issued here for the first time) is more massive, spacious, intensified in melodic projection, and dramatic without being melodramatic. Bravo to Bridge's production team, who've obviously put serious time, effort, and care into bringing out this material in the right way.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com