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CD Review

Wolfgang Mozart

  • Concerto for Piano #20 in D minor, K. 466 (1785)
  • Symphony #40 "Great" in G minor, K. 550 (1788)
Yvonne Lefébure, piano
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Fonit Cetra 3009 (Qualiton) 53min

An atmosphere of harshness and severity pervades Furtwängler's reading of this Symphony. He obviously has little patience for its more expressive and lyrical moments. Everything is taut and tense – like a watch that's been wound too tightly. The strings dominate the proceedings at the expense of the other orchestral voices. Whether this is the fault of the conductor or the recording engineer, I could not say. If you seek a wider range of emotion and expression in the G minor Symphony, look to Walter or Beecham.

Lefébure is certainly a competent soloist, though she doesn't bring very much personality or insight to this Concerto. Clara Haskil (in a 1959 Lucerne Festival concert recording on the "Notes" label) takes a far more romantic view of the music, and in contrast to Ms. Lefébure her playing is remarkable for its beautiful legato, rich tone, and intensity of expression. Furtwängler's orchestra is superior to Klemperer's Lucerne Festival pick-up ensemble, but that hardly compensates for Lefébure's relentless staccato and lack of imagination. The recording was made in concert, and the usual quantity of audience unrest and respiratory distress is clearly audible.

Cetra provides no notes about the artists or the music, just (fortunately brief) hype for their "Sound Rebirth" trademark, which "guarantees the achievement of the best possible results using advanced technology…" Right. The raw sounding strings in the symphony quickly become tiresome, but at least tape hiss has been eliminated. On the other hand, the more transparent recording of the Concerto may have benefitted from the "Rebirth" process. Nonetheless, some information about the little-known pianist would have been welcome in place of Cetra's shameless self-promotion. I can't imagine who, other than a Furtwängler completist, would buy this disc.

Copyright © 1996, Thomas Godell

Trumpet