This magnificent set is a tribute to one of the greatest pianists who ever walked the earth and this compliment came from such luminaries as the legendary Dinu Lipatti and Arthur Schnabel. It is also entirely appropriate that the set was released in the anniversary year of that other titanic genius, Wolfgang Mozart who is well represented with solo pieces and a number of alternative versions of selected Piano Concertos.
The first disc is dedicated to a number of Scarlatti sonatas recorded in Hilversum in the early 1950's showing Haskil's deft style and beautiful sense of delicate balance. The Schumann solo pieces such as Bunte Blatter, the legendary recording of the 'Abegg' Variations and the Scenes from Childhood are no less magisterial in their eloquence. I believe that they are the best ever recorded.
We are served up with two versions each of Beethoven's No 17 and No 18 sonatas the earlier recorded in 1955 and the latter in France in the year of Haskil;s death in 1960. The later performances are imbued with that tragic sense of purpose that is absent from the more jovial 1955 performances but both are essential listening. A magnificent reading of Schubert's D 960 is also wonderful in every respect.
Then we have the Mozart Piano Concertos, #20, 23, 9 and 24 with the first one in two versions conducted by Paul Sacher and Igor Markevitch, both fine interpreters although the later Markevitch version is slightly more triumphant and noble. Schumann's Piano Concerto and Beethoven's Third are also essential interpretations although Otterloo is not always the ideal accompanist. The final disc contains mercurial interpretations of Falla's 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain' and Chopin's 2nd Piano Concerto.
However it is for Mozart that Haskil remains touched with legend and for these recordings alone, the set would be worth the price. Anyone who does not have these recordings would be wise to invest in this set which is one of the great collections dedicated to the sublime art of piano playing that was imbued in Clara Haskil.
Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech