Wednesday, 20 December 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, December 2017)

Deutsche Grammophon 479 8065 (20 CDs) 

This handsome twenty-disc box-set celebrates the 90th birthday of Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda (born 6 October 1927), who is best known for his interpretations of the Viennese classics – the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. 

These are gloriously represented by his recordings on the now-defunct British Westminster label from 1951 to 1965. All the five Beethoven piano concertos are accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Hermann Scherchen. These and six Mozart piano concertos (Nos.19, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 27), also partnered by Viennese orchestras, sound fresh and energetic, and occasionally include his own idiomatic cadenzas.

As a sensitive chamber music, he partnered fellow Viennese Jörg Demus in 4-hands piano music by Mozart and Schubert; and violinist Jean Fournier and cellist Antonio Janigro in selected piano trios by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. With members of the Barylli Quartet, an ebullient reading of Schubert’s Trout Quintet was the result.

Less well known are his performances of 20th century and Romantic repertoire, the latter including some unexpected choices – piano concertos by Chopin, Franck, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Scriabin. The young Badura-Skoda displayed a fire and passion one might not have been aware of. 

Just as satisfying are the discs of solo piano music (Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms and some anachronistic Bach), capped by an hour of encores which has him attempting Liszt and Ravel. The majority of the recordings are in monaural sound, but revelatory listening beckons.     

No comments: