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Moura Lympany plays Rachmaninov & Khachaturian
Aram Khachaturian, Sergey Rachmaninov, Anatole Fistoulari
Moura Lympany plays Rachmaninov & Khachaturian
Genre: Classical
 

      
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CD Reviews

The Marvelous Moura Lympany
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 04/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Those familiar with my entries on Amazon know that I have reviewed many of the titles in Universal's "Original Masters" series. These box sets are generally comprised of between five and nine CDs, but the most recent batch of offerings from Decca includes a couple of two-disc sets, one of which is "Moura Lympany Decca Recordings 1951-1952: Rachmaninov & Khachaturian." Aside from a collection of "Piano Favorites" on EMI Seraphim, I had no prior experience with Dame Lympany. Despite this, I knew her to be one of the great pianists of the 20th Century, with a recording career that spanned more than fifty years (in fact, she died only a few weeks ago on March 28th). She was highly regarded in the Russian repertoire and it is fully evident here with her Rachmaninov performances. The 24 Preludes have poignancy and power as needed, and while I don't have numerous accounts of solo music like I do concerto recordings, they are better than either the Ashkenazy or Weissenberg in my opinion. However, the real gem is the Rachmaninov Concerto No. 3 with Anthony Collins leading the New Symphony Orchestra of London. This is one of the best sounding mono concerto recordings I have ever heard! The piano sounds full and bright, the orchestra is clear and crisp, and there is hardly any tape hiss. It is absolutely brilliant, and easily measures up to or exceeds legendary accounts by Cliburn, Horowitz, Argerich, Ashkenazy and Janis. The Khachaturian Piano Concerto on the other hand is a bit of a let down. Recorded six months after the Rach 3 in November of 1951, it actually sounds like it was made six years earlier during the pre-LP era instead. This time the mono sound is disappointingly muddy, and it detracts from an otherwise excellent performance. With that being said, overall this is another delightful "Original Masters" title and I hope we can expect more smaller releases from UNI in this series in addition to the bigger box sets."
Sparkling
David Saemann | 06/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Moura Lympany was a very versatile artist. I have two Mozart Concertos with her from the 1950's, EMI recordings rereleased by Dutton. They are splendid and memorable. The recordings on this CD set are from slightly earlier in her career. The Rachmaninoff Preludes are a classic reading. They are beautifully recorded too, in 1951 monaural sound, with only some tape deterioration on one of the Preludes detracting from the total effect. Lympany's tone here is very large, but also full of nuance and lyricism. I have CDs of the Preludes by Ruth Laredo, Alexis Weissenberg, and Dimitri Alexeev, all of them very fine, but Lympany's is the best. Her performance of the 3rd Piano Concerto is a bit lower key, but is still very fine. There are cuts, unfortunately, and she uses the shorter of the two cadenzas for the 1st movement. Nevertheless, this is an excellent rendition, with one of the best accompaniments I've heard in this piece by Anthony Collins, best known for his pioneering Sibelius Symphony cycle. The sound engineering is superb. The Khachaturian is a great performance of a work Lympany gave the U.K. premiere of in 1940. She has all the virtuoso elements well in hand, but also plays the work with a mellifluousness one is not accustomed to hearing. The sound engineering here is somewhat murky, but is full bodied and generally clear. There is some fizziness on the master, probably from age--but it is not really distracting. This set is clearly one of the best rereleases from Decca's back catalog, and should be a top recommendation for the Preludes."
Some very fine things in Lympany-Fistoulari's reading of Kha
Discophage | France | 08/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Although I bought this set a few years ago mainly for the Rach preludes - Dame Moura's second of three recordings - I pulled it out of my shelves for sake of a comparative listening of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, and thus will limit my comments to that composition.

If my records are right Moura Lympany made the first recording of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto - at least the first recording in the West, but I haven't found trace of an earlier Soviet recording. It was in May 1945, still in the 78rpm era, already with the LPO led by Anatole Fistoulari, and it has been reissued by Dutton (Moura Lympany plays Khachaturian, Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Etc.). It was recorded a little less than a year before the famous version by William Kapell and Serge Koussevitzky (William Kapell Edition Vol 4: Prokofiev: Piano concerto no. 3 / Khachaturian: Piano concerto / Shostakovich: Preludes for piano or Prokofiev/Khachaturian).

I haven't heard it, but I doubt that Lympany and Fistoulari substantially changed their view in the ensuing seven years. Their LP remake is what we get here: it was recorded in October and November 1952 and received the accolades back when it was first published. Indeed, it establishes a good, middle-of-the road view of the Concerto, one whose main shortcomings, other than the aged sonics, is that it doesn't always fully convey the piece's high-octane energy, that it doesn't respect the composer's intended tempo relationships within each movement, and that Limpany excercices an unfortunate cut in the finale's cadenza.

I cannot blame on Lympany and Fistoulari a failure to observe what the composer wrote at the top of his score: "allegro maestoso", and a tempo of 108-120 quarter-notes per minute. Unlike Kapell and Koussevitzky, who set off significantly slower than that (circa 100-104), giving excessive precedence to the maestoso over the allegro, they adopt a pace that is at the higher end of the composer's indication: 120. Khachaturian, in his own recording with the dedicatee and premier performer, Lev Oborin (lamentably not reissued on CD as far as I know, but available on U-tube), is at the lower end. But one only needs to hear the obscure Czech team of Antonin Jemelik and Alois Klima from 1960 (Khachaturian: Piano Concerto ; Borkovec :Piano Concerto No 2) to realize what is gained by ditching the maestoso altogether, and dashing into the movement at breakneck speed: gone is the bombast, enters hair-raising intensity. In comparison, all the others sound trudging, even when, as Limpany and Fistoulari, they articulate with fine snap. But in the faster sections of that same movement (starting with the allegro section at 5:30), Limpany-Fistoulari produce plenty of energy (though not quite as much as with Kapell). Limpany's second cadenza (11:14) has dash and nervousness rather than massiveness and grandeur.

She and Fistoulari show the same close observance of the composer's metronome mark in the finale: he indicates a range of 120-126 quarter-notes, and that is exactly where they are. It may not be as electrifying as Kapell's or Jemelik's headlong dash at 138, but it is pretty exciting nonetheless, and at least it gives them room to accelerate when comes the più mosso at 1:34. And their coda after the cadenza at 4:40 is pretty electrifying indeed. Unfortunately Lympany exercises a huge, 25-bar cut in the cadenza, at 4:04 (that's 1:10 minute of music in Kapell's recording, almost half the cadenza).

On the other hand, like everybody else except the composer, Lympany-Fistoulari's observance of the composer's metronome marks doesn't extend to the second movement, which they take not as the indicated "andante con anima" and at 69-72 quarter-notes, but as a dreamy adagio unfolding at circa 60. I don't mind: it is quite effective that way, although the composer proves that his tempo is just as much. But the flexatone is spotlighted a little more than reasonable: I was struck by the instrument's pitch imprecision (it is supposed to follow the violin's melodic line) like in no other recording (where it is more discreet and embedded in the orchestral fabric, a color more than a melody). Lympany also doesn't animate much the faster, middle section at 4:27.

Another area where Limpany-Fistoulari, along with just about everybody else except the composer, do not do what Khachaturian prescribes, is in the (non-)observance his tempo relationships in the first movement. At 2:26, they take the second, folksy theme significantly slower than their opening tempo, at circa 96-100, instead of the prescribed "tempo I". Not that I mind: it lends the melody an appropriate "Arabian Nights" sensuousness. But when the same theme returns later in the movement, at 9:23, again supposedly at "tempo I", they are now at 116 - closer in fact to their opening 120. Nobody without a score will be shocked: these choices are not unsound musically. But Khachaturian the interpreter shows that his way is even more effective. Yet, one very nice touch of Limpany-Fistoulari's reading is that they DO observe those tempo relationships in the second movement: I love the way they maintain their slow opening tempo after the faster section, at 5:56, when returns a derivation of the first movement's folksy theme. The composer instructs to do so, but his tempo is supposed to be faster, and everybody else indeed takes it faster than THEIR slow opening tempo. Here, it sounds strikingly like the music of Walt Disney's Jungle Book. The ensuing acceleration leading to the big climax at 7:20 is hair-raising.

Fistoulari draws from his orchestra wonderfully snappy, staccato articulation in the outer movements. His bass clarinet visibly doesn't have the necessary range to play the lower notes at 10:58 in the first movement: they are picked up by the bassoon (same thing happens at the end of the second movement). It is also the case in the composer's recording, but somehow it surprises me more of a London player.

In sum, there are some very fine things in this reading, and a few flaws - including the disappointing transfer: sonics lack clarity, even given the vintage, and the orchestra sounds annoyingly distant. I've heard much better transfers of recordings from the early 1950s.

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