WORKS: Das wohltemperirte Clavier (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Wilhelm Backhaus (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: C 530 001 B ADD mono
Backhaus was recorded at the 1966 Salzburg Festival when he was 82. His performances of both Beethoven sonatas must have been overwhelming live, and are still mightily impressive here: grand and weighty, immensely generous. The occasional over-emphasis or smudge is soon forgotten because he never loses his sense of purpose. His Bach and Mozart have worn less well – the lavish pedalling and heavy legato, weighted with the whole arm, evoke a distant world today. His phrasing is almost operatic and his articulation much looser than the crisp finger-work of contemporary pianists.
The Russian-born Nikita Magaloff was nearly 30 years younger, and recorded at the Salzburg Festival in 1969 when he was 57. Not surprisingly, since he studied in Paris, Ravel’s Gaspard is the most convincing thing in this recital – ‘Le gibet’ is vividly coloured and really spooky, though ‘Ondine’ is earthbound and hardly suggests water at all. Dallapiccola’s Sonatina is a curiosity, much of it a patchwork of quotations. Magaloff doesn’t seem at all in tune with Mendelssohn’s style, and the rarely heard Sonata in B flat sounds rhythmically cramped and tense in the wrong way. The first movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata is blustery and the last sloppy, with no rhythmic backbone and little sense of line. Adrian Jack