LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Sonata in B minor; Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; Berceuse
PERFORMER: Clifford Curzon (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4078-2 ADD mono
The Curzon disc largely duplicates a compilation of studio recordings on Decca, though there you get the third Liebestraum and Gnomenreigen instead of the Petrarch Sonnet. You don’t get the Haydn on the Decca disc either, nor the three Impromptus from Schubert’s first set which complete this BBC disc. Recorded in a studio, they are a great bonus – very passionate, if prone to roughness in the forceful middle section of D899/2. Haydn’s well-known Variations are subject to Curzon’s moodiness, too, but at
least he’s never dull. In Liszt’s B minor Sonata, recorded at the 1961 Edinburgh Festival, you may be too worried to be bored, for there are plentiful smudges, wrong notes and, in the fugue, a few dropped stitches. The Decca studio recording, made only two years later, is definitely preferable. Always a nervous performer in public, Curzon got too excited here for his own good, and ideally the work needs more time to breathe – at just over 25 minutes, it’s one of the fastest versions on disc.
If Curzon is represented warts and all, Richter is heard on top form, recorded at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1961. Mozart’s K283 Sonata, whose famous first movement every piano student learns, begins coolly, though the middle movement is fussed over with too many ritardandi. Four pieces from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons are most sensitively played, though Richter is sometimes cavalier with rhythm, and cuts bars short in ‘Troika’. Rachmaninoff and Scriabin are spellbinding, the strange Prokofiev Fourth Sonata veiled as if in a trance. Adrian Jack