Medici Masters – Robert Casadesus

0 of 5 stars

Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)
Concerto in D for Piano (Left-hand)

Robert Casadesus (piano)

Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester [Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra]
Georg-Ludwig Jochum (Mozart)
Christoph von Dohnányi (Beethoven)
Hermann Scherchen

Recorded Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne – 7 March 1956 (Mozart), 29 January 1965 (Beethoven) & 11 March 1957

Reviewed by: Colin Clarke

Reviewed: March 2009
Duration: 78 minutes



opera buffa, and Casadesus’s playing is guaranteed to delight. His technical command delights, too. Drama surfaces, too, as if the movement was attempting to encompass the whole world. There is perhaps a hint of orchestral congestion towards the end, but hardly enough to detract from this warm, life-enhancing reading.

This appears to be the third K488 from Casadesus: the most famous one is the Columbia 1959 version with Szell, and there is an APR issue of a 1938 New York account with Barbirolli.

Whilst the sound for the Mozart is nice and clear, that for the ‘Emperor’ displays a rather muffled, blunted orchestra – despite being recorded some nine years later, resulting in the opening chords losing much of their effect. Casadesus has all the resources, though: rock-solid strength, fingers of steel and a balancing delicacy.

The slow movement is exquisitely prepared by the orchestra, Casadesus continuing the magic. Textural clarity is his watchword, and here in particular it pays dividends. The finale brings wonders of balance (the left-hand figures) as well as a real sense of exuberance. Christoph von Dohnányi is perhaps not the most inspired of accompanists, but Casadesus’s illumination makes this a worthy performance. (There are other Casadesus accounts available with such conductors as Cantelli, Mitropoulos, Rosbaud and Keilberth.)

Finally, Ravel’s Concerto for Left-Hand. Casadesus had a special relationship with Ravel and his music, from 1922 onwards, and it was that composer’s Jeux d’eau that was Casadesus’s first Columbia recording, in 1951. Casadesus left two commercial recordings of the Left-Hand with Ormandy (1947/1960). Here the great Hermann Scherchen partners him. Casadesus is nothing short of magisterial, and Scherchen ensures that the orchestra blazes. The sense of exultation at the close is palpable.

This is very generous release that makes for rewarding listening. The Ravel is ‘special’, and collectors will also be rewarded by the Mozart and the Beethoven.

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