Recital Walter Gieseking – Alfred Cortot

In Libertatea, Bucharest, February 20, 1938

Another Lipatti / Music Critic / Concert Reviews

What a wonderful pianist, how intimately he knows his instrument! We were fortunate enough to hear him in a beautiful recital composed of the French Suite in G minor by Bach, three sonatas by Scarlatti, Sonatas op. 109 and 111 by Beethoven and Pavane, Sonatine, Alborada del Gracioso, La vallée des cloches and Ondine by Ravel.

If in Beethoven’s op. 111 Gieseking sometimes used too brutal an attack, leaving us rather bereft of the beauty characterising its Adagio and variations, Ravel was, by way of compensation, unsurpassed in expression. In his pianissimo moments Gieseking obtains, owing to an extremely supple interpretation, rather surprising effects.

In the in the rapid sections of the Scarlatti sonatas he delighted us with his precision and his equality of fingers, and in the Bach suite we admired his clarity in rending the melody.

The prolonged applauses of a public which had packed in the Salle Pleyel so as to hear this great pianist obliged him to give an encore of another six pieces.        

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One of the greatest pianists of today, an ardent defender of Romanticism and perhaps the only musician in whom it is never the virtuoso who dominates the performer, Alfred Cortot offered us yet again, this year, the chance to understand and love even more the music passing under his sublime fingers.

From the five conferences held at "Les Annales” I will only speak about the last one, advertised as "Dialogues between piano and orchestra”.

Accompanied by the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra under the distinguished and well-known conductor Charles Münch, Cortot played Frank’s Symphonic Variations, Fauré’s Ballade and Ravel’s Piano concerto for the left hand.

What distinction in the Ballade, and what an admirable rendition –not to mention the Variations, where the great musician always works wonders, refreshing both the form and the musical essence of this somewhat outdated work!

Ravel wrote his Concerto for the left hand at the same time with his brilliant G major concerto, but the first one is much less played; dedicated to pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who has lost his arm in the war, this concerto is Ravel’s last essay in the genre.

Even if Cortot authored an arrangement for two hands of this concerto, he played nevertheless the original version.

"Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does” is a saying which does not apply here: Cortot’s left hand surpassed his right one. And this is not so easy at all!

Charles Münch is without a doubt a refined conductor as well as a flawless companion (and there aren’t too many people who can boast they own such a valuable quality!). He prevailed in raising the Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris, whose principal conductor he is, to an artistic level that most of the orchestras here have not yet reached. What I admire in this musician is the fight he incessantly leads in the advancing of contemporary music and his courage to impose upon the public new and extremely audacious works. Would it that the other Parisian symphonic associations would follow his example! But not everyone can be an educator of the masses…