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Triton Concert; Brahms Festival

In Libertatea, Bucharest, May 5, 1938

Another Lipatti / Music Critic / Concert Reviews




Triton Association, founded by the late P. D. Ferroud (who also enthusiastically ensured its directorship), took it on itself to present only modern works, in their majority first performances. Almost all of today’s music chamber output owes its creation to Triton and to its tenaciously fighting this beautiful but unrewarding fight.

If I were permitted, though, a small reproach, I would remark the way some Triton programmes are structured - indeed, next to outstanding works I have sometimes heard pieces arousing no curiosity whatsoever on the part of their auditor.

A quartet by Jean Cartan, excellently given by Pro Arte, left a good impression, even if the composer’s art seemed somewhat questionable.

About Georges Dandelot’sSonatine, executed by flutist Le Roy and pianist Perlemutter, I can only say it was performed with éclat. Unfortunately the work in itself is unworthy of the author who fathered the Pax oratorio. Built on quite commonplace themes which repeat themselves much too much, the melody is intentionally written one semitone higher than its harmonic base. Having begun his work with such a parti-pris the composer achieved one goal only – that of having written something original! As he doesn’t aim at something higher, all arguments I might invoke are useless.

A sonata for violin and piano by Neugeboren, it, too, beautifully given by Charmi and Perlemutter, made us discover several of the composer’s pleasing qualities, stifled, sadly, by the numerous influences he was subjected to.

I didn’t think I would be so impressed, in the second part of the concert, with the Suite for flute and piano by Marcelle de Manziarly. She is one of the talented disciples of the grandest figure of today’s music pedagogy, Nadia Boulanger. I doesn’t surprise me, therefore, that she could have acquired such a wholesome and yet subtle composing technique. A typically French work, without lacking in depth, Marcelle de Manziarly’s suite is a success, and confirms, again, the special qualities of its young authoress.     

By means of closing the recital, a quartet by Honegger, excellently performed, which gave us back our optimism, slightly shaken by the first part of the programme.

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I confess I avoid going to concerts which feature Brahms’s E minor symphony; I cherish as sacred the memory of Maestro Enescu’s extraordinary rendition, and I want to hold on to it. Recently, out of curiosity, I made the mistake of attending such a concert. Even now I regret having done that!

Sidney Beer is quite a musical conductor, but he wants that decision of the "staccato gesture”, and this fatally leads to the orchestra’s having a shaky attack. I had the funny impression that the Paris Philharmonic (an outstanding ensemble, perhaps the best in France) created effects the conductor wasn’t even aware of. It’s the only explanation I have for the dreamy atmosphere of the symphony’s Andante, or for the colours some of the Variations on a theme by Haydn had. 

But to come back to the symphony. Written in the last part of the great composer’s life, it was first performed in Meiningen, in 1885. What passion, what impetuousness, what grandness these admirable pages contain! Only the Andante, with its profoundly expressive and contemplative character, sits in contrast with the rest of the work.

The Variations on a theme by Haydn were composed in 1873. The theme, drawn out of a Haydn wind divertimento, consists of a graceful phrase which Brahms transforms in such a way as to give it, in each of the variations, a self-supporting life. The minor mode is almost every time orchestrated with a riche palette. I found Sidney Beer controlled these adorable symphonic tableaux better - maybe because here he didn’t have to battle with overly long phrases.

The B flat major concerto is, I think, the most difficult from all classical concertos in the piano literature, making the performer face almost insurmountable technical problems both because of its exceptionally long duration and because of the numerous moments where the soloist’s dynamism is heavily tested.

Only Backhaus, and sometimes Kempff, can master such an instrumental monument today.

Jan Smeterlin, a pianist well-liked overseas, enjoys some evident qualities, but he is far from being equipped with them in the measure Brahms calls for in this concerto. Consequently, Smeterlin renounced some bravura episodes, modifying them in his own style – but not in keeping with the composer’s own design (as long as the alterations at a purely instrumental level don’t impinge on the musical idea of the work, all arrangements are allowed).