GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16. CHOPIN: Sonata
No. 2 in b-flat Minor, Op. 35. Four Waltzes. SCHUBERT-LISZT: SoirČe
de Vienne No. 6. MOSZKOWSKI: Serenata in D, Op. 15 No. 1.
Etude in G, Op. 18 No. 3. Waltz in E, Op. 34.
GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16. SCHUMANN: Piano
Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54. Romance No. 2 in F Sharp, Op. 28. Waldszenen, Op. 82 No. 7. PALMGREN:
Refrain de Berceau. West
Finnish Dance, Op. 31 No. 5.
Belgium-born Arthur De Greef (1862-1940) had the distinction of studying with Franz Liszt. He met Liszt when he was 15 and reportedly studied in Weimar with the Hungarian master for about two years. De Greef began his association with the Brussels Conservatory in 1885 remaining there until 1930, teaching numerous students, one of whom described him as "gentle, friendly and humorous." The first time De Greef met Edvard Grieg was in 1889 when the composer visited Belgium to conduct several performances of his concerto with De Greef as soloist. They became fast friends and remained so until Grieg's death in 1907. Grieg totally endorsed De Greef's performance of his music ("De Greef is the best interpreter of my music I have met with"), although later he also endorsed Percy Grainger in the same fashion -- and the two pianists' performance styles differed significantly as can be heard from the latter's live recordings.
De Greef recorded an acoustic abbreviated version of Grieg's concerto in 1921 for Victor and made the first complete recording of the concerto for the same label January 18, 1927 in the early days of electric recording, heard on this new CD. Of course we cannot tell if what is heard on this recording is the interpretation the composer approved two decades earlier. This is an exciting, vital reading almost impetuous in its forward thrust, with many liberties from the soloist. Although he was in his mid-'60s, De Greef's technique was in top form at the time. Accompaniment by the "Royal Albert Hall Orchestra" is not particularly well played, although strings negotiate portamento effects efficiently -- how strange it is to hear the music played like this!. The CD is filled out with four Chopin waltzes and Sonata No. 2 as well as short works of Schubert-Liszt and Moszkowski. One surely would never call De Greef's Chopin subtle. By today's standards he is highly erratic. The finale of the Sonata apparently was a major stumbling block for him; what was released required 12 takes -- and the final result is less than satisfying. Transfers by Seth B. Winner Sound Studios are perfection -- it is amazing that this sound quality could be achieved from disks more than 70 years old.
In contrast, Benno Moiseiwitsch's November 1953 recording of the Grieg, coupled with Schumann's Concerto, is a model of refinement and controlled virtuosity, although surprisingly with a few minor slips in both works. Otto Ackermann, known best to collectors as conductor for Elisabeth Schwarzkoff's Strauss Four Last Songs (which was recorded later that month), leads a bold accompaniment, well produced by Walter Legge. The Russian pianist's elegant, distinctive tone is always evident but this performance of the Grieg lacks the personality and drive of De Greef. The CD is filled out with shorter pieces by Schumann and Palmgren.
R.E.B. (April 2000)