MOZART:  Sonata in D for Two Pianos, K. 448 (with Rosina Lhevinne).  CHOPIN:  Etudes in E Flat, Op. 10 No. 6, in G# Minor, Op. 25 No. 6, in B Minor, Op. 25 No. 10, Etude in A Minor, Op. 25 No. 11.  Preludes in A Flat, Op. 28 No. 17 and in B-flat Minor, Op. 28, No. 16.  Polonaise in A Flat, Op. 53.  STRAUSS-EVLER:  Blue Danube Waltz.  DEBUSSY-RAVEL:  FÍtes.  BEETHOVEN-BUSONI:  Ecossaises.  SCHUMANN:  Toccata in C.  SCHUMANN-LISZT:  Frühlingsnacht.  SCHUMANN-TAUSIG:  El Contrabandista.  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Trepak.  RACHMANINOFF:  Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23 No. 5 
JOSEF LHEVINNE, pianist
NAXOS 8.110681 (B) (ADD) TT:  71:05
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BEETHOVEN:  Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37.  BLISS:  Piano Concerto in B Flat major
SOLOMON, pianist/BBC Symphony Orch (Beethoven)/Liverpool Philharmonic Orch (Bliss); Adrian Boult, cond.
NAXOS 8.110682 (B) (ADD) TT:  71:44
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RACHMANINOFF:  Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18.  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.  Prelude in C# Minor, Op. 3 No. 2
William Kapell, pianist/Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia/William Steinberg, cond (Concerto)/Fritz Reiner, cond (Rhapsody)
NAXOS 8.110692 (B) (ADD) TT:  57:20
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Of these three attractive budget-priced reissues there's no question that the most important is the Josef Lhevinne disk. Born in Russia in 1874, Lhevinne started playing when only three years old, began studying when six, wowed Anton Rubinstein with his playing when only fourteen.  Graduating from Moscow Conservatory in 1892, his colleagues included Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.  He was admired - and envied - by other pianists of the time.  Lhevinne was a close friend of Anton Rubinstein, also of Tchaikovsky who told him in the third movement of the B-flat minor concerto the soloist should think of "a man in a beer hall who has drunk all the beer and begins to hiccup involuntarily."  Tchaikovsky also dedicated one of his piano works to Lhevinne.  In 1906 Lhevinne made his American debut in New York, later giving many concert tours.  He lived in Berlin from 1907-1919, returning to America in 1919 with his wife Rosina, whom he had married in 1898.  In 1922 they joined the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music.  In addition to teaching, Josef gave many concerts, often with Rosina. After Josef's death in 1944, Rosina gained fame as a very demanding teacher at Juilliard whose students included Van Cliburn.

Surprisingly Lhevinne recorded little, and no concertos.  His first disks date from 1921 for PathÈ (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Schumann El Contrabandista); the remainder were for Victor, 1928-1937.  All are astounding performances, particularly Lhevinne's legendary Chopin's G# Minor Etude and the Schulz-Evler Blue Danube (minus its opening, which wasn't recorded, apparently so the work could fit on just two 78 rpm sides). It's fascinating to note that the G# Minor is preceded by the Etude Op. 10 No. 6 and that they are on the same side of a 78.  No editing here, although this is take 2!  We also have two works in which Josef is joined by Rosina, Mozart's Sonata K. 448 (which, for whatever reason, they refused to approve for release) and Debussy's FÍtes.  These are all of Josef's commercial recordings in miraculous new  transfers by Ward Marston. 

It's good to have Solomon's Beethoven Third Concerto available at budget-price.  The British-born pianist specialized in Beethoven; he played the Third Concerto at one of his first concert performances in 1912 before he was ten years old.  This recording was made in August 1944 in a grammar school outside London to avoid bombs.  In the first movement he plays Clara Schumann's rather outlandish cadenza. A fascinating recording, to be sure, which also could be said of its companion, the Piano Concerto of Sir Arthur Bliss composed to represent Great Britain in an arts festival at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.  Solomon was to be soloist, and collaborated with Bliss on composition of the work.  This is one of the most boring of all "major" concertos; it is easy for me to understand why few performances have been given since the premiere.  Here it is, in an authoritative performance indeed - the same pianist and conductor who played the premiere.  Recorded in 1943 in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, the original recording is decidedly unflattering to the orchestra - strings are wiry and unresonant.  The previous EMI issue (CDH  63821) perhaps sounded a bit warmer, but is not as clearly defined as the Naxos which was transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn.

If you don't already have William Kapell's superlative RCA recordings of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 (July 7, 1950) and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (June 27, 1951), here's an opportunity to get both sounding better than ever, with the infamous C# Minor Prelude, recorded March 19, 1945, as an encore.  Although the sound for all of these is dated, it is well-balanced.  There is no other performance of Rhapsody superior to this.  All recordings were made in the Academy of Music; the orchestra, identified as Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia, was called that for contractual reasons - it's, of course, the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Mark Obert-Thorn's new transfers are all one could ask, and there are 25 tracks for Rhapsody.

Hats off to Naxos and all concerned!

R.E.B.  (July 2002)