Solomon (piano)

Solomon (piano)

Halle Orchestra conducted by

Hamilton Harty *

Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikowsky*

Naxos 8.110680
TPT: 1:14:34

reviewed by Neville Cohn

More, perhaps, than any other of the 20th century’s great pianists, it was Solomon who brought an irrefutable musical logic to just about everything he played. It set him apart in a unique and unchallenged category of excellence. A keyboard technique honed to perfection,, an ability to coax a myriad tonal shadings from the piano as well as paying the closest attention to detail without ever losing sight of the grand design of whatever he happened to be playing, made Solomon’s illness-induced, early departure from the concert platform a personal tragedy and an immense loss to the international concertgoing public. But until a stroke cruelly halted his career (perhaps brought on, if only partially, by a very heavy smoking habit), Solomon gave listening pleasure to many – and his recorded legacy, although small, remains a monument to his rare gifts.Although the standard of sound recording at the time was primitive compared to current expertise, Solomon’s performance with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Hamilton Harty of Tchaikowsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 (recorded in November 1929 and February 1930) demonstrates an impeccable grasp of the work. Shining through are the immaculate technique, tempi choices that sound entirely appropriate – and a breathtakingly fine clarity of exposition as he expounds Tchaikowsky’s musical argument. (Solomon was to record the work again years later for HMV’s plum label.)One listens with a sense of wonder to Solomon’s account of Liszt’s Au bord d’une source, its diabolical difficulties resolved with astonishing ease, the playing informed by fingerwork of stunning delicacy. It makes for euphoria-inducing listening. Much the same could be said of La leggierezza. And in his justly famous account of the Hungarian Rhapsody No 15 (Rakoczy March) – as in almost everything he essayed – one is left with the impression that heart and mind were in perfect accord. Whether in poundings of demonic intensity or in very rapid fingerwork, this is a reading that seizes the attention and holds it in a vice-like grip. There is not the slightest hint of strain. Recorded quality in tracks 8 to 12 leaves something to be desired. There is some occasional distortion of sound here. And in the Fantasie in F minor, Solomon, most uncharacteristically, sounds fleetingly under strain. This is one of a bracket of Chopin works, including the Etude in F from opus 25, in which arpeggionated figures are marvellously controlled, like strings of perfectly matched beads. And the Polonaise in A flat, opus 53 is informed by a rugged power. Magnificent!This CD contains all the recordings that Solomon, who rose from humble beginnings as a cockney kid from London’s East End to international prominence, made for Columbia.

 

Neville Cohn


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