Abbey Simon had a virtuoso technique which equipped him to effortlessly take on the large-scale concertos of the piano repertoire. In addition to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin conducted most of the great orchestras of America and Europe. VOX recorded both Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra by the Elite Recordings team of Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos nos. 2 and 3.
The Aubort and Nickrenz team is again responsible for the remastering of a VOX recording of Beethoven works with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, led by Stanislaw Skrowaczewaki. Included in the recording are all three Leonore Overtures, the Fidelio Overture, and selections from the rarely heard ballet The Ruins of Athens
Thirdly, a 1943 recording of Beethoven’s underplayed Symphony No. 4 with Wilhelm Furtwängler at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra reminds the listener of the importance of this ensemble and its music director in 20th century musical history.
During a distinguished career that spanned five decades the American pianist Abbey Simon earned the reputation of being one of his generation’s great interpreters of the Romantic repertoire for the piano. His playing of Rachmaninoff’s two warhorse concertos gives evidence of his power, agility, accuracy, and penchant for grand pianistic gestures.
Leading the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin proves himself the ideal partner to Simon, elegantly accompanying his soloist while firmly keeping his orchestral forces at the service of both the music and the soloist.
In their superb readings of the Beethoven Leonore Overtures the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra led by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski delivers an even mix of the fiery and the lyrical, never succumbing to eccentricities of tempo but always maintaining an even balance of sobriety and passion. Their performance of Beethoven’s ballet The Ruins of Athens is elegant, smart and lively.
Wilhelm Furtwängler at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is as ploddingly Teutonic as Skrowaczewski is mercurial and limber. The recording is more of a curio than a must-have.
Rafael de Acha © 2023
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