C1529. ERNEST ANSERMET Cond. Boston Symphony Orchestra: Symphony in d (Franck), Live Performance, 6 Jan., 1956, Symphony Hall, Boston; ERNEST ANSERMET Cond. Stuttgart Radio S.O., w. Clifford Curzon: 'Emperor' Piano Concerto #5 in E-flat (Beethoven), Live Performance, 11 March, 1966. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-483. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Sir Clifford Curzon, the world-renowned British pianist, was an immensely popular musical figure in Britain. Sir Clifford was knighted in 1977, recognition of a musical lifetime that made him, in the words of a tribute yesterday by the music critic of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH in London, 'the leading British pianist of his generation'. And as early as 1947, Noel Strauss of THE NEW YORK TIMES said that 'Curzon must be reckoned among the greatest keyboard artists of the time'.
Clifford Curzon made his debut in the United States with a recital at Town Hall in New York City on Feb. 26, 1939. THE NEW YORK TIMES critic said that the performance established the 31-year-old pianist as 'an artist of prime importance, a supreme colorist with an impeccable virtuoso technique'. On that same first tour, he played three concertos with the New York Philharmonic under Alexander Smallens at Carnegie Hall, and THE TIMES hailed Mr. Curzon for his 'superior musicianship, polished technique and sure grasp of style'.
One of Sir Clifford's last appearances in the United States was with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy on May 2, 1978. Harold C. Schonberg, then chief music critic of THE TIMES, wrote of the pianist's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto #24 in c minor: 'The performance had logic, strength and integrity. The strength was manifest not in outsized dynamics but in the way a phrase uncoiled, inevitably finding its way into the total structure of the piece. This kind of tensile strength, so necessary in Mozart, is the secret of only a few living musicians'.
Sir Clifford's repertory was both broad and eclectic. It included more than 50 concertos and ranged from early classics to contemporary works. While critics may have differed over his uniform command of this vast body of music, they generally agreed that few artists could match him in total performance and in the superbly high level of artistry he offered his listeners. Among his most enthusiastic American fans was Virgil Thomson, the composer and the longtime music critic of THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE. Mr. Thomson considered Mr. Curzon 'the most satisfactory interpreter' of the piano's Romantic repertory, and he once wrote that 'certainly no one brings to life Schubert and Schumann with quite the delicacy and the grandeur of Mr. Curzon'. And remarking on Mr. Curzon's performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell in February 1950, Mr. Thomson wrote that the pianist's 'tender grace and grand perspective of expression all made his rendering both a message and a monument'.
Olin Downs, the late music critic for THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote many laudatory notices of Mr. Curzon's performances, but he summed up his appreciation of his artistry in a review of a recital featuring the works of Mozart, Schubert and Schumann in Town Hall in January 1950: 'He is indeed a musician among musicians, whose sense of style is partly the result of his exceptional knowledge of his art, but is more the result of that intuition which far surpasses in its penetrating truthfulness any book learning or wise exercises that a healthy mind needs'.
Mr. Curzon was born in London on May 18, 1907, the son of Michael Curzon, an antiques dealer, and the former Constance Young. Neither of them was a musician but both were music lovers and young Clifford began the serious study of the piano when he was 6 years old, after abandoning the violin. He chose the piano, he said later, 'because you can be alone with a piano'. The prodigiously talented student went on to train with Britain's leading teachers and later with the world's greatest masters, Artur Schnabel in Berlin and Wanda Landowska and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of 12 and established himself as a star pupil by winning two scholarships and virtually all the prizes open to pianists. He made his first public appearance in London when he was 16, soon began teaching at the Royal Academy and was a full professor at 19. Mr. Curzon suspended his career as a concert artist in 1928 to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin. While there, he met Lucille Wallace, a harpsichord student from Chicago. They were married in Paris in July 1931, and they often played duets and discussed the relative merits of the piano and the harpsichord in recital halls and on BBC programs. Mrs. Curzon died in 1977.
Mr. Curzon toured the Continent with leading European orchestras in the 1930s and appeared at many British music festivals. After his debut in Town Hall in 1939, Mr. Curzon returned to the United States in 1948 and performed here frequently until 1970, both in recitals and under such conductors as Bruno Walter, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy and Mr. Smallens."
- Walter H. Waggoner, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 Sept., 1982
“For 50 years Ansermet directed an orchestra that was second-rate in tone and technique, yet Ernest Ansermet drew performances from it that cut right to the heart of the music. A musician of catholic taste, Ansermet was a reliable, insightful interpreter of composers from Mozart to Martin. His recordings in the 1950s and 1960s with the Suisse Romande Orchestra, which he founded, retain strong interest for collectors who value nuance over tonal sheen. These recordings are of especial interest as they provide a link to composers active in Paris in the early twentieth century, with whom Ansermet was closely associated.
[In his youth] he kept an eye trained on the technique of local conductors, and took courses in music with Alexandre Denéréaz, Otto Barblan, and Ernest Bloch. Ansermet sought further advice on conducting from Felix Mottl in Munich and Artur Nikisch in Berlin, then concentrated mainly on teaching himself the art of the baton. In 1918 he organized the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, from the start performing a substantial amount of contemporary French and Russian music. Ansermet befriended many of the great progressive composers of the time, especially Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky. Through Stravinsky, Ansermet met Serge Diaghilev and was appointed principal conductor of the latter's Ballets Russes, touring with the company to Paris, London, Italy, Spain, South America, and the United States. During a 1916 tour Ansermet made his first recordings with the Ballets Russes orchestra -- the beginning of a half century of making intriguing records with less-than-stellar ensembles. Through his association with the Ballets Russes, Ansermet was able to premiere many of the period's most important dance scores, including Falla's THREE-CORNERED HAT, Prokofiev's THE BUFFOON, Satie's PARADE, and Stravinsky's PULCINELLA. As an extra-curricular wartime diversion, on 28 September, 1918, Ansermet premiered Stravinsky's L'HISTOIRE DU SOLDAT in Geneva.
Ansermet was also a strong champion of such other contemporary composers as Bartók and Britten, premiering the latter's opera THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. He retired from conducting in 1967. His publications include LE GESTE DU CHEF D'ORCHESTRE (1943) and LES FONDEMENTS DE LA MUSIQUE DANS LA CONSCIENCE HUMAINE (1961) [B1009 & B1086], in which he used mathematics to discredit 12-tone and other advanced compositional techniques.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com