Guiomar Novaes;   George Szell     (Archipel 0558)
Item# P1028
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Guiomar Novaes;   George Szell     (Archipel 0558)
P1028. GUIOMAR NOVAËS, w.Szell Cond. NYPO: Concerto #2 in f (Chopin), Live Performance, 7 Jan., 1951; Concerto #4 in G (Beethoven), Live Performance, 21 Dec., 1952. (E.U.) Archipel 0558. [Two extraordinarily sensitive and glorious performances . . . in the glory of the Carnegie Hall acoustic!] - 4035122405583

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“Guiomar Novaës and Claudio Arrau were the most celebrated pianists born in South America immediately before and after 1900 -- she in Brazil in 1895, he in Chile, in 1903. They were first to win international acclaim since Venezuelan-born Teresa Carreńo (1853-1917), who had studied with Gottschalk. In Săo Paulo, where the family had moved from a provincial village soon after her birth, she revealed precocity at age four, and began studying at age seven with Luigi Chiafarelli, a Busoni pupil. He helped her developed the basics of tonal nuance, legato, and pedaling that won her a grant from the Brazilian government to study in Paris. At the Conservatoire in 1909 she placed first among 388 candidates for admission. The jurors were Fauré, Moritz Moszkowski, and Debussy, who wrote to his friend and amanuensis André Caplet that ‘the most artistic...was a young Brazilian girl of 13. She's not beautiful, but her eyes are 'drunk with music' and she has the ability to cut herself off from her surroundings, which is the rare but characteristic mark of the artist’. She was assigned to the class of Isidor Philipp (1863-1958), formerly a pupil of Saint-Saëns, and graduated two years later with a First Prize. Novaës made her formal début that same year with the Châtelet Orchestra conducted by Gabriel Pierné, then toured throughout Western Europe until the outbreak of WWI. Hardly had she returned to Săo Paulo when an invitation came from the U.S. She made her North American début in Aeolian Hall, New York, on 11 November, 1915, and returned often during the next 57 years. Novaës played her U.S. farewell at Hunter College in 1972. To the end, her tone remained mellifluous, her touch varied, her pedaling a wonder, and her legato special, even after sheer strength had ebbed.

In 1922, she married the Brazilian architect and composer Octavio Pinto (1890-1950), who had also studied with Philipp. Novaës appeared with every major U.S. orchestra as well as abroad. In England, Queen Elizabeth invited her to play the opening recital in the new London hall bearing her name on 30 April, 1967 -- a program that featured Novaës' beloved Mozart and Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy.

Her recorded repertoire was astonishing, starting with the Victor Company in 1919 through 1927, Duo-Art piano rolls in the 1920's, then Columbia until 1948. In Vienna and Bamberg after WWII, she recorded 11 concerti for Vox (two each of the Beethoven Fourth and the Schumann a minor, first with Klemperer, then with Hans Swarowsky). They ranged from Mozart to Falla's NIGHTS IN THE GARDENS OF SPAIN, plus dozens of solo works including the complete waltzes, études, nocturnes, and préludes of Chopin, several of Schumann's major solo works, Book I of Debussy's Préludes, five Beethoven sonatas, and her husband's Scenas Infantis. She also recorded Liszt, Chopin and Debussy for London; Chopin and Beethoven (Op. 111 for the first time) on Vanguard, and several Brazilian composers on Fermata. International Piano Archives issued a live recording of Gottschalk's ‘Grand Fantasy on the Brazilian National Anthem’ from a Hunter College concert in 1970, one year after Vox/Turnabout released the same music from a Pan-American Union concert marking the centennial of Gottschalk's death. Novaës died in her native Brazil at age 84, just seven years after her retirement.”

- Roger Dettmer, allmusic.com

"Novaës’ playing was never cut and dried….she seldom played the same piece of music twice the same way. Each time, she brought to it a slightly different point of view, and each time the new approach seemed perfectly natural and inevitable….Part of her appeal was in her natural approach to the keyboard. She was one of the new pianists about whom one felt that the instrument was a welded extension of her arms and fingers. A more natural, relaxed, effortless style could not be found anywhere. Her tone, in its color and subtlety, recalled the magic note-spinning of the great romantic pianists three generations [before her], in which Novaës [had been] trained.”

- Harold C. Schonberg, THE GREAT PIANISTS, 1987 Edition, pp.408-09

"It must be remembered that when George Szell came to prominence in the United States in the mid 1940's (and his mid-forties) he was a highly respected conductor and musician in Europe. He had a very solid grip on his repertoire which soon expanded to new works which he was debuting and championing. However, all that most music lovers around the world today know about Szell’s artistry they have divined from the recordings made by Columbia in Cleveland from the late 1940's on. In an interview with Szell as an intermission feature in one of the weekly broadcast concerts, he stated that Columbia allowed him to record items that he requested only if they were not in conflict with Ormandy or Bernstein. Those he did make revealed meticulously prepared performances which could be misinterpreted as a somewhat objective. The lean balances of those LP's and then CD's only reinforced that impression."

- Bruce Surtees

“Part of the wave of great Hungarian conductors who took over American musical life just before and after World War II - the others included Fritz Reiner, Antal Doráti, and Eugene Ormandy - George Szell quickly transformed a middling Midwestern orchestra into one of the nation's ‘Big Five’. His cultivation of the Cleveland Orchestra set an example of discipline and hard work that gradually helped raise the standards of orchestras across America.

Szell was a wunderkind, playing a Mozart piano concerto with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra when he was ten, and composing a number of solid chamber and orchestral works in a lush, late Romantic style as a child and teenager. He was 17 when he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in a program that included one of his own compositions.

Despite these early successes, Szell rose through the conducting ranks in the traditional way of the period, with a series of opera positions: Royal Opera of Berlin (1915-1917), Strasbourg (1917-1918), Prague (1919-1921), Darmstadt (1921-1922), and Düsseldorf (1922-1924). Szell's first prestigious post came to him in 1924, when he was named first conductor of the Berlin State Opera; he simultaneously served as a professor at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik. In 1929, he moved on to become general music director of the German Opera and Philharmonic in Prague, where he remained until 1937.

Szell began focusing more on orchestral repertory in the 1930's; he made his U.S. début as guest conductor of the St. Louis Symphony in 1930, and in 1937 he was appointed conductor of the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow, while maintaining a steady relationship with the Residentie Orkest in The Hague. Szell was in America in 1939 when war broke out in Europe; he remained in the U.S. through the war, first depending on guest engagements and then, in 1942, becoming a regular conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, where he was especially praised for his Wagner performances. In 1946 Szell took American citizenship and became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he held for 24 years. He was also the New York Philharmonic's music adviser and senior guest conductor during the last two years of his life.

Although Szell made a recordings in Europe in the 1950's and 1960's for Decca, and in Cleveland at the end of his life for EMI, the bulk of his substantial discography was the result of his long collaboration with Columbia Records in Cleveland. There, Szell had inherited an able but ordinary orchestra and, through sheer determination, molded it into one of America's finest. A Szell performance was remarkable for its textural clarity, chamber-like balances, and precision of attack and release. He drilled his orchestra mercilessly, even in works it had performed with him not long before. Szell was particularly admired for his performances of Austro-Germanic classics from Haydn to Richard Strauss, his sharp renderings of works by a select group of twentieth century composers including Bartók, Prokofiev, Janácek, and Walton, and his idiomatic way with Dvorák. Indeed, some collectors maintain that Szell's monaural, early 1950's recording of Dvorák's Eighth Symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra has never been equaled. His treatment of French composers, on the other hand, was criticized for its lack of atmosphere, and detractors maintained that he achieved precision at the expense of emotional expression. To those who demanded a warmer approach to his beloved Mozart, however, Szell is said to have retorted: ‘One does not pour chocolate sauce over asparagus’."

- James Reel, allmusic.com