P1029. ROBERT LORTAT: Chopin Recital (incl.Sonata in b-flat). (Canada) 2–Doremi 7994/95, recorded 1928 & 1931. - 723721711054
“Robert Lortat (1885-1938) studied at the Paris Conservatoire in the class of Louis Diémer (1843-1919), gaining a premier prix in 1901 and eventually winning the Diémer Prize in 1906. His professional début was made in Paris, the following year after which he toured Germany. He was one of the few pianists to program the ‘complete’ works of Chopin, which he played in Paris and London during 1911 and 1912. The series was not, in fact, the complete works, but it did include the études, ballades, préludes, scherzos, both mature sonatas and the impromptus, plus a large quantity of polonaises, mazurkas, and nocturnes. Lortat played duo recitals with Jacques Thibaud, but the chronic lung condition – Lortat’s having suffered in a gas attack during WW I – eventually destroyed his health, and he died prematurely at fifty-three.
The set of 14 Waltzes (1931) opens with the Grande Valse brillante in E-flat Major, Op.18, which reveals the pert articulation Lortat sports, his clean line, a rather rhythmically meandering left hand, and a fluent capacity for acceleration of tempo within the progress of the melodic arch. The breezy A-flat Major Waltz, Op. 34, #1 enjoys a verve and panache that transport us from the Paris salon into somewhere more ostentatious. Lortat injects his own personality into the a minor Waltz, a sentimental but not garish rubato and a delicate poise. A symphonic sound opens the wildly improvisational reading of the F Major, Op.34, #3; and this devil-may-care, subjectively willful reading may warrant the entire price of admission!
Lortat settles into the lyrical secondary theme [of the b-flat minor Sonata] with enough time to bask in the nostalgia. The Funeral March communicates noble breadth, pointed lyricism. Just as the bass figures become somewhat stolid, Lortat relaxes the tension and allows the line to sing. He possesses a truly strong trill. The emergence of the middle section is God’s own ray of light. The Gaveau instrument Lortat favors explains much of his refined sonority.
Robert Lortat left us some moving Chopin, ardent always, however idiosyncratic. His demise as an eventual casualty of WW I robbed us in music of what it had violated in Wilfred Owen in poetry. The pity of it. . ..”
—Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition, 2 June, 2013