Istvan Kertesz, Vol III;  John Browning   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-585)
Item# C1650
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Istvan Kertesz, Vol III;  John Browning   (2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-585)
C1650. ISTVAN KERTESZ Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Dances of Galanta; HARY JANOS - Suite (both Kodaly); German Dances, K.600, 602, 605 (Mozart); w. JOHN BROWNING: Piano Concerto #1 in b-flat (Tschaikowsky); Interview with Istvan Kertesz. [A total delight! The Kodaly is conducted as to the manner born! A brilliant concert in every respect!] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-585, Live Performance, 13 July, 1969, Blossom Festival. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


"An inordinately gifted conductor, Istvan Kertesz died at age 43 in a tragic drowning off the Israeli coast. He had already reached full maturity as a musician, proving his worth in opera, oratorio, and the symphonic repertory. His interests were wide-ranging, including works from the Classical and Romantic periods and large portions of twentieth century music.

Beginning with private lessons in childhood, Kertesz studied piano and violin. He continued with violin training at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest, adding composition under the supervision of such teachers as Weiner and Kodaly. He pursued his conducting studies with Laszlo Somogyi, at the same time benefiting from studying the performances of Otto Klemperer, who was then working at the Hungarian State Opera. In 1953, Kertesz was appointed resident conductor at Gyor, two years later transferring his activities to Budapest, where he was hired as coach and conductor. Following the political uprising and Soviet response in 1956, Kertesz moved with his family to Germany, subsequently acquiring German citizenship.

From 1958 to 1963, Kertesz was general music director at Augsburg. His British debut took place with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1960, followed by appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1961. His American debut came with a tour with the NDR Symphony Orchestra in 1961, during which he made a positive impression on American audiences and critics alike. An appointment as general music director in Cologne came in 1964, and 1966 brought a Covent Garden début, directing UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. A global tour with the London Symphony Orchestra led to his succeeding Pierre Monteux as LSO principal conductor in 1966. In 1971, he became music director of Cologne's Gurzenich-Orchester, a position he held until his death two years later.

Kertesz was decidedly non-interventionist as a conductor. With scrupulous attention to the composer's directions, his interpretations were more remarkable for sound musicianship than for striking individualism. Still, his performances often held high drama, and he was intentional about advocacy of works he believed in which, in light of his broad interests, were numerous. At Cologne, he presented the German premiere of Verdi's STIFFELIO as well as Mozart's LA CLEMENZA DI TITO (a work he recorded in its first complete edition on disc).

For Decca, Kertesz recorded a superb BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE with Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry, still unsurpassed after several decades. His complete recordings of the Dvorak, Brahms, and Schubert symphonies still enjoy honorable places among the best versions committed to disc. The first Western recording of Kodaly's HARY JANOS (the complete opera) was made with the London Symphony under Kertesz's direction. The Decca label coupling of Dvorak's REQUIEM and Kodaly's PSALMUS HUNGARICUS is another fitting tribute to a superb artist too soon departed.

In addition to Bartok, Kertesz was an indefatigable champion of works by Stravinsky, Henze, and Britten. Britten's BILLY BUDD was first presented to German audiences under Kertesz 's baton and he directed the first performance of the WAR REQUIEM heard in Vienna. For Ravinia Festival audiences, Kertesz directed the WAR REQUIEM with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus shortly before his death. With soloists Phyllis Curtin, Robert Tear, and John Shirley-Quirk, the conductor's shattering interpretation left audience members limp."

- Erik Eriksson,

“John Browning, a leading light in a pioneering older generation of American pianists of seemingly limitless promise, studied with Rosina Lhévinne at the Juilliard School, where he eventually found himself in the same class as Van Cliburn. Mr. Browning stole the spotlight in 1956 with a silver medal in the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels. But he and other pianists of his generation -including Leon Fleisher, Malcolm Frager, Gary Graffman and Byron Janis - were overshadowed when Mr. Cliburn won the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958, becoming not only a cultural but also a political hero, bearing an American standard in the cold war. For various reasons most of those pianists fell short of the heavy expectations laid on them. Mr. Cliburn has spent much of his life in seclusion. Mr. Fleisher, Mr. Graffman and Mr. Janis all developed physical ailments affecting their hands.

In 1945 his family moved to Los Angeles. He spent two years at Occidental College there. He began his studies at Juilliard in 1950. He won the Leventritt Competition in New York in 1955. He made his professional orchestral debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1956, with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting.

Mr. Browning maintained an active solo career, if never quite at the most glamorous level, and with the name Cliburn dogging his own in many a review and article. Although he lacked nothing in bravura technique, his pianistic style was reserved, elegant and penetrating, more intellectual than overtly emotional yet eminently approachable. His tastes ranged back at least to Bach and Scarlatti, and he played harpsichord for his own enjoyment.

In 1962 he gave the premiere of Samuel Barber's Pulitzer Prize-winning Piano Concerto, which was written for him, in connection with the opening of Lincoln Center. His second recording of the work, with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony in 1991 for RCA Victor, won a Grammy for best instrumental soloist with orchestra. Mr. Browning won a second Grammy in 1993 with a disc of Barber's solo works on MusicMasters. Despite the competition from Mr. Cliburn and others, Mr. Browning developed a busy career, giving some 100 concerts a season.

He eased his schedule in the 1970s, explaining later that he had grown ragged from overwork. Over the last decade his career had something of a renaissance. His last performance was, by invitation, at the United States Supreme Court in May. His last public appearance was at the National Gallery in Washington in April.

Mr. Browning liked to discuss the place of morality in musical performance. ‘There are choices you make, such as whether you use a finger legato or the pedal to hold an inner voice, or how closely you follow the composer's phrasing indications’, he told an interviewer a decade ago. ‘You can cheat, but as I get older I cheat less’.''

- James R. Oestreich, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28, Jan., 2003