P1160. WANDA LANDOWSKA, w.Walter Goehr Cond. — The Complete Piano Recordings 1937-1958, incl. Coronation Piano Concerto #26 in D Major, K.537; Fantasie in d minor, K.397; Piano Sonata in F Major, K.332; Piano Sonata in D Major, K.576; Piano Sonata in D Major, K.311 (fragment); Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, K.282; Piano Sonata in G Major, K.283; Piano Sonata in D Major, K.311; Rondo in a minor, K.511; Country Dances, K.606; Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K.333 (all Mozart); Andante and Variations in f minor; Piano Sonata #34 in e minor; Piano Sonata #49 in E-flat Major (all Haydn). (France) 3-Appian APR 7305, recorded 1937-58. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. - 5024709173051
“While Wanda Landowska remains virtually single-handedly responsible for the revival of the harpsichord as a viable instrument for modern Baroque music performance, we must retain esteem for her ability at the piano. Landowska received instruction from Kleczynski and Michalowski in the Romantic keyboard tradition, especially as applied to Chopin. For the music of Mozart, Landowska conscientiously decided to invest the modern piano with a studied touch in order ‘to obtain the color and particularities of the pianoforte’ of Mozart’s time. Her aesthetic asserted that ‘grained sounds, comparable to the tapping of fine hammers, trace melodies of the purest bel canto...the authentic qualities of the pianoforte will be reborn in their freshness and novelty’.
The marvelous recording of the ‘Coronation’ Concerto (25 March 1937) with Walter Goehr stands as a testament to her thoughts on Mozart concerto realization. Perhaps even more haunting – or haunted – we have Landowska’s Mozart Fantasie in d minor, which avoids any pesant effect from arm weight and thus embodies a disturbed world of rarified poise that moves to sunny affirmation.
Producer and Recording Engineer Mark Obert-Thorn resuscitates those same inscriptions along with the two sets of RCA LPs (LM 6044 and LM 6073) devoted to Mozart and Haydn piano sonatas, recorded 1956-1958. As a kind of dividend, we receive a reminder of the politics of the period from 14 January 1938, in the form of Landowska’s partial recording of Mozart’s Sonata in D, K. 311, a document meant to be thoroughly demolished by the Nazis, who deemed Landowska – despite her family’s long conversion to Roman Catholicism – a Jewish artist (and also gay) whose work should not be preserved. The sonatas in F, K.332 and D, K.576, too, benefit from rediscovered matrices denied to their 78rpm incarnation. We must concur with Virgil Thomson, listening to this magnificent torso of a performance from 1938, that her sense of tonal and dynamic weight ‘is matchless’. Happily, RCA captured her complete thoughts in May, 1956 from her Steinway B recorded at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut (as she later always did). The perfect merger of Mozart and Chopin occurs in the Rondo in a minor, in which Mozart’s vocal style well adumbrates the improvisatory and contrapuntal style of the later Polish romantic. Her rendering of Mozart’s K.606 Country Dances ties his aristocratic style to the ingratiating ländler of Franz Schubert.
Besides the huge scale of the Mozart B-flat Sonata, K.333, the third disc contains Landowska’s Haydn inscriptions from 11 November 1957 (Andante), 14 February 1958 (e minor), and E-flat Major (December 1957). Pianists as diverse in temperament as Dohnányi, Brendel, Backhaus, and Landowska have found in the 1793 Andante and Variations in f minor, moments of sublime revelation. She can apply an 'alla musette’ sensibility ad libitum, add grace notes, and shift registers much in the manner of her Romantic compatriot Paderewski, who would admonish, ‘What is important is not the written note but what the musical effect should be’. Majesty of conception and thorough control of the musicality of her ideas resonate in the two Haydn sonatas….The musical aggregate in this compilation should grace every serious collector of keyboard documents.”
— Gary Lemco, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, 26 Dec., 2014
"Landowska toured European museums inspecting period harpsichords and trying them out, then bought old instruments and had Pleyel make her large touring harpsichord. The most controversial aspect of this instrument was its 16-foot stop, an octave below normal pitch, which gave her instrument a deeper, richer sound than any other....in the early 21st century, that Landowska had been right all along when she said to Pablo Casals, 'You play Bach your way and I’ll play him his way'....She was the Goddess of the Harpsichord, the woman who single-handedly revived interest in the harpsichord and made it a mainstream instrument. By the time she died there were also Ralph Kirkpatrick, Sylvia Marlowe and a few others, all inspired by Landowska and following in her footsteps, but it was pretty much accepted that Landowska was Mount Everest and the others were the Blue Ridge Mountains, at best.
Dressed in a plain black dress with a shawl, her hair pulled back in a bun, her beaklike nose pointed towards the keyboard, she was almost like a ‘character’ created for the occasion, a real-life 18th-century woman somehow transported to the 20th….her severe dress and hair style were all part of her presentation. In concert she would have the house lights dimmed slowly until all was in darkness, somehow find her way from the wings to her harpsichord, then have the house lights suddenly turned up to reveal her already seated and starting to play. She usually had a candelabrum on her instrument as well. To a certain extent, then, her act was as much a theatrical presentation….”
- Lynn René Bayley, Art Music Lounge, 25 Aug., 2016