Pierre Luboshutz & Genia Nemenoff;  Serge Koussevitzky, Robert Shaw & Harl MacDonald  (4-Marston 54010)
Item# P1413
Availability: Usually ships the same business day

Product Description

Pierre Luboshutz & Genia Nemenoff;  Serge Koussevitzky, Robert Shaw & Harl MacDonald  (4-Marston 54010)
P1413. LUBOSHUTZ AND NEMENOFF: The Art of Duo-Piano Playing, w.Serge Koussevitzky, Robert Shaw & Harl MacDonald: Bach-Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn, Weber, Reger, Schumann, Strauss, Glinka, Cui, Khachaturian, Mussorgsky, Kreisler, de Falla, Rossini, Levitzki, Milhaud, Luboshutz, Portnoff, Shostakovich, Stravinsky & Harl McDonald. 4-Marston 54010. - 638335401027


“Although I was familiar with the name of the piano duo formed by Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff, I had somehow managed not to hear their recordings until I encountered this superb release by Ward Marston. Pierre (1890–1971) and Genia (1905–1989) shared a Russian-Jewish heritage, although Genia’s parents had emigrated to Germany and then to Paris before she was born. Pierre and Genia married in 1931 and built a major touring career largely but not exclusively in the United States. Neither attempted any kind of solo career, performing exclusively as duo pianists.

In his booklet notes Marston articulates some of the problems with RCA’s approach to recording piano in the 1930s and 1940s. The recording studios were too small, the microphones too close to the piano, and the results were usually dry-sounding. In addition, too much dynamic compression was applied. Marston has done his usual excellent job in getting the best out of the originals. He observes that ‘the worst sounding of the Luboshutz and Nemenoff recordings, in our view, are Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes and the Bach-Vivaldi organ concerto’. I agree, particularly as to the Brahms, which sounds like it was recorded in a closet. It also is, in my view, one of the least interesting recordings in this set from a musical viewpoint.

Overall, however, the playing of Luboshutz and Nemenoff is a joy to experience. They emphasize the lyrical elements in the music and at times display considerable wit- I could not repress a smile as I listened to their rendition of Stephen Kovacs’s transcription of ‘Largo al factotum’ from THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, or Luboshutz’s own fantasy on DIE FLEDERMAUS, simply entitled ‘The Bat’. Probably because they only played as a duo and in addition were married, Luboshutz and Nemenoff developed a unique tightness of ensemble, which is evident in the first work on CD 1, Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D, K 448. The interplay between the two pianos, particularly in the Allegro molto finale, is brilliant. Phrases are tossed back and forth in a genuine musical conversation. Similarly in the arrangement for two pianos of the Bach-Vivaldi Organ Concerto, even with the sonic limitations that Marston refers to, their interaction is riveting.

The 1938 live performance of Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra led by Koussevitzky is a particularly fortuitous ‘find’. The Boston Symphony did not broadcast in 1938, but a man named Vos Greenough managed to receive permission to record some of their concerts. The orchestral balances are not perfect, but the overall sound is more than adequate. The piano-orchestra relationship is realistic, and the performance is stunning. Koussevitzky accompanies with a lighter touch than I might have expected, and the subtle application of rubato in the middle movement is a particularly lovely touch.

Many of the transcriptions in this set are by Luboshutz, who was very skilled at it. The arrangement of Bach’s opening chorus from Cantata #61, ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, retains the dignity and gravitas of the original. The recorded sound of the 1947 Boston Symphony broadcast from Tanglewood of the Bach Concerto for Two Keyboards favors the pianos a bit too much. Even so, the playing has such vitality and energy in the outer movements, and such intimate beauty in the Largo, that one quickly forgets about the sonics.

There are too many highlights to enumerate in this generously filled set (the average length for each disc is about 79 minutes), but a few items merit being singled out. Debussy’s rarely heard ‘Lindaraja’, composed for two pianos in 1901 but discovered only after his death, is given a performance that brings out the music’s Spanish flavor. Saint-Saëns’ ‘Danse macabre’ is extraordinary in its dynamic variety and the subtlety of its coloration, despite the rather dry recorded sound. The brilliant arrangement of Mozart’s Overture to LE NOZZE DI FIGARO is just as brilliantly played. (The booklet credits the arrangement to Konus, not identifying him further; I don’t know if this refers to the Russian composer-pianist Julius Conus or someone else.)

A word about Harl McDonald’s Concerto for Two Pianos. In what may be one of classical music’s most blatant examples of self-serving behavior, McDonald was general manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1939 to 1955, and he programmed his own concerto on a concert with himself on the podium. I wanted very much to dislike the piece when I learned this fact, but I couldn’t. It is a delightful, colorful work, skillfully written for both the orchestra and the pianos. McDonald apparently spent time in Mexico, and its influence is apparent in the finale.

Luboshutz and Nemenoff offer artistry on the highest level, and I am thrilled to have discovered them, thanks to the indefatigable Ward Marston. The booklet notes are superb (except for the lack of the arrangers’ full names). An essay by Thomas Wolf, who is related to Luboshutz, is both instructive and touching.”

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE