Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cold War Relics: LPs from the DDR and the USSR

Two new used LPs purchased this week, both relics of the Cold War, when Germany was divided and Russia was the USSR:

E. Power Biggs in the Thomaskirche of Leipzig! This was recorded in the 1970's when Leipzig was in Communist East Germany (the DDR). This is a deluxe gatefold album with a panorama of Leipzig from the time Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor on the inside with E. Power Biggs' impressions of playing these great works in "Bach's church". The back cover provides the analysis of the works themselves, the great Toccata and Fugue D minor BWV 565 familiar from Disney's Fantasia; the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, the Prelude and Fugue in G Major (the Great), BMV 541, and the Prelude and Fugue in C Major (9/8), BWV 547. This is a magnificent recording, with tremendous acoustics and extraordinary performances of such great works.

The second LP was recorded in the Moscow Conservatory by Melodiya for Angel EMI. The biography for the pianist mentions his close ties to the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. His current biography notes that he had some difficulties with the Soviet authorities and was not allowed to perform for awhile; Gorbachev allowed him to remain in the West after 1984. He took a break from performing again in 1994 to study philosophy and religion until 2001. He had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1974, performing Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto just as Van Cliburn did in 1958. The tracklist for this LP:

A1 Prelude In B Flat, Op. 23, No. 2 (2:49)
A2 Prelude In F Sharp Minor, Op. 23, No. 1 (4:38)
A3 Étude-Tableau In F Sharp Minor, Op. 39, No. 3 (2:17)
A4 Prelude In E Flat, Op. 23, No. 6 (3:05)
A5 Prelude In G Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12 (2:09)
A6 Prelude In G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5 (3:45)
A7 Élégie In E Flat Minor, Op. 3, No. 1 (5:38)
B1 Moment Musical In B Minor, Op. 16, No. 3 (8:50)
B2 Moment Musical In E Minor, Op. 16, No. 4 (2:27)
B3 Moment Musical In D Flat, Op. 16, No. 5 (5:14)
B4 Moment Musical In C, Op. 16, No. 6 (3:58)
B5 Étude-Tableau In E Flat Minor, Op. 39, No. 5 (5:07)

As virtuosic as E. Power Biggs' performances are, these are even more incredible. The liner notes from Angel EMI note that Gavrilov was named the possible successor of Horowitz by the London Times: "He makes the piano speak with a fiery strength and crystalline delicacy . . ." If we heard Biggs make the organ sing Bach's fantastic music, we heard Gavrilov make the piano speak Rachmaninoff's dynamic melodies. 

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